Design Council turns to Cedar to solve a monetisation challenge
When it wanted an agency to help devise a monetisation strategy, the Design Council worked with the Content Marketing Association’s Advance client-agency matching service. The result: a union with Cedar. CMA consultant editor Dominic Mills tells the story
As a marketing consultant to the Design Council, Claire Round was handed an interesting brief: find a way to monetise a pan-European, EU-funded, website called Design for Europe for which the Design Council was the lead partner.
The good news was that the site, whose aim is to promote and support the economic and societal benefits of design-driven innovation, had built up a healthy community amongst design practitioners, influencers and public and private sector organisations for whom design is important. This comprised a 100,000-plus connected and engaged audience, as well as a legacy of almost 150 events and workshops.
The less-good news was that – entirely unconnected to Brexit, we must note – EU funding for the three-year programme was about to end. “We’d made a lot of progress spreading the word,” says Round. “We couldn’t let it all disappear just because EU funding had come to an end. What a waste that would be.”
For Round then, a marketer with a background in the arts and book publishing, the obvious place to start was with the content. “Whether published or live, we knew we had — and could produce — great content,” she says. “But what we didn’t know was whether – and how – we could monetise the content in order to keep Design for Europe going.”
First call: the CMA
As luck would have it, Round knew and understood content marketing. Better still, having judged its awards, she knew the CMA. “As soon as we started asking ourselves the key questions, ” she says, “it was clear to me that we needed a CMA agency – first, because they understand content, and second because they have market expertise that we don’t.
Those questions centred on finding the best commercial route. Would advertising work? What about subscriptions? Was membership viable? Pay per download or a free-paid hybrid? Who were possible commercial sponsors and partners? What would they want in return? And to find a model that aligned with the Design Council’s charity status.
“We soon got to a place,” says Round, “where we were talking as much about what we might do as we were looking for a strategy to make monetisation happen. But we were quite open as to what the answers might be.”
It was clear then that the Design Council needed a content agency to do the hard thinking, and the best way to find the right one was to use the CMA’s Advance service. It is a free one-stop pitch shop that allows marketers to put a brief out to CMA members (anonymously if they choose), set the required agency criteria, and then select a short list for more detailed responses.
Those criteria were tight: knowledge of the design and innovation sector; B2B or charity experience; and a track record of commercialising content or platforms.
Since launching in 2015, Advance has put nearly 20 brands together with a CMA agency including, earlier this summer, Eurostar with Cedar.
Could Round have done this without the CMA Advance? “Yes,” she concedes, “but I would have spent a long time doing the research to find an agency, and then just as long managing the process. It would have been long winded and time consuming.”
Seal of quality
In addition, she says, there were other good reasons to go through the CMA. “First, it was immensely helpful to be able to talk to someone like [CMA managing director] Cath Maskell. She’s a marketer herself with over 20 years experience. Second, having someone else facilitate and hustle the process through was a weight off my mind.”
Round continues: “Third, we had a real range of agencies reply, and I liked the varied perspectives they brought. And last, going through the CMA meant I knew I could trust in and be confident of the ability of any agency that responded.”
After detailed face-to-face sessions with two agencies, the Design Council chose Cedar. The process was speedy too — from initial circulation of the brief to appointment, the time taken was less than two months – an important consideration given that Design Council funding had replaced the EU money.
“What really came through was that they understood design in the widest sense of the word, they showed – via clients like Tesco and BA – that they knew about, for instance, service design, and they demonstrated how they could make it meaningful to commercial partners,” says Round.
Advance also works for the agencies. “For Cedar, the CMA Advance service has become one of our strongest sources of high-quality content briefs, attracting a wide range of exciting global brands all looking for a new and better way to achieve their goals,” says Cedar’s chief executive, Clare Broadbent.
“What sets Advance apart is that the marketing opportunities are always really well scoped. This is gold for us as an agency — it sets the right parameters for us to develop a really game-changing commercial content solution.”
Dominic Mills, Consultant Editor, The CMA