The rise (and rise) of the Chief Content Officer

Years ago I knew a chap working in advertising whose job title was ‘Ideas Director’. It conjured up images of a scruffy-faced creative in designer jeans, playing pool during the workday and saying ‘yeah’, ‘nah’ and ‘yeah nah’ as desperate juniors ran to him with their ideas.

I thought the job title was faintly ridiculous. But job titles these days are ever more creative. I now even know someone with a hashtag in their title – she’s ‘Communications Manager – #Content’.

Around the same time that this Ideas Director got his job, everyone was starting to talk about content. Sometimes they’d talk about it with an initial capital letter (Content) as if it were Quite Important, and other times in all caps (CONTENT) as if it were TRULY URGENT AND IMPORTANT.

Now, the role of Chief Content Officer has become a thing. (Yes, A Thing.) Companies all over the world are hiring CCOs to ensure their content is consistent and on-brand across all their channels. It’s not enough just to establish the brand narrative – it’s about making sure the content also aligns with it. It’s about understanding multiple channels, but also having news sense and knowing what will pull a consumer in to read/watch/click more.

Think I’m kidding? Nope. Petco, Netflix and Coca-Cola have all brought on Chief Content Officers or someone in a similar role. Yahoo and Time have, too. And in June this year, the NFL hired Jordan Levin, a well-known television programmer, to oversee the NFL’s non-game programming. Levin has no sports experience, but that doesn’t matter, according to the NFL’s head of media, Brian Rolapp: “We’re trying to supplement deep bench of sports producers with people who can think more broadly about content.” Subject knowledge isn’t the big thing here – it’s being able to strategise that’s critical.

Top US executive recruiter Adam Charlson says Chief Content Officers are being deployed at most big corporations, and that they are “the next revolution of marketing”.

Another big sign the CCO is here to stay? The Wall Street Journal publishes CCO, a magazine all about it.

What’s your company’s position on a having a content head? Personally, I’m waiting for the world’s first ‘Omni-channel Chief Content Officer’. Maybe with a hashtag.