Scaling the creative content gap: how Covid-19 is intensifying the need for automation

For brands already struggling to scale the creative content gap, the Covid-19 pandemic has further intensified the need for quality creative content online. The Drum and Celtra roundtable spoke to leading marketers from Coca-Cola, Zalora, Pomelo and Circles.life about the challenges for managing the volumes of content online.

As the demand for creative digital content continues to increase, marketers are struggling to keep pace. More than half of marketers (51%) require localisation of content to ensure relevancy to their customers. However, two-thirds of these marketers lack the resources to deal with the sheer volume of creative content needed, according to research by Forrester Consulting that was commissioned by Celtra.

While the demand has grown, the budgets and production processes have not, creating a widening gap between the amount of content a brand has, and what it requires. This gap has intensified in the current Covid-19 pandemic as consumers swarm online, and brands shift to become digital-led businesses.

The widening content gap

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, brands were forced to shelve content, campaigns and even entire marketing strategies overnight, creating a more significant content gap.

Miki Kim, AVP brand marketing at Pomelo, said, “During Covid customer expectation completely changed. Likes and engagement dropped down, and we had to adapt right away. We had to change all the communications plans, the strategies, social media and emails, as we had to be relevant to what consumers were seeing.”

As more businesses rushed to become e-commerce led, Zalora introduced a new category selling essential home products in a bid to maintain relevance with consumers. The move also delivered a flood of new content needs and challenges.

Alin Dobrea, head of marketing solutions and partnerships at Zalora, said, “We had to pivot and rapidly onboard a lot of sellers and brands. We also had to adapt our content strategy.”

To manage the shortfall Zalora and Pomelo, leaned heavily on user-generated content to help bridge the content gap. “We went with user-generated because it was hard to shoot in a lot of our markets as we went into different phases of the lockdown,” said Dobrea. “We created a lot of content through our employees and also created content through influencers.”

The ‘new normal’ for content

While the pandemic’s legacy may well be its impact in helping brands embrace an e-commerce first approach, it is also having a significant effect on how marketers prioritise content.

Gaurav Gupta, head of omnichannel and martech at Circles.Life, said, “The fact that people are more homebound has made our jobs more demanding, in terms of the amount of content that we need to bring and make sure that it caters to all the requirements.”

Gupta said Circles.Life is now “gravitating towards” content over advertising as it experiences “an influx” of customers to its website. The brand has already recorded a 30% increase in social engagement and plans to build on this through new content.

“Don't show us an ad. That's the one thing which the consumers don't want to see as they are grappling with their own problems,” said Gupta. “We want to amplify [our content strategy] by adding more engagement points, more touchpoints within the website and reduce the exit rates.”

The pandemic has helped Coca-Cola shift to a more agile creative production process, according to Sadaf Zarrar, director of integrated content and creative excellence, ASEAS at Coca-Cola.

“That luxury of planning six months ahead is gone – we don’t even know what’s happening six weeks from now. The biggest challenge we had was that while some markets were in complete curfew lockdown situations, others had gone through that cycle and were opening up. There was no one-blanket approach for each market,” said Zarrar. “The scale has completely changed.”

However, with homebound, always-on consumers being barraged by content, creating quality creative is more important than ever.

“They're not interested in a one-way message coming from a company,” said Zarrar.

“Our advertising messages are competing with YouTube videos. They're not complimentary. It's not, ‘I will watch an ad, and then I will watch the video’. It is, ‘do I want to skip after three seconds? Or do I want to see the whole way through because I'm dying to see that content piece?’. I think [Covid-19] has amplified the three-second rule.”

How creative automation can bridge the gap

With Covid-19 throwing up greater challenges to manage content across various markets, platforms and formats, technology is playing an increasingly important role in helping brands scale the gap.

Raushida Vasaiwala, GM, APAC at Celtra, said brands are “looking to improve the efficiencies when it [comes] to the operational side of things, specifically for creative production, the process and the entire workflow.” Brands such as Unilever, Spotify and Adidas are opting for creative automation tools to help create large volumes of creative content.

Vasaiwala said while systems like dynamic creative optimization (DCO) are effective, they cannot keep pace with the creative production process and cause overlap between production and distribution. “We realised that DCO as a strategy is perfect, but when it comes to technology, it doesn’t work. Therefore, automation focuses on the production, maintaining the unique brand voice and how brands can stay consistent with brand guidelines and not end up paying double ad-serving costs or audience data fees.”

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