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Can automation drive creativity?

As businesses look to scale quickly, automation is growing in popularity and demand, but what does it mean for creativity? The Drum and Celtra hosted a roundtable with leading APAC marketers to discuss how brands are harnessing automation, personalisation and creativity as they work to close the content gap.

The majority of consumers in APAC are now shopping online, with 60% planning to spend the same amount this holiday season as they did last year. There is also an ever-growing list of new channels and a growing consumer desire for greater personalization. This means they want more variety and better quality, entertaining marketing messages, and it’s clear that marketers are under more pressure than ever to produce effective and memorable content, at scale. How are brands managing the growing content gap?

Technology frees-up creative teams

Olivia Koh, senior performance marketing executive at Love, Bonito, says the fashion brand has relied heavily on technology partners such as Facebook and Google to help free-up their creative and marketing teams to focus on the creative and strategic development.

“I think embracing technology has helped us to scale in terms of creative automation.

We want to allow the creative team to focus their energy on improving the quality of the creative, versus, you know, rushing to make sure that we have got all these creatives done in time.”

“And then we can, as performance marketers, focus more on the testing and optimisation. It's super important for the two teams to collaborate closely so that we can conceptualise creative and execute it in a very agile manner.”

Is personalisation pervasive or perfection?

It’s well accepted that creative automation helps manage scale but does it come at the expense of highly targeted messaging and how important is personalisation?

“I think consumers expect personalisation,” says Christo de Wit, regional head of international marketing at Ascend. “Consumers are inundated with content and creative and messages on blast today, more so than ever before. It is the responsibility of the brand to speak to them on a one-on-one level, as they have evolved, and they expect it now. If we don't address them directly with their very specific and niche needs, you're going to fail to capture their attention.”

But not all marketers are convinced that personalisation alone is the answer.

“I have a slightly controversial view,” says Shikha Gupta, creative director at Swiggy. “There was this tweet that I came across, which is that the four P's of advertising don't stand for persistent, pervasive, pestering and personalised. And I couldn't agree more because I do think that personalised content to an extent has become a bit stalkerish.”

“I do agree that people do seem to respond better when you don't have cookie-cutter communication dished out, especially with localised markets. But I'm also slightly old school, and I believe that all content must, first and foremost, be entertaining and relevant. If that element is missing from your communication, no matter how nice it is, it will just seem like noise. If it’s entertaining, interesting content, with a lens of personalisation, then you’re golden,” says Gupta.

Creativity remains the core of marketing

Creating good quality content can be a challenge, particularly when marketing teams are thinking about media first. David Lim, VP of marketing of Happy Fresh says he employs a philosophy of “content before media space", which encourages his team to focus first on the creative and the storytelling before thinking about the space it will appear in.

“We started to think a lot more about the content, the originality of the content and the storytelling behind it before we put our hand out for the budget. Because media owners will come to you if you have the budget, you don't have to look for media spaces. But the part about cracking that content, that takes a long time. So, we look at the importance of creativity across each of the channels and each of the marketing functions in Happy Fresh.”

Creativity should be at the core of marketing messages if brands want to drive awareness, says de Wit.

“When we speak about automation and personalisation, I think the key that we should always remember is that creativity comes first - it’s the core. We should not forget that we want to capture consumer attention. Creativity needs to be at the essence of that,” says de Wit.

Raushida Vasaiwala, GM, APAC at Celtra, agrees, “Consumers don't buy products, they buy an experience. And what is the currency of that experience? It's emotion. And how do you evoke those emotions on a mobile device? Through visual content or creative. Our research shows 60% of campaign performance is given to creative; it is a very, very important lever. When you are thinking about personalisation, that strategy needs to be delivered on all three pillars, your data, your media, as well as your creative. No matter how good the message is, if the visual is not good, then you’re not achieving the strategy you had planned for.”

Creativity can't be automated

As creative automation grows in popularity, does it pose a threat to marketing and creative departments?

Gupta believes it shouldn’t. “Creativity, by definition, is about unique and fresh thinking. I think the brilliant thing about being a creative person is that creativity can't be automated, a machine can’t do your creative thinking for you. Having said that, a lot of creative teams spend 30 or 40% of their time on actual creative thinking and a lot of their time on making changes, and edits and stuff that like sucks up their time. I think that as organisations become more comfortable with automation tools, a lot of the mundane tasks, which do not require a creative person's time, will get outsourced, and creative teams will go back to using that time to do creative work,” says Gupta.

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