The changing role of content: new narratives and smart collaboration

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Brands have never had a more extensive range of channels at their disposal to reach and engage their audiences. Despite concerns around data-leaks and trust issues, the traditional mix continues to feel pressure from new digital platforms (indeed a well-publicised boycott of Facebook by Sonos post-Cambridge Analytica only lasted a week). The result is an increasingly complex landscape for brands to navigate when deciding on the best engagement strategies.

In speaking to industry leaders addressing that landscape, that sentiment of change echoes in many of the conversations we have.

“Finding the best way to reach [our audiences] is a challenge every day” concedes Andy Goldberg, chief creative officer at General Electric. “It’s something that you really have to be analyzing and looking at — to make sure that you’re the most efficient with your media choices, and the most innovative with your creative choices.” It comes down to “figuring out what the cross-hairs are”.

As digital services and platforms increasingly take center stage, animated media such as video and gifs are emerging as the winners of this evolution; the uptake in engagement over the past few years has been dramatic. Back in 2011, we watched an average of 39 minutes of digital video every day. By 2017, that figure had nearly tripled and is now at 1h 55m which accounts for 74% of all online traffic.

The result? “A narrative grammar change,” says Nick Law, chief creative officer at Publicis, as content is both produced and consumed “at a pace never seen before”.

That’s had a significant impact on what content we consume and how we consume it. Social networks are embracing video more than ever before, driven mostly by changes in consumer habits and the higher engagement rates that come with moving content. This change is reflected in brands adjusting their budgets and the way they work to avoid getting left behind. Money spent on social media in the US alone is expected to rise to $17.34 billion in 2019, according to Statista.

As demand increases and budgets and strategies adapt, processes inside agencies (and in-house brand teams) have to change in parallel. Scott Jackson, head of video at Weber Shandwick states: “Agencies need to be nimble. That means examining the way they are set-up to respond to what is often very fast turnaround social content, and on smaller budgets.”

To many, this isn’t news - but that doesn’t mean existing models can achieve it. Too many advertisers, whatever they claim, are the last to the digital space and face a fight to make up that ground. The changing role of content now means they have to play by a different set of rules.

“Dynamics within the industry are shifting dramatically” acknowledges Alicia Hatch, chief marketing officer at Deloitte Digital. “Every industry out there is getting disrupted, and marketing has become a much more strategic driver of the business as companies completely reorient themselves around becoming customer-centric.”

What does this mean? It means brands and agencies that want to compete in creating content need to adapt their model to start working smarter. A combination of the change in the future of content, freelance opportunities and the platform era means the barriers to this are lower than ever.

Casper Horton-Kitchlew is partnerships lead at Movidiam

All quotes are taken from Movidiam’s Working Smarter report which can be downloaded here. The report features insight from creative leaders at over twenty of the most forward-thinking brands and agencies with foreword from Adam Morgan, of Adobe.

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