As social media and online video snaps up more of the advertising spend, Chris Forrester looks at how the industry is looking to reinvent brand communications with new content models.

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Content overload: Social media and online video

Given the challenges brands face today with lower customer engagement in traditional advertising models, broadcasters have no choice but to explore all the new and exciting content formats to better connect with their audiences. Not least because over 90% of consumers expect new forms of meaningful content. But what does that actually mean, asks Maria Garrido, chief insights and analytics officer at Havas Group, and chair of IBC’s ‘The Business of Content Marketing’ session (Sept 15, 11.15-12.00, Room E102).

The panel’s dilemma, as far as broadcasting is concerned, is serious. For example, a major 2019 study showed that global ad-spend would likely grow 4.7% this year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that online video and social media is driving just about all of that growth. Online advertising grew a massive 16% in 2018, and by 2021 is expected to account for 49% of all global ad-spend.

Indeed, digital advertising in the US is already bigger than print and television. 2019 saw US advertisers expected to spend more than $129 billion on digital advertising this year, and way more than the $109 billion spent on traditional television, print and outdoor mix of ‘conventional’ activity.

Havas Group, as with the other advertising majors, looks at data science, artificial intelligence and future ecosystems, but also recognises that the ad-industry’s relationships with the likes of Facebook and Google is strewn with risks; technical, financial and political.

The clutter and risk of distraction is also immense. “The entertainment business is accustomed to emotionally engaging people,” says Garrido, who joined Vivendi-owned Havas in 2014 after 18 years in North America, Latin America and Europe where she held operational and strategic marketing roles at several big consumer goods conglomerates, including Colgate-Palmolive and Mondelez.

Garrido says her panel will explore how they are reinventing brand communications with new content models, how consumer habits have evolved and with it the expectations for creative content forms. “We will also discuss some of the challenges facing content marketing, like the ability to define the role of new content in the overall strategy of the brand, the types of content marketing emerging in this space and the million dollar question of how to measure ROI beyond views and likes.”

“Audiences are evolving. We don’t talk about second screens anymore – it’s now hundreds of screens at the same time. People are bombarded with content.” Maria Garrido (Chief Insights & Analytics Officer at Havas Group)

Garrido, who runs a team of 200 people across over 40 countries, helps Havas conduct proprietary analysis and performance measurement on how advertising is working to help better meet the business objectives of Havas’ clients, the brands themselves.

She also has to focus on what she admits is a tough environment where every aspect of the advertising business is ever-more complex. “Most advertising is not engaging people anymore. People are blocking ads altogether,” says Garrido. Add in the likes of ad-free OTT viewing and conventional TV advertising reach simply evaporates. “Audiences are evolving. We don’t talk about second screens anymore – it’s now hundreds of screens at the same time. People are bombarded with content.”

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Hood: “Brands need to produce content that leaves a lasting impression”

Source: Netflix

Fellow-panellist Agatha Hood, who is global head of ad-sales at Unity Technologies, admits that advertising has always powered content, but argued that as the cost to produce and distribute content plummets to fractions of pennies, quality is becoming increasingly important for consumers. “Gone are the days of watching infomercials because they’re the only thing on TV.”

“To break through the clutter, brands need to produce content that leaves a lasting impression on their consumers. And one of the most powerful tools ushered in by the digital era is personalisation,” she states.

“AR and VR are by definition personalized experiences. How users engage, where they look, what environment they’re in all change the way they experience content and put them in control of their story - moving from passive to active engagement with the brand.”

“Because of that, AR and VR are the most immersive storytelling mediums ever created. Combined with the power to deliver brand experiences at scale to the right audience, they can also be the most effective. Assuming, of course, brands approach these technologies like the medium they are, instead of just gimmicks,” she suggests.

Buzzwords of buzz off?
Garrido, in a recent interview for IBC365, urged not to be too swayed by the buzz around AI as the industry had been by VR and AR. “The first steps we’re seeing [in advertising] is that AI is being used in practical ways to extract new insights to better understand consumers. I don’t think it is going to replace creative. As with the tech giants it should be an enabler for better creative, but you shouldn’t replace the magic of human creativity in advertising.”

Monterosa Productions CEO and co-founder Tom McDonnell, who is also taking part in the panel, suggests that with rapidly improving technologies (voice/VR/AR “but don’t forget video itself”), the possibilities widen but the chances of creating useful, entertaining propositions that capture attention of busy people, are really no greater than they’ve ever been. “Creating a spark still requires amazing ideas and great timing. Creativity.”

McDonnell says lessons can be learnt from China, where some very smart brands fully utilise the interactive capabilities of WeChat and other platforms, and by looking at how fast they move, we get a glimpse into the future for western brands.

“Content creators will need to get familiar with more platforms and deploy more theatrics, dynamic storytelling and audience interaction to make sure their propositions connect.” Tom McDonnell (CEO, Monterosa)

Audiences of today aren’t content being bystanders, they want to be at the heart of the action, immersed, making decisions and feeling like they are a participant not just a passive viewer.

“The future is inevitably more interactive via all of the technologies we’ll talk about. Passive storytelling is here to stay, but a growing portion of live events and video-based experiences in sport and entertainment will be two-way. Content creators will need to get familiar with more platforms and deploy more theatrics, dynamic storytelling and audience interaction to make sure their propositions connect.”

Garrido, thank goodness, says that for advertisers and consumers linear TV is far from dead. “I love that we are all focused on the internet and OTT services, but you still have the majority of people – whether they be young children or retirees – spending more time in front of that TV screen than they are in front of their mobile phones or on their tablets,” says Garrido. “The key questions are about the quality of the content, the diversity of the content that will bring people into that space. Also, we need to understand how TV has synergies with the rest of that digital and online content. That’s what will drive long-term sustainable growth for the TV industry.”

Interested in connecting with audiences with content? Attend The Business of Content Marketing session at the IBC2019 conference.