Serena Jacob
Sep 5, 2016

Creating compelling content in an ad-saturated world

The medium and the message.

Serena Jacob
Serena Jacob

People in Asia Pacific have never been more selective when it comes to the content they are watching. The rise of online, on-demand TV has revolutionised viewing habits and led to an explosion in the range of programmes produced by networks, publishers, brands and individuals. This gives them unparalleled choice and the ability to search out the content most suited to them. 

Crucially, the rise in online content viewership does not signal the assumed death of TV. TNS research from across Asia Pacific has shown that, generally speaking, people who are watching online content are doing so incrementally—they are topping up their existing TV habits via these new digital channels. For example, in markets like Indonesia, TV is as strong as ever with 82 percent of connected consumers continuing to watch conventional broadcast channels.

The fact that online and offline viewing habits are not mutually exclusive means that brands can use multiple channels symbiotically when advertising to consumers. TV ads can still fulfil their traditional role—appealing to a wide audience, achieving cut-through and laying the campaign foundations—while online channels allow for greater targeting, delivering personalised, tactical messages to smaller audiences via programmatic advertising. 

However, these developments in the content space also pose problems. Just because the delivery methods have expanded doesn’t mean the receptivity of the consumer has stayed the same. How can brands create TV advertising that connects with a broad range of consumers if they now live in a world where they are accustomed to heavily personalised online content and advertising? And similarly, how can brands create online advertising when people are so comfortable curating their viewing experience in the digital space that they will employ adblockers, the uptake of which has doubled in the past year.

What is becoming ever more evident is that consumers are now actively in control, and engagement must happen on their terms. They must want to engage with your brand and its content in the space you are talking to them. The challenge for communication strategy today is to design and execute campaigns that are based on human insight and emotion, innovative enough to spark the interest of the consumer in a heavily saturated ad world.

Brand advertising has always had a large element of consumer pre-testing to ensure it will deliver on its aims. However, is it fit for purpose? I took part in a number of focus groups in Bangkok where Thai consumers were sharing their feedback on storyboards for a well-known skincare brand. The dismay among the brand and creative agency teams was palpable as brand users trashed each of the scripts being tested. The first they didn’t relate to at all, and described the context as ‘unacceptably downmarket’; and while the second had high relatability, the setting was so commonplace and pedestrian as to be yawn-inducing. Neither managed to engage the audience in any way. What most surprised me was the ability of the group to articulate its expectations—the brand should provide them with something new and exciting, yet also tailored carefully around their beliefs and tastes. The team had to go back to the drawing board to rethink their entire communication idea.

So how can brands overcome the hurdles of designing advertising for consumers whose expectations have fundamentally changed? One option is to embed consumers into the early stages of the creative process, so that they are actively creating the brand story themselves. We are now at the stage that technology can provide the solution. It’s now possible to work with online communities to generate content inspired by consumers and for consumers.

The key is to identify category-passionate, creative people who will not only provide the context needed for the brand to create the right fit for the culture or segment, but also the appropriate tone and feeling that can be the key to identifying the right emotions and positioning. In addition, these groups can ignite the innovative flair that will make the idea stand out from the crowd. Once the content has been developed, they can also help identify the best channel for it to be deployed on, whether across TV, digital or both.

In a world where brand communications are dependent on engaging audiences in meaningful, two-way conversations, brands cannot afford to leave consumers out of the creative process—no matter what the channel.

Serena Jacob is regional managing director of qualitative at TNS

Campaign Asia

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