Josh Black
Oct 30, 2015

The rise of the advertiser: Casbaa viewpoint

Josh Black, APAC CEO for GroupM Content, shares three takeaways from the just-concluded Casbaa Convention in Hong Kong.

Josh Black
Josh Black

As the last delegates staggered out of the InterContinental Hong Kong hotel early Thursday morning, the final whistle sounded on the Casbaa Convention for another year. 2016 marked my fourth attendance at the convention, the flagship event for the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia.

For me, Casbaa is a great event to attend as you get to talk with broadcasters, platform owners, rights holders, advertisers and agencies in the same space and these conversations allow us to have a more holistic view of where we see the industry heading and content moving. Right now, I’m seeing different parts and players within the industry starting to pivot, probably not fast enough, but there is a definite a shift happening.

Here are my key insights from the Casbaa Convention for 2016.

1. Attendance and discussion shift

On writing this opinion piece, I went to the Casbaa Wiki and read that Casbaa has “…grown the industry to include digital multichannel television, content, platforms, advertising and video delivery”.  Four years back it felt very much like the only people attending were from the cable and satellite broadcasting industry, which is what the Casbaa name essentially represents. This year though, I really felt that whilst these people were still attending, there was a big shift in who was attending and what was being talked about.

There is a change in the discussions around brands and advertisers and where they fit into the puzzle. Four years back it used to be a “we could maybe talk” to today where it’s a “we need your brands involved”. Someone has to pay for the content and the dollars are being squeezed everywhere; any new money that can come into the ecosystem from brands wanting to be in content is of very strong interest.

There were presentations also from a number of organisations that are really starting to drive some disruption into the landscape—SpaceX, Victorious, Keshet and Invidi to name a few. I can’t recall any other Casbaa Convention that I have been to that featured so many new names and faces, again heralding what I think is a big shift in the way that content will be constructed, distributed and consumed in the future.

If I was to look into a glass ball and predict who I think might start attending Casbaa in 2016 and beyond, I think you will start to see a lot more rights holders, media disruptors (VICE, Wattpad, FullScreen), advertisers and brands attending the event.

2. The coming of OTT

At my first Casbaa back in 2012, OTT or direct-to-home was a blip on the broadcasting landscape (or at least that’s how I perceived the industry to be treating it back then). And whilst it hasn’t seen mass adoption yet in Asia, you get a real sense from attending Casbaa that everyone is trying to get ready for the impending change.

So much so, there were three dedicated sessions given to OTT at the event, heralding its growing importance in the ecosystem and frankly, the viewing habits of the audience.

I still think there needs to be a lot more discussion around OTT, and more specifically, what it holds in store for the largest players in the cable and satellite space.

3. The rise of the advertiser

I was fortunate enough to be invited this year by Christopher Slaughter and the team at Casbaa to speak on a branded-content panel, which was hosted and moderated by Pushkar Sane from Convergination Ventures. The panel also featured Riaz Mehta from Imagine Group and Tony Chow from Marriott International.

With Riaz coming from a production background and Tony being from the brand side, along with my perspective as an agency, there was some lively discussion around where we saw the future moving, what clients really want, the future roles and responsibilities of the different parties and what branded content should doing to drive success.

In terms of the future, I think we all agreed that part of the future of terrestrial TV really lies in holding on to live sports rights and big tentpole formats like Masterchef and The Voice  Those are the properties really driving mass TV audiences and ratings right now, and advertisers will continue to want to engage with these audiences to drive their message.

Using data smartly and embracing logical implementations of technology are the framework for future growth and success. In an ad-blocked, programmatic, automated, adaptive world, it sure is an exciting time to be working in broadcasting and content.

Looking at what clients really want, it’s all about engaging the audience, building trust and loyalty and then using this to drive product sales. Marriott International has clearly found success in creating the Marriott Content Studio, which Tony heads up across Asia. They have hired smart people that understand building a narrative, are doing it with authenticity and they are making it happen across multiple platforms. Tony is finding tremendous success in reaching specific targeted segments through rich storytelling, and he believes more brands should be doing this versus the conventional approach. There is a clear demonstration that branded content can work, and Marriott is showing that if you add value to the customer, value gets returned back.

I really feel, having now sat on both the brand side of the business for 10 years and now the agency side for seven years, and listening to Tony talk about embracing agencies as partners, that there is a future where agencies can still drive tremendous value for brands in the content space.

Sure, it all needs to be smarter and faster, but today’s clients have never been better educated and more embracing towards working with agencies that can help them solve real business problems. I believe media agencies can lead the charge in the branded content space, particularly in the data, technology and distribution space—this is our bread and butter. We need to deliver the wins for our clients in this space to stay relevant. Add to that mix the creative intelligence that people like Riaz hold, and there is clearly a play for clients, agencies and production teams to be working smarter together.

For now, it’s back to work, time to follow up on loads of really interesting conversations created at Casbaa, and get some much needed rest.

Josh Black is APAC CEO of GroupM Content. He is one of Campaign Asia-Pacific's '40 under 40' for 2015.


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