Willliam Wun
May 6, 2024

When creator content goes mainstream

There's no denying that creators have completely changed the entertainment landscape, and now AI is only going to empower them further, suggests UM's William Wun.

When creator content goes mainstream

Home to 60% of the world’s population, the APAC region is also the home of the most social media users worldwide. They make up 64% of global audiences, and in Southeast Asia, the average user spends 35 minutes longer per day on social media than the global average, per data from GWI. Fueled by the rising audience demand to control the content they watch, the creator economy has thrived and shaped the ways in which APAC audiences consume content, spend their money, and purchase products.

The rise of creator content has given traditional entertainment a run for its money. Audiences tune in to creators’ lives to see what they are doing with their pets and to learn life hacks, how to cook, how to dress, and even how to parent. Creators create content to win over our spare time, and in return, we support them through subscription fees, purchasing merchandise, or watching ads, which they receive a portion of the fees from. As a result, the APAC creator economy is estimated to be worth US$135.2 billion in 2023, per a report by Coherent Market Insights.

As of 2023, most recent reports estimate the total number of professional full-time and part-time creators at 207 million. With creator content now a key driving force for gathering attention, platforms are actively investing in tools and other incentives to attract the best content creators.

As creator content continues to amass consumer attention, various social platforms have been trying various strategies to attract top creators. For example, YouTube offers heavy financial incentives to creators who produce short-form videos for YouTube Shorts via a partner program that allows eligible creators to keep 45% of the ad revenue generated. Meanwhile, Spotify is trying to attract podcasters and other audio content creators by making it easier for users to find podcasts relevant to their interests through content discovery.

In addition, the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) over the past twelve months has opened a whole new world for content creators. According to a recent survey by Antler, about a third of creators worldwide are currently using generative AI tools – suggesting that most have not even begun to scratch the surface or take advantage of its creative benefits.

Source: Antler

By lowering entry barriers to content production, emerging tools powered by generative AI are democratising access to professional marketing creative. And some brands have been quick to leverage this field-levelling effect of generative AI to empower small-business owners, who also lack the creative resources to run their own campaigns.

One of the best examples of this use was Mondelez’s “My Ad” campaign, which offered small, local neighborhood stores the opportunity to have the renowned Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan as their brand ambassador. Through generative AI, store owners across India were able to create their own version of an ad in which Shah Rukh Khan’s face and voice promoted their individual store.

It’s not hard to imagine a future where creators will increasingly rely on generative AI tools to assist with content creation, not only by pinpointing what to highlight and what their viewers are most interested in, but also in scaling up their content in different languages to reach a wider audience. For instance, a parenting influencer might leverage AI to create ten different versions of a video with parenting hacks that each speak to different parents across different cultures and different age groups—all done in the same time it now takes to make one video.

In China, some brands have decided to bypass human influencers entirely. Instead, they have opted for virtual AI-powered influencers to endorse their offerings. The most prominent AI influencer in this realm is Liu Yexi, renowned for promoting beauty and cosmetics to her massive following of 8.2 million fans on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok. Her videos predominantly feature short animations with a captivating blend of cyberpunk and traditional Chinese aesthetics. Recently, Liu Yexi collaborated with XPENG Automotive for the launch of its newest model, the XPeng P7670 Black Label Edition. Her short animations promoting the car have been viewed nearly 100 million times on Douyin, making it the platform’s sixth-most-popular topic when it was launched.

XPENG campaign featuring AI influencer Liu Yexi

Still, faced with such great opportunities, brands must be vigilant in balancing creativity and safety. Increased brand spending on creator content, platform incentives to attract creators, and the deluge of AI-generated content all contribute to rising tensions between brands and creators over brand safety, image, and consistency.

Premium and luxury brands have consistently shown resistance towards creator content, mainly because they have limited control over the creative output and narrative compared to traditional media platforms or publishers. However, as audiences increasingly seek genuine creator-led content, brands must find a way to safeguard their brand image while still granting creators the artistic liberty to craft and convey the authentic messages that audiences crave.

The influx of sophisticated AI tools has also made it even more difficult for brands to protect themselves from ad fraud. Since the birth of Social Creators, tools and bots have always existed that allowed people to inflate follower counts, likes on posts, and spamming genuine users with content. This has made the relationship between creator and brand even more important to ensure the partnership is genuine and beneficial for all parties.

Despite the slowdown, all signs indicate that the creator economy will continue to flourish. It has become a staple of brand marketing, but striking a balance between brand creativity and brand safety is one of the biggest challenges for marketers in 2024.                                     

William Wun is a regional strategy partner at UM for APAC.

Campaign Asia

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