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A little over 18 months ago, I made the decision to uproot my life in London and move to Singapore. I was fortunate enough to start in content in London as it was all taking off. Zenith was the first media agency to recognise the importance of content for advertisers, setting up the specialist unit Newcast, in 2008.Newcast grew rapidly and our tentacles extended into a wide range of content areas, providing a full suite of integrated content solutions for our clients.It was the excitement and pioneering spirit of this initial period that I hoped to recapture in Singapore. A lot has been achieved in a short time, but there’s significant progress still to be made. Looking back and reflecting on what still needs to be done, predominantly, it’s thinking about, and treating content more strategically. Without this, clients in Asia won’t win in content.Here are four simple questions, which brands need to ask if they’re going to successfully embrace content.What’s the point of your content?Really, ask yourself, what is the point? An easy question that can be surprisingly difficult to answer. Content in Asia is of course nascent compared to the UK and US, but the biggest difference I’ve found is that content here is predominantly short-term and tactical, with little thought for the strategic role.But content is about building trust and relationships.That can only be done if it’s properly thought through, developed and continuously delivered over time. A strategic role for content needs to be clearly articulated, ideally rooted in a business goal, to make any activity meaningful and measureable. We use a data-led insights approach to spark our creative thinking when it comes to developing a content strategy. The two go hand in hand.What’s your story?Good storytelling isn’t easy and it can’t be done on the cheap if you want good quality content (although content today is much more affordable and accessible than it ever has been). Brands need to define a distinctive, overarching content story and look at how that story can be told authentically and credibly.There’s a plethora of creative talent that we can now tap into to aid with storytelling, from freelance designers and coders, to passionate influencers and credible media partners. In Singapore, it’s exciting to see the pool of creative talent growing and being nurtured.In 2016, Zenith supported the Creators Collective initiative by the Media Development Authority of Singapore to help the next generation of video creators, and through this we identified a heap of emerging talent. For a recent American Eagle Outfitters campaign, we tapped into recent graduates from film school who had set up on their own to help create our content.Who better to create content about young Singaporean entrepreneurs than the very same creative and enterprising people who could speak in the vernacular?Are you connected? Once the strategic role and storytelling have been established, it’s imperative that the content is connected to the wider communications ecosystem, not left sitting in a silo on its own. This is still a key difference between the UK and Singapore as content here continues to sit separately and is rarely integrated well, if at all. However, to be fair, it took a while to get to that stage in the UK and it didn’t happen overnight.Content works best and is most effective when it is connected, relating to everything around it; display, search, data and technology. All with the express goal of building trust and developing communities on owned platforms.Are you challenging yourself?Clients in Singapore tend to be more conservative and somewhat risk averse than those in the UK.Not everything is going to work, but pushing the boundaries with test and learn is a powerful tool to gain proprietary insights. There are far greater rewards to be had if you’re pioneering things, not playing it safe.I was lucky enough to have Helen Lee, MD of Zenith Singapore, as my boss when I first landed. Irrepressible, unyieldingly optimistic and candid, Helen supported our vision for content and challenged both our planners and clients to think differently. As a result, our client portfolio for content has grown and many are doing new, different, interesting things that they’ve never done, or even considered before. It hasn’t all been plain sailing of course, but insights and ideas for the next time abound.There are huge opportunities ahead and Singapore has a lot going for it. There’s a growing pool of creative talent to draw from and there are many people working hard to promote the cause of better quality, effective content. We actively work with the industry through the IAB and the Asia Content Marketing Association, both of which are doing a sterling job in pushing the content agenda.Opportunities are there to be taken and we’ve decided to put our money where our mouth is. To help our clients think more strategically about content, we’ve recently developed a Content Accelerator Initiative, where, working with key partners, our agencies Starcom, Zenith and Performics are making a significant investment to offer specialist time and expertise to develop robust content strategies for invited clients.A pioneering spirit, coupled with a comprehensive strategy is a winning approach.Written by Nik Vyas, content lead at Publicis Media Singapore
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