Winning the content race: 'Don't chase huge numbers, look at deep engagement'

Winning the content race: 'Don't chase huge numbers, look at deep engagement'

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In this digital age, content is no longer monopolised by certain media groups. Instead, the ability to create content now lies in the hands of content creators and consumers too, with platforms such as Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts. This democratisation of content creation has also resulted in more content being produced, adding to the online clutter. This evolution has now made advertising more complex for agencies, said Jeff Cheong (pictured left in main image), CEO at DDB Group Singapore during a panel session at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's recent Content 360 conference. The reason is that agencies now have more than just mainstream media to look at.

"We now even have the ability to target niche content creators, and I think it presents for us a different matrix of success. I think the time has come when we shouldn't be just chasing huge numbers, but we should look at deep engagement," Cheong said. He added that the growth of current platforms and the rise of emerging ones have led to "a transfer of creation" to consumers, where all one needs right now is their mobile device to write a post or start a live stream. 

At the same time, consumers' attention spans have also shortened and to truly engage them, brands need to go the extra mile to create a story that would allow consumers to resonate better with the brand message. Cheong said that while ads are seen as disruptive and invasive, consumers may still be receptive to content if it is entertaining and has good production quality. 

"Marketers are usually trained to deliver the message in six seconds, which is why ads these days take on the format of pushing out the key message at the start. At the end of six seconds, users can decide for themselves if they want to watch the rest of the ad," Cheong said. Citing PUB Singapore's ad that DDB did, Cheong said the first part of the video showed children brushing their teeth in school, delivering the key message of not wasting water. The rest of the ad, including the separation of two brothers, was the "roller coaster" designed to make viewers cry. 

The abundance of content creation platforms has also brought about a stream of data and analytics. Singaporean YouTuber and co-founder of Night Owl Cinematics (NOC), Sylvia Chan (pictured centre in main image), said during the panel that while the numbers available can be confusing, content creators also have more information than ever before which helps in identifying white spaces.

"It's about looking at the data and daring to explore different platforms we didn't use to have and try to get more information and data in those white spaces to understand how we can connect and bring that content to our audiences," she explained. Without a doubt, content creation now is more challenging than before due to the rise in competition. Despite this, Chan said it is actually easier to notice white spaces.

"Take Adele for example. She mentioned that everyone is doing music for TikTok so who is doing music for her generation?" she said. In NOC's case, for example, the company is trying to grow one of its brands, Food King, into a digital network instead of a standalone brand. Meanwhile, NOC also saw the opportunity to pivot earlier this year from an influencer-led company to a content-driven one. Having realised that content-led services were higher in demand over the past two years, NOC now aims to become a 360-degree content hub. At the end of the day, Chan said it is all about looking at what else can bring added value to consumers and what types of content her team members are already naturally consuming and using that as inspiration.

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Similarly, data has also helped Singaporean singer Tabitha Nauser (pictured right in main image) try new things because it allowed her to learn how her audience reacted to different kinds of music, what they latched on to, and what they related to the most. "I think it really came down to messaging as well, in the music. For me, I was trying to really pull from topics that I want to explore and talk about as well, and I think that helped too because it was very sincere storytelling in a way," she said.  

Platforms such as TikTok and Instagram aren't just limited to content creators who produce material for brands. In fact, it also covers musicians who now have more channels to engage their audiences. Similar to Chan, Nauser said that content creators have to constantly update and educate themselves on what's going on in their space, especially with new platforms. "If you don't know what's going on, that's where you fall off," she said. Using TikTok as an example, Nauser said if she was "living under a rock" and had no idea what the platform was about, it would be "so detrimental", especially to a musician since the platform is all the rage these days. 

Nauser placed third in the third edition of Singapore Idol in 2009 when she was 16 years old, back when Twitter and Facebook were still new and Instagram had yet to exist. Over time, she grew acquainted with social media and despite having experienced both traditional and new mediums, Nauser still feels like she hasn't really cut through the clutter yet. "There's always going to be more to do, you can never just rest on your laurels," she said.

That said, it is important for content creators to be clear on what they are looking to put out. If this solely means musical hooks for TikTok, for example, Nauser said that is completely fine. In Nauser's case, she makes music because she wants to and because she feels like somebody listening can connect with.

"I'm not so much driven by how many likes a certain gig would get. But it depends on each individual person. I can still think about how I should package my music and if I should refresh my brand. It's a bit of a push and pull; you need to know what's going on," she explained. The pandemic pushed her to experiment with her music to explore new avenues and keep her content fresh. From garage and bubble gum pop to soul and R&B, Nauser released different types of songs just to test the waters. "But also at the same time, [I was] flexing my creative brain to try and step out of the box and try something new," she explained. 

Being more than just a 'classified ad'

The topic of the marketer-influencer relationship is often talked about and it can be tough for both parties to meet in the middle. Each has their own style and agenda and it can be very hard for brands to relinquish some of the control that they have. Hence, agencies play a crucial role in this aiding with this relationship.

While many clients see agencies as the middleman, that is not the case for DDB and Cheong said when the team comes to the table with a proposal, it always aims to put forth the best mix of influencer recommendations and content platforms that will deliver the best results.

What's very important is to work with the content creators from the beginning and not use them as a classified ad.

Content creators have their own native voice which resonates well with their following too. Hence, it is important to involve them in the creative process, which is exactly what DDB does. Agreeing with Cheong, Nauser said there needs to be collaboration from the start for the partnership to work and work well too. While there might be an impression that content creators would naturally go for jobs that pay well, this certainly is not the case for Nauser who is selective about the brands she works with and previously turned down well paying jobs.

"I felt I wouldn't be able to bring my best or that the job just wasn't right for my personal branding. I could very well do it but if I don't totally believe in it, it just doesn't feel right to me," she said. Some of the brands Nauser has worked with include Aftershock PC, Coach, Onitsuka Tiger, Reebok, and Sephora.

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