Content production should be a Multi-sodic, Package-driven budget approach - Rebecca E. Chandler

by ACN Editor
Asia Content News team discussed some Content Production issues facing brands starting to start & scale their content creation efforts. Here are some excerpts of the conversation.

Q. What do you think is the biggest content creation challenge for brands today? What do you suggest to overcome?

The biggest content creation challenge for brands today is the audience limitations that result from idea-centric, omnichannel content that works vertically and in relative isolation. Ideas are wonderfully creative, but they have an expensive, short life cycle and don’t necessarily feel personal. When brands start to convert ideas into transmedia narratives, the content works vertically and horizontally - increasing the reach without increasing the budget. Brands talk as if building multi-sodic narratives – stories – is a more complicated and costly approach but that’s not true. When brands start to produce narratives, moving beyond ideas, then the budgeting shifts to a story-centric, “long format” approach that is much more cost effective. Transmedia branding expands audiences – prevents product messaging from “ageing out” consumers because it offers a multi-layered story that penetrates primary, secondary and tertiary audiences.

Q. In a typical content marketing journey, brands usually spend most of their efforts on Content Creation and not much attention is paid to Distribution & Measurement. What do you advise to such brands?

Brands are paying attention to distribution and measurement but I’m not sure that they’re paying attention to the right distribution and measurement. Brands are paying enormous sums to create omnichannel, idea-driven content and most are using the same sort of repackaged analytics that all brands use – it’s not niche information and it’s not very deep. Very few brands are engaging independent, deep AI dives into consumers and exploring not just their primary audience but also secondary and tertiary audiences who are comprised of consumers that could be reached in a transmedia, episodic environment that amplifies the existing content. If you need to target Gen Z – great – but why aren’t you also targeting their parents with secondary and tertiary narratives because they actually control the money in the house? Yes, Gen Z influences sales but Gen X actually decides when and what is ultimately purchased. Today’s distribution feels like it’s isolating consumers and the right transmedia approach could solve that for brands.

Q. What is your advice for creating content In-house Vs Outsourcing? When should a brand look for partners, if at all?

There are strong arguments for brands going in-house and equally strong arguments for collaborating with partners. Brands need to ask what they want to achieve when deciding to go in-house or with a partner. Are they looking for productivity? Shorter production time? Do they want to leverage content into a revenue generating silo? Or a combination thereof? Brands going in-house see success when they generate turn-key, in the moment content hundreds of times a month. It requires real-time market analytics and reaction and eliminates some of the multi-layered admin that comes with a partner. Brands who see content as an in-house, revenue generating machine need to make sure that their strategy is long-term. RedBull media house wasn’t an overnight success. Content partners need to be more than just a producer - they need to be able to leverage technology – the latest camera equipment that is easier, faster, and more agile to use (and cheaper) while also leveraging production trends – shooting in more cost-effective cities/countries, leveraging the power of forex exchange and so on. Great partners love the brand and are agile - flexible.

Q. What are the top hurdles in replicating a successful content marketing program in other countries? Can you share some learning from Coke Studio, how they did it?

One of the biggest challenge brands face is producing successful content marketing across multiple countries or regions is finding balance between maintaining a format while allowing for locally relevant market insights that personalize the content. Very few brands, if any, try a “one size, fits all” content approach for good reason – it doesn’t work very long or very far with audiences. A great, “generic” ad might work within niche ecosystems like the Superbowl, but they don’t really support long-term buying connection once the hype wears off. Coke Studio is a long format content asset that is particularly successful at celebrating a market’s creative societies while delivering an unparalleled brand narrative. When a brand decides to produce a “show” of any genre, they need to firmly establish their intention, brand ethos, and format guidelines - the “must haves”- and they cannot deviate from those pillars – ever. Coke Studio is a great example of how a brand is clear about what they wish to achieve and how they intend to achieve it. The process is as critical as the creative execution.

Q. What is the best approach to budget for Content Production and how to choose the right partner?

Content production should pivot away from a “commercial production” centric approach into a multi-sodic, package driven budget environment. Historically, television shows don’t budget for one episode at a time. Rather, they budget for say a 30-episode package that allows producers to make long-term investments in crew, equipment and other resources and negotiate weekly and monthly deals versus “day rates”. Creative agencies do not seem to appreciate the shift and a large portion of the cost-controlling I do for clients is trying to convince creative agencies and their production companies to see the process differently. Brand procurement channels need to learn a new approach as well – and start asking better questions when figures are submitted. If they see the same day rate driven, admin heavy, approach in the figures, they need to push back. The right partners are those that can leverage a package-driven budget that takes advantage of production incentives, forex exchange, tax treaties and other financial offsets while delivering great content. It’s not enough for a production company to say that they have a great director anymore – they have to also be able to leverage existing systems to make every dollar stretch.

Q. How to strike the correct balance across content formats? Do you think there is over-dependence by brands on Video as a format?

Video works. However, I do find that brands tend to focus on video and their agencies (digital, creative, etc.) don’t necessarily embrace or promote other content trends beyond video and brands don’t ask. Gamification, visual search, Indy magazines, sonic branding, podcasts – these are all absolutely viable marketing formats that brands don’t seem to embrace as passionately as video. I’m not sure that we can say a brand is truly “omnichannel” if they’re not as focused on visual search (Pinterest) as they are on creating another 45 second video or commercial. The obsession with reaching Gen Z and Millennials demands the personalization of every message and these other platform opportunities deliver that in a way video cannot. I’m always a bit surprised when I present a “what’s new in content” deck to brands and they’ve not heard of some formats that are as engaging as video—like Indy magazines targeted at Millennials. It feels like brands are still stuck in a “commercials” mindset which is devoted to video to the exclusion of other formats. There’s a disconnect between the mediums and the people who are steering the message. I think brands will find a more balanced approach if they start to embrace other marketing trends and advice from independent agencies in addition to their traditional agencies.

Q. What would you suggest to a new brand entering the content marketing space?

If you’re a brand preparing to launch in today’s market, embrace the power of influencers to drive your messaging. They can be major names or micro-influencers. Employee advocacy works – real people talking about their real experiences with a product. Create an immersive, 360 experience that leverages transmedia storytelling so that your target audience receives a multi-layered, story-centric relevant campaign that feels very personal. Video is important but the success of TikTok and other platforms suggests that you do not have to spend your entire marketing budget on slick video production when UGC delivers – so spread the budget around a bit. In addition to video, engage micro influencers, a podcast, Indy magazine (great for millennials), and create a true experience in your brick and mortar – offer a “Starbucks coffee” while customers browse through your shop (great co-branding opportunity!) while enjoying free, strong Wi-Fi and an Instagram-able spot for photos. Weave narratives in such a way that consumers never feel that they “age out” of your brand (which is something that the Gen Z and Millennial obsessed brands are guilty of doing). For example - Gen X parents have a lot of money to spend on themselves and their children (Z and Millennials) and yet brands are only writing stories that target their children – why? Weave the narratives and expand the audience.

About Rebecca E. Chandler

A 30-year professional of the film, TV and advertising industries, Rebecca Chandler is a storyteller, content producer and branded entertainment veteran. Her unique professional experiences include working as a producer for several top agencies in the USA, film company CEO in Egypt and East Africa and brand consultant in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Rebecca’s most recent work includes creative, technical and financial support for the original television format “Coke Studio” for the Africa, Pakistan, Iraq, Morocco, and Philippines markets.