Contributed by John Dalziel, Client Director, SGK


The pace at which digital content production has developed is little short of astonishing.

Consider, as one example, how quickly we’ve progressed from simple static GIFs to kinetic emails that allow consumers to directly purchase products with just a few clicks. In a few short years, our digital landscape has migrated from desktop to mobile, from broadcast to personalised communication, and from static to fully immersive experiences. Suffice it to say, for brands and marketers who embrace new possibilities, digital content creation will transform their marketing approach.

The list of what we term digital content gets ever longer: apps, email, CGI, VFX, display, videos, VR, AR, DCO, social and more. To manage all these rapidly expanding digital communication media, brands and marketers need some help.

In an ideal world, they would have access to something similar to another new-fangled tool of our age: the in-car satellite navigation system. Simply enter a destination and get dynamic directions that take you directly to your objective easily, quickly and efficiently, with smooth steering around any potential hazards and holdups.

Until that tool exists, here’s a conceptual map to help you get the lay of the land and plan the most efficient route to your digital content goals.


More paths to purchase for the consumer
The fragmentation of the media landscape over the past 20 years has brought with it an almost bewildering array of routes to market. The days of ATL (Above The Line) and BTL (Below The Line) are long gone. Now everyone’s talking about bought and earned media. Vloggers can make or break products. Data is king, and using it effectively has become a business in itself.

Today’s technologies give virtually everyone a voice, and it’s absolutely crucial to be responsive. Every consumer is now a potential brand influencer. Digital media across multiple channels enable consumers to share feedback, complaints and suggestions directly with brands and with their peers.

These consumer voices have a major impact, as 68 per cent of buyers say they frequently give credence to peer reviews and user-generated feedback. With consumers steering these conversations, it is essential for brands to constantly monitor what’s being said and the effectiveness of their responses in every public domain. Brands that turn their back, even briefly, risk losing control of the dialogue — and losing potential consumers who are listening in.

Another key challenge to consider is ensuring that marketers deploy proper data protection, and also have a good grasp of data protection regulations — not only in their own country, but also in other markets where they deploy content. Getting it wrong can harm both their finances and reputation.


More opportunities to excel for marketers
Channel proliferation, near-instantaneous consumer reaction, and the dynamic balance between ubiquity and individualism represent enormous challenges for marketers today. But they represent even greater opportunities. Never lose sight of that fact.

In both B2B and B2C environments, the proliferation of routes through which we listen, engage and respond to our audiences creates the potential to:

(1.) Target, measure and retarget cost-effectively and quickly.
Quickly deploy marketing messages, test their effectiveness, and make decisions to replace lower-performing messages with higher-performing ones. Brands can also properly focus their marketing budgets as they target large and varied customer segments as well as precisely segmented prospect clusters. Plus, marketers now have the tools to constantly monitor campaigns and continually create and test new content versions and ideas.

(2.) More transparency in decision making.
Traditional areas of the marketing mix, where cost, complexity and black-box thinking have reinforced the status quo for decades, are now imploding. New players, with new methods, are rapidly filling the void. In the area of moving image creation and adaptation, for example, the web now brims with companies that will create a brand video for as little as $500. The business is much more transparent now, from pricing to results. The new developments foster competitiveness and agility that enable faster creation of higher-quality, more effective content.


A wide-open marketing landscape for brands that take advantage
A recent review of industry literature and statistics found that 70 per cent of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy, while only 29 per cent of leading marketers systematically reuse and repurpose content. These are shocking findings in a world where consumers expect more and more content; where content must be adapted and delivered in many different ways to suit a proliferation of channels; and where content can only compete effectively by continually pushing new boundaries of creativity and engagement.

Fortunately, the market and technology conditions that create the need also provide the means. We can now create high-quality content quickly and efficiently, in unprecedented volumes. Creativity can come from anywhere. The most effective marketers have always gone to great lengths to discover the fresh content sources that continually enliven their brands.

With unconstrained access to creative talents and tools, digital content production creates the conditions where in-house agencies can be just that: full-service agencies with fully realised capabilities. No longer are they windowless rooms for creating documents and leaflets. Instead, fully-fledged creative teams such as those deployed at blue-chip clients around the world can collaboratively create, execute, adapt and deliver content for any channel — quickly, consistently and cost-effectively.

It’s not just about maximising the speed of content creation or the amount of content that can be delivered across channels. With the ability to adapt executions so rapidly, and the potential to create many versions of content to target multiple audience segments with personalised messages, content creators are also achieving new levels of consistency.

Why? Because the need to create so many assets tends to really focus the minds of marketers in ways that slower, analogue content-creation processes of the past never could; but also because more templating is now required in order to make changes quickly, at the required scale, while meeting the specific requirements of each channel; and finally, because the very need for high-quality, high-quantity content in itself encourages marketers to take our oft-recommended advice to “sweat” assets as much as possible.

The opportunity here is huge, as only 9 per cent of marketers say they have developed a completely systematic approach to producing, managing and distributing content. The other 91 per cent lament that they’re still doing a lot of manual work, or even doing everything on an ad-hoc basis.

In-house setups encourage quality and consistency. When in-house studio creatives are constantly working with multiple assets, and managing changes quickly, they are bound to become experts at keeping on top of a brand’s requirements. Having gained a firm command of the brand’s look, feel and voice, marketers can then enlist specialists when and where necessary.

Currently, 49 per cent of consumer marketers outsource content creation activities, while 38 per cent prefer to keep all marketing activities in-house. But the choice doesn’t need to be either/or. Strategic agencies of record can, and should, continue to set the communications platform — and possibly also design the creative vehicle, depending on the client’s capabilities and preferences. Marketers can then adapt that big idea across multiple media channels and content versions in collaboration with executional experts.


Looking ahead: A future of pervasive digital engagement
Digital technology will continue to pervade consumers’ lives ever more deeply — from the daily journeys they make, to the temperatures they choose to heat their house throughout the day, to the type of coffee they buy, to the moods they express on social media, and on and on. The data fingerprints that are left behind with each digitally mediated interaction will allow and encourage marketers to target those consumers ever more precisely.

Personalised, timely communications will become the expected and desired norm. By tracking the specific consumer behaviours that follow upon each communication, marketers will have the data they need to retarget effectively with every subsequent message — ushering each consumer along his or her personal journey toward purchase, satisfaction and loyalty.

So, expect more targeting, more measurement, more demand for transparency, and more brands and marketers assigning relevant tasks to the most appropriate partners. Whether creative work is performed in-house, outsourced, or developed collaboratively in conjunction with multiple agencies and individuals, digital content production tools can help ensure that everyone is playing a coordinated role on an efficient team.

All of that is great news for everyone in the marketing industry!

Throughout his +25 year career, John Dalziel, Client Director at Schawk, a content production partner, has had extensive global experience developing and implementing marketing and digital strategies to create omnichannel customer engagement. From leading the London office client facing teams to client-side global marketing management, John has developed strategic end-to-end content solutions for Sky, American Express, P&G and British Airways.

The author is a 3rd party contributor to AdAsia and this article represents his views.


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