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These are the times when the tone and expressions of content are changing with Gen Z. The way we access, create or consume content and entertainment is changing forever. With mobile, consumers have more power on what they consume. The attention span that the marketers can grab is also decreasing. People are deciding what they want to watch, skip or scroll.

Stefan Heinrich, Director, US TikTok, took to the stage on the last day of Cannes Lions Festival to discuss with Andrea Okeke, Comedy Content Creator, TikTok and Anna O’ Brien, Creator, TikTok, activist and a plus-size model, about the changing way the millennials consume content and how to engage better with them more authentically.

Heinrich emphasised the importance of being authentic. He said, “We don’t want to trick the audience because they understand what they are advertised to. The content we create needs to be more authentic and relevant to more and more complex generation that wants to express, engage and interact with your content. People below 28 and younger are most unlikely to engage with branded content. They are telling us loud and clearer that we need to adapt and speak their language. If we want to keep up, then authenticity is winning. Today’s generation are activists and don’t want to hide behind social norms.”

Okeke said the younger audience no more wants to see long-form content. Instead, they are bothered about detailing in short form only. “The younger audience is like detectives. They can watch short-form video on a loop and look at every detailing. They can look at the smallest little error.”

O’ Brien added, “In today’s generation, the details are the storyline. Once I left a Coke can in the back in a video and I had 30 comments of people saying that they have so much in common, as they like Coke too. It’s not like they are not paying attention, but are hyper-focused on the short videos.”

Okeke went to talk about how TikTok as instant content discovery platform has the power to influence create cultures. She said, “TikTok is setting trends the way people dance, interact, talk. A lot of trends are happening because of the content put online.”

O’ Brien said this generation of youth is hyper-involved and want to do things differently. They watch a video and try to apply creativity to it to bring it out differently.

She said TikTok gives an advantage to the creators to try different things and not to stick to one form of content. “As a creator, on other channels, you are put into a box that you are a beauty person, fashion person or a lifestyle person. On TikTok, it doesn’t exist. One day you are doing a dance video and the other day you are running around outside doing something silly. All this allows us to be authentic, which is a really important part of this generation’s needs from content.”

They talked about how the new trend of ‘From perfection to imperfection’ is adding authenticity quotient to content posted online.

O’ Brien said, “There is a new system of being rewarded for authenticity. There is value in knowing that sometimes things don’t work out. I have my most popular videos where I am trying to do things, which is not working out. People want to be connected in their imperfections. Because of our closeness to the audience, they are more forgiving. That allows us to try a lot of different things and be more creative. There is this forgiveness level that doesn’t exist in other channels.”

She said this also applies to brands. If brands have this type of relationship with their fans and followers and are listening to them, including in content creation, they would come closer to the consumers.

Okeke added, “TikTok is a very positive space. That is why I am there. If ever I get a negative comment, there are people countering those comments. My audience is like my friends. I post content that makes them happy. They give me the same response.”

Okeke and O’ Brien elaborated on how they want to collaborate with the brands and what kind of content creator and brand relationships are successful.

Okeke said that she would want to collaborate with brands that she actually use, which makes content authentic. She said, “I would collaborate with a brand that I would believe in. I am not going to advertise something that I don’t use and something that my audience doesn’t like. I would like to advertise authentically without doing basic product placement. I would like to include the brand very naturally like my day to day content.”

O’ Brien said it would be easy for creators to create content if they are given freedom in the content creation process. “If the brand is willing to be open and make a symbiotic relationship with the content creator to create something, it could be a really interesting fascinating thing. But if you come to us with the same expectations as the traditional commercials, you are going to fail.”

Okeke also said, “The brands should not come and tell the content creator what they have to do or say. Just tell them what your story and the brand message is. That doesn’t make content forced ad and makes the brand look original.”