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At a time when people want more content and less of ads, brands are undergoing a change in the way they communicate with the consumers. Other than doing just ads through the traditional mediums or even using new-age platforms, they have realised the need to embrace the content space. To fulfil brands’ need of creating content, content creators and platforms sprung up. Also, to stay abreast of the brands’ desires of connecting with consumers through content, a lot of creative and digital agencies are trying to keep up with the content marketing space.

Recently, the Mindshare-acquired digital agency The Glitch launched its content division Flux@The Glitch and last year Leo Burnett announced its content division Prodigious. If industry sources are to be believed, a few more announcements of agencies opening separate divisions to create content can be expected.

But can creative and digital agencies that come with a background of making ads create content for brands that don’t look like ads?

Aashish Chopra

Aashish Chopra, Content Marketing Head, Ixigo, said, “We don’t connect with the agencies as they don’t get the game. In fact, the big challenge I see in the whole industry is that we always think of content along the lines of making an ad. They create the content as ads and ads don’t work. Ad blockers are on the rise."

Content is a very new sphere in India and brands are eager to try this space. Most of the people working on content come from advertising and so whenever they create content, it looks extremely branded or more or less like brand ads.

Samar Singh Sheikhawat

Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Chief Marketing Officer, United Breweries, said, “A lot of people are still doing branded content and stories in which no one is interested. They are treating it so much from the traditional media point of view and have traditional media people working on it and will bring in that filter when they will talk like that.”

Sumeet Narang

On the other hand, Sumeet Narang, Vice-President, Marketing, Bajaj Auto, is in the favour of working in collaboration with its agencies rather than content creators. He said, “We have been able to develop some great digital content films with our creative agency partners. We have been winning at Cannes, Grand Effie and many more awards. I believe they are very well suited for this since they have a good understanding of the brand. The real big challenge is finding a strong connect with the brand, which can only be done collaboratively with the marketing team that owns the brand framework.”

Chintan Ruparel

Chintan Ruparel, Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer at Terribly Tiny Tales, think that content creators are fearless and bold in their approach and create content that the consumers would like and creative agencies create content that the brand managers would like. He said, “There is a kind of fearlessness that a content creator has and brands and marketing managers have realised that they miss that kind of fearlessness in advertising agencies. What content creators bring to the table is the fresh and fearless approach to storytelling because their focus is on the people and not on the brands. Advertising agencies’ clients are not people but the brand managers. They will not think of people but of something that the brand manager will approve. When we do stories, we don’t think about what the brand managers think, but whether people will like it.”

Vineet Kanabar

Sharing his point of view on the topic, Vineet Kanabar, Marketing Head at TVF, said, “Advertising agencies are great at crafting brand campaigns, but content needs a different approach to overcome the trust deficit that the consumer has for ads through entertaining storytelling. With content, the right balance is important to be effective: the consumer should get the brand's message without feeling like it was intruding into the entertainment. This is what creators do better, and this is what drives ROI from branded content in terms of moving mind measures and meeting marketing objectives.”

Also, from an investment point of view, if agencies are creating content for the brands or even if brands are doing content in-house content, they would require huge media spends to disseminate the content. On which, Kanabar said, “From an investment perspective when brands create their own content, they must spend media dollars to reach relevant audiences. We have a youth audience base that loves tuning in to each video, without the need for massive advertising spend.”

Kalyan Kumar runs an influencer marketing and digital content strategy agency, Social Catalyzers, based in Gurgaon. He said, “The tussle between conventional paid marketing (advertising) and content marketing is a constant one and yet most agencies are now thinking through this and augmenting their capabilities to think according to the job at hand, i.e. content marketing versus the usual advertising.”

Gopa Kumar

Gopa Kumar, Vice-President, Isobar, a digital agency, thinks that it is a problem with the brands and not the agencies. He said that brands need to change their mindset and come out of yoke to create good content and not ads. He said, "The bigger thing here is a mindset shift within marketers which is required, it’s no longer about 30 seconds commercial or digital films. It’s about being always on and thinking like publisher and publish content very frequently which your consumers will engage on, for that marketers need to be agile, nimble and flexible to move out of the framework that they have been used to over the years, as consumers definitely do not see the same that way.”

Rajiv Dingra

Resonating with Kumar, Rajiv Dingra, Founder and CEO, WATConsult, another digital agency in India, thinks that it is the brands that insist on the agencies on plugging them more and more in the content being created. “I think agencies are more than happy to focus on content rather than advertising and more often than not it’s the brand that insists on plugging in the brand prominently.”

Dingra also said, “Different agencies have different competences when it comes to content creation and I believe agencies that have in-house production teams who understand digital space are best suited for the content marketing role.”

Harish Rawat

Summarising the importance of all the sides involved in creating any brand initiative, Harish Rawat, Chief Marketing Officer, Zoomcar believes that the best results would come if the content process involves all stakeholders from the brand, creative, media and content teams. He said that content is built around four core pillars: ‘Purpose, Message, Context, and Audience’.

“It shouldn't be too hard for any brand team (mix of marketing managers, creative people from agencies) to brainstorm and come up with the best content idea to deliver on the first two buckets. However, the magic happens only when a content creator steps in and weaves that idea into a meaningful ‘context’ [read video script/blog] which we find relevant as it starts resonating with us,” he said.

Rawat said, “To make the content work, you have to distribute it to the right ‘Audience’. And it's not easy for digital agencies to find them, while content creators have a community built around same. For me, the best results would come if the content process involves all stakeholders from the brand, creative, media and content teams.”