Creators, brands, and tech: the evolution of content and advertising

Creators, brands, and tech: the evolution of content and advertising

Advertising has always changed with the times. But never has it existed in as complex a landscape as today. Instead of mainstream media channels that provide brands with a clear, professional strategy for getting their message in front of consumers, we’re now living in a far more fragmented world. 

You could argue that mainstream doesn’t exist anymore; everyone has access to more diverse media, on a range of different platforms, and even through a variety of different sense-stimulating tech – from newsletters and blogs to VR environments and interactive AR experiences. 

This brings up crucial questions around the future of content creation for enterprises across all industries. At #LEAP22, Nicole Cacal (Founder and CEO at Forbes Ignite) chaired a panel discussion about exactly this – with Chris Solomi (Chief Digital Officer and Omnicom Media Group), Kinda Ibrahim (Director of Global Content Partnerships, MEA and Turkey, Twitter), Tarek Amin (Director, Middle East & North Africa, YouTube), Mohammed Albosimi (CEO at True Gaming), and Ali El Hagar (Head of Affiliates and Ad Sales at Warner Media). 

The transformation of advertising: driven by creators 

In 2022, there are an estimated 50 million people contributing to the creator economy, according to data collated by Zippia

The transformation of advertising is centred around the evolution of digital content creators. Cacal pointed out that media revenue models are transforming, with a diversification of approaches – from subscription-first models to affiliate revenue, and an increasing focus on community-building and hybrid online/offline events. For Ibrahim, tools that enable creators to improve their content (while making money from it) are key to enable Twitter to remain a part of this creator economy shift. “We realise that to uplift and enhance the quality of content there need to be multiple ways of incentivising partners,” she said – with ‘partners’ referring to creators, authors, publishers, media brands, and broadcasters. With this in mind, Twitter has launched a series of new products, including subscription-based tools that enable creators to ring fence certain content for paying followers only; and Tips, allowing fans to tip creators to add an additional income stream. 

Incremental opportunities for revenue generation that also give creators the opportunity to make their content better are essential to keep those creators on a platform in 2022 and beyond. And without creators, a platform’s advertising value will plummet – because it’s the authentic relationships that creators build with their audiences that provides the greatest value to brands right now. 

That doesn’t mean it’s easy for brands to step into the middle of the creator > consumer relationship and sell products, however. Cacal asked how brands can enter into the conversation in a meaningful way, and Solomi said, very frankly, “I don’t know. It’s too new. And one of the things we’re always so fearful of saying is, ‘I haven’t got a clue yet,” and that’s fine.” In particular, he was referring to the metaverse – a virtual world so new and currently so broadly defined that it’s hard to know where and how advertisers will fit into it, or if it really will be a good place to sell products.  

Brands have to listen to customers and creators

As Albosimi noted, “people’s behaviour is changing, and we need to follow that all the time.” A few years ago nobody wanted to watch a 20 second video clip shot on a smartphone – people wanted high quality long-form video content on YouTube, for example. But today, new platforms, new features, and new digital tools are making it easy to create spontaneous and quick-to-consume content. “The way we do advertising is changing, we have more diversity now…and it’s more fun and engaging,” Albosimi added. 

One thing that’s clear is that no current brand can exist in only one place. Using sports as an example, Ibrahim said: “it’s no longer about just the football match. It’s about what people are talking about when they’re watching the football match; what people are predicting is going to happen before the match; if you miss the football match, the short videos and highlights you’re going to watch to catch up.” In Saudi Arabia, she added, a recent Twitter space about a football player potentially transferring to another club garnered 120,000 concurrent users. “That’s just to show you that one format, one destination, is no longer viable – and media brands need to realise that, and structure their investment to cater to that.” 

Gaming is clearly emerging as one of the most important engagement opportunities in the world. And not just among young people: a recent report by GWI found that the percentage of gamers aged 55-64 grew by 32% in just two years. It’s why Netflix said Fortnite is its biggest competition – because when fun, engaging games can be accessed on the same devices as a straight-up streaming platform, the streaming platform has to find a way to keep user attention. 

“There is a reason why gaming is the most loved form of entertainment,” Albosimi said; “because it’s interactive. It’s fun.” In the face of such competition, Netflix has launched its own gaming service. “It’s a war of creating content, it’s a war for screen time,” Abosimi added – so he expects that all major companies will integrate gaming into the advertising strategy in the future.

Fun, playful, engaging interaction will drive advertisement evolution. But so will authenticity: and that’s where brands really need to connect with creators whose values are in alignment with the brand itself. 

Solomi said, “You have a lot of really interesting content creators who are trying to talk in a really authentic way, then are finding that when they’re authentic they develop huge audiences; but then brands might move away because what they’re saying is controversial. Then at the same time you might have more traditional brands that are being a bit boring but their numbers are dwindling.”

Brands have to find a difficult balance there. They need to leverage the creators who are telling authentic stories and building meaningful relationships with their audience – and they need to make sure the creators who are promoting their products aren’t spreading a message that’s off-sync with the brand. 

Finally, in this complex relationship between technology, brands, creators and consumers, brands also have to remember this: the creators and their entrepreneurial enterprises are important too. “It’s not just looking at it from a brand perspective,” Amin urged, “it has to make sense for the creator. Because the creators invest a lot of time, effort, and money to build their communities, and to do that in an authentic way. I would say brands working with creators should always give them the space — because they know their audience, they know how to engage with them — and trust them to do the right thing.”