Interviews

Content is not a Silver bullet but the way you use content, is – RP Singh, Chief Curator, CMS Asia

RP Singh

This is a three part interview series to identify what all is wrong with content marketing and what can be done by different stakeholders so that content is able to deliver the value that marketers seek from it. In the first part we interviewed RP Singh who has been at the forefront of content marketing industry and observes the ecosystem with a holistic lens from outside. RP tries to answer some pointed questions taking an equally direct approach. Read on..

It’s been quite a journey for you growing up from a Marketing Executive at Sirez to now entirely managing one of the most successful content marketing summit in Asia. Can you tell us about a few hits and misses in your career so far? How did CMS Asia found its place in your busy schedule?

As a digital marketing professional for so many years, I had started observing a dip in response rates of traditional digital advertising. The CTRs were dropping, users were ignoring ads, ad blockers found their way into devices etc. All these trends were suggesting a larger wave that people do not want to land on a 'bigger banner' after clicking on a banner. There used to be absolutely nothing on landing pages for the audience to engage with. This was the time we thought of educating & evangelising this space. Thankfully we had a lot of interested people from the marketing fraternity who wanted to learn more. That led us to announce Asia’s 1st Content Marketing conference which is now popularly known as Content Marketing Summit Asia. With 7 houseful edition in the past, in India and in Singapore, we are proud of what we have achieved in the short span where other marketing events are struggling and dying a slow death. CMS Asia on the other hand, is going to newer markets every year and we plan to launch our Australia & NewZealand, Malaysia, Japan & Indonesia editions next year.

 

The major focus of a lot of brands is shifting towards content these days. Content is increasingly getting a larger share of digital spends. In your opinion, is there too much dependence on content & native or contextual advertising and does it really fulfill a marketer’s end objective?

Content is not a Silver bullet, the way you use content is. Content without a Content Strategy is useless irrespective of how good it is. I know every brand wants to have its pie in the mindshare of consumers through content but there is a lot to be done before you actually start creating content for your audience. I still get to meet CMOs who think that by creating a "more than 60 sec video”, they are now doing content marketing. There is another problem of not understanding the difference between Generic Content, Branded Content & Native Content. Most of the focus today is on Creation and that’s where most of the dollars are spent leaving not much scope for Distribution & Measurement. 

A lot of big publishers are just boosting Facebook posts and running Google ads to achieve the impressions/views target allocated to them without even caring about selecting the right TG when running these ads. Does this bother you? How does an agency makes sure that the brand gets what it seeks from these campaigns.

I think there are multiple issues at various levels which result into something like this at publishers’ end. A typical problem with brands is “Lets create content for X publisher because they have reach”. So the content piece is a result of reach a publisher has, and now the brand has to fit somehow. Publisher would want to milk it the best way possible. Once the content piece is created, it generally comes across a brand plug which will need ‘cooked reach’, may be because of precise targeting required by the brand. Niche targeting won’t allow publisher to deliver on ‘eye ball’ commitment hence they open up targeting parameters while distributing the content. If there is an agency involved, they generally take publishers’ side because the ‘numbers’ are delivered. This problem can not be solved, if this is how content is created. The broader implication of this for the entire ecosystem is that brands start believing that Content Marketing doesn’t work.

Now lets flip it. Think of a brand creating content based on a thought through content strategy where the ‘publisher’ discussion comes much later when it has to be distributed. So you have created content for your audience and then you figure out publishers (read channels for distribution. And since your channel selection is also because of a process originated from strategy, the discussion doesn’t revolve only around impressions. Agencies, if involved, need to go deeper into distribution methods & measurement of distributed content beyond vanity metrics of impressions.


The share of Influencer Marketing budget has increased multi folds in past one year but its still at a very nascent stage and measuring RoI, choosing the right set of influencers, content control etc. are some of the major common problems faced by Agencies & Brands. You meet a lot of Content Marketing Heads of different agencies, generally, in what way is this problem being addressed in India and outside India. With these kind of persistent problems, how does an agency makes sure that they are working with right set of partners?

While the concept of Influencer Marketing is not new, but I agree that the usage is still at nascent stage. The answer lies in measurement of influencer marketing activities. Today, we have tools to measure every digital activity to greater extent beyond superficial metrics of impressions and engagements. You can actually go down to Sales generated if the activity is tagged properly. There is, still, too much focus on reach based on the followers of an influencer which is slowly changing to Micro-Influencers. It is not always about promoting your content through influencers, some brands successfully host Influencer’s content on their social & other advertising platforms and are able to generate far better ROI. The agencies need to be mindful of Micro influencers rather than focusing only on large ones. It not only allows for better control & consistency, but also easier to execute and course correct. 

Branded Video Content has always been under the scanner for its abrupt script, quality of execution and bad actors. These days all kind of digital publishers have a video team because the video is where they make a lot of money but only a few Publishers in India like FilterCopy, TVF etc. have been able to deliver good content one after another. What should be the criteria for selecting a right video partner and is there a formula to filter the bad ones out?

I think the right criteria to select a video partner is there for everyone to see but an even more important point is to make sure that a brand doesn’t interfere too much to disturb the ‘right video partner’ by asking for unnecessary brand plugs. If the brand/product is not fitting the story line naturally, no one whether the brand or the content creator, should force fit. The actual criteria for selecting a video partner may change from brand to brand or from time to time based on requirements at that point of time such as Lead time, Cost, Video Quality, Existing audience of the content creator etc. 

So that everyone can invest into and execute sensible content marketing campaigns, what would be your one piece of advice to –

Digital Content Creators

Focus on your core strength and type of content. Do not venture into unknown themes & areas just because of money on the table.

Web Publishers

Don’t let your audience go away because of too much branded content created by force-fitting to earn that extra dollar.

Influencer Marketing Platforms

Have some mechanism to check authenticity of the influencer and create robust measurement techniques.

Campaign Measurement Tools

Expand horizons (metrics) to measure content marketing efforts. They can’t be measured the same way banner clicks are measured.

Brands

Have a content strategy in place before venturing straight into content creation. Focus on multi-format content rather than Video-only or Text-only approach.

Digital Agencies

Please have some deeper understanding of content marketing first. Agencies are the biggest influencers & partners for a brand and they should be at the forefront of understanding of this discipline and for any marketing discipline for that matter. Don’t push clients to spend on only one aspect of content marketing which suits you the most.