Victor Knaap discusses what he sees as the basic principles of successful digital content production. He reflects on the market that is rapidly changing due to technological developments and the influence of powerful digital players like Google and Facebook.
MediaMonks uses data as a starting point for content production. “We see data as a canvas to write stories,” says Knaap. “When you’re able to intimately understand your audience and their passion points, it’s possible to deliver dynamic content that’s personalised, relevant and engaging. For example, within a single campaign there can be one main story and several parallel story lines with tailored nuances such as video, copy and images tailored to the individual’s interests.”
“With the proliferation of so many new, digital channels, the traditional approach of brands working directly with agencies on the ‘big idea’ and leaving creative production to the end, has been flipped”,
“It no longer makes sense to spend the bulk of the budget on TV commercials. Today, through smart and integrated production, we push to develop the hero, hub and hygiene assets at the same time. This not only ensures the big idea is given longevity and will work across multiple platforms, but that it contains differentiated, local nuances too.”
MediaMonks takes an integrated approach to production, designed to ensure a more coherent and effective brand story across a brand’s entire digital landscape, but also to drive down the cost per asset through capturing all content during a single shoot. Along with the big idea, the production company creates hub content, such as recurring blog posts or videos. It also creates hygiene content, which is information users actively search for, such as ‘how to videos’ or branded recipes.
“We first look at all the different touch points, both owned and paid, and then think about how to stretch the big idea across the entire digital landscape,” says Knaap.
“In our industry we observe that brands are doing their best to meet the exponential demand for more content, but the truth is, you can’t simply repurpose content. Mobile users expect vertical videos, while Instagram stories need to pack punch within sixty seconds, and banner ads need compelling copy completely unlike the conversational tone that works on Facebook. Our focus is to make a whole range of specially created assets specially tailored to each platform.”
Creating smart content that can be optimised continuously is part of MediaMonks’ creed: define, design and optimise fast. Optimising also means constantly monitoring content performance on all the different touchpoints and making adjustments where necessary. “Why not create three versions of a video and see which one works best?” Knaap asks. “Spending large amounts of money on a single campaign and then waiting a month or so to measure the results doesn’t make sense. No start-up in the world would do this. Instead, start-ups are all about continuously monitoring and optimising performance and having the agility to alter the course if necessary. This is how a media campaign should be run. In other words: run your content as a start-up!”
Knaap doesn’t write TV off completely and says that he sees this device becoming more and more intelligent in the future. However, he says, making targeted TV ads is not yet possible, because it’s still difficult to monitor TV viewership data. “Getting the right content to the right person at the right time is what we need. I think the changing role of TV in the advertising market justifies a change of roles in media buying. Online media buying always followed the example of TV media buying, but today it should be the other way around.”
“In this context,” he says, “perhaps the cable companies hold the winning cards in the Netherlands. This is because traditional TV channels often don’t have a direct relationship with consumers and face a challenge to create a strong community around them.”
“I think big live shows, news programmes and sports events on TV are still relevant and will continue to be so in the future, including the accompanying advertising space. Going forward, I predict all other TV advertising will be programmatic.”
“Perhaps the cable companies hold the winning cards in the Netherlands.”
Knaap also foresees a major shift towards the central role of websites for brands to present themselves. According to a recent Nielsen report, branded websites are the second most trusted advertising platform, after word of mouth.
He comments that this is because brands currently can’t convey their brand message on third-party sales platforms, such as Bol.com and Amazon, as they put all competing brands in the same framework which means they’re no longer able to distinguish themselves.
“For a website to be effective,” he explains, “brands should continue to tell the same story across all platforms. Right now, potential customers often lose the engaging storyline that’s lured them in from a social platform such as Facebook or Youtube, as when they get to a brand’s website, all they see is a corporate ecommerce platform.”
Knaap says that with today’s technologies and insights, there’s no reason dot-coms can’t be as effective as the social post or video that sparked the interest of potential customers to begin with. “However,” he says, “to transform dot-coms into a flagship experience, they need to be given the same ongoing dedication as carefully crafted campaigns.”
He says that in 2017, consumers expect the same personalised brand experience on a website as they do on social media, and as a result, if consumers are turned off at the final point of transaction, this is a huge business opportunity wasted.
Today, about 80% of the digital media spending goes to digital giants, such as Google and Facebook, which raises concerns about the outflow of money from the Netherlands. However, Knaap is looking on the bright side as he says these digital players also offer unprecedented access to a global audience. “A digital production company like MediaMonks needs a global audience for its high-quality content in order to be successful. But also independent content producers, such as the makers of Scandinavian quality crime TV drama, who saw their audience multiply as a result of access to a global audience through Netflix.”
Still, many traditional Dutch companies see digital players like Google as a major threat. “I understand their concern”, says Knaap. “But while Google has a set of formats that can be used globally, almost all Dutch publishers use different kinds of tooling and formats which do not mutually correspond. As a result, making all assets ready for an advertising campaign takes a lot of time and effort. Creating one system would make things easier and save a lot of money in production costs and become more effective.”
In addition to the fact that Dutch players in the market are using internal tooling and formats that do not mutually correspond, there are also different national rules within Europe. “MediaMonks operates worldwide and a diversity of national rules and regulations makes a European campaign more expensive,” says Knaap. “This is really an obstacle for brands. We also see this in the way in which European countries deal with for instance Netflix. Why not make one European deal with Netflix? Uniformity is what we need.”