Media and advertising industry veterans gathered to share the latest trends and insights at the inaugural Convergence conference at Innovfest Unbound 2017.
By Francis Kan
The emergence of new digital tools is fueling a powerful convergence between the media and technology industries, drastically changing the way people access and consume content. Industry players, are scrambling to change their business models and processes to adjust to this new dynamic.
However, amidst the buzz over the impact of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the need to tell a compelling story remains at the heart of success for the advertising and media sectors, said speakers and panelists at Convergence, a new two-day conference track at this year's Innovfest Unbound held on 3 and 4 May.
As companies adopt more high-tech bells and whistles to deliver their messages, making content that is relevant to their target audiences - whether in a film or an advertisement - has become more important than ever.
"You have to make content available where audiences want it, when they want it on what devices they want, but you still need to make relevant content that pops," said Cheek Cheah, Chief Content Officer at Mediacorp.
Dr Janil Puthucheary (middle), Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Robert Gilby (right), Managing Director, The Walt Disney Company South East Asia, kick off the Convergence conference with a fireside chat, which was moderated by Daniel Seal, Founder & CEO of unbound.
Robert Gilby, Managing Director at The Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia, noted that while content must now be developed for different platforms that make the experience more immersive, the basic formula of creating compelling characters to tell good stories still applies.
"What goes into creating a good story? Key to that are characters that you can be emotionally connected to," he said at a fireside chat that also featured Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information.
Tailor content for your audience
Yet, technology has undoubtedly changed the media landscape, with stories being adapted for different platforms to meet with changing consumption habits. SMS Janil said that the fast-evolving environment presents "significant opportunities for us to move early, take advantage of this and start to develop the talent pool here in Singapore that can service that cross-over between different types of media and storytelling."
In today’s age of convergence, content creators now have to be familiar with the latest technologies to deliver interesting content in innovative ways for the right target audience.
For instance, consumers bred on Facebook and YouTube now yearn for bite-sized, interactive stories that are told visually. Marketers hoping to engage with digitally-savvy consumers must develop their content accordingly, said Shaul Olmert, CEO of Playbuzz, a firm that combines technology with content to help companies engage their customers.
"Content must be optimised for your users. If not, it will not be consumed and your audience will not be engaged," he said.
Indeed, technology now allows content to be tailored to a particular individual. For instance, Coca-Cola allows customers to create bottles that carry a person's name or photo.
"The value for you of such a product is way higher than a regular product," said Roy Eitan, Director and General Manager, HP Inc, at a panel session on personalised digital marketing. Philip Hwang, Regional Strategy Director at consultancy Brand Image, added, "Every person is now a hyper segment, and marketers can speak to every person individually."
Meanwhile, media companies and advertising agencies are starting to incorporate insights garnered from data into their work. Such data-informed content creation helps to fine-tune the process by taking subjectivity out of it. Mediacorp, for instance, uses data-driven insights to help decide which projects it should approve.
Cheek Cheah (second from left), Chief Content Officer, Mediacorp, shared about the importance of knowing different platforms in "The Future of Content in a Post-Convergence World".
Looking ahead, Mediacorp's Cheah said that AI and machine learning could play a bigger part in creating content. "Can an AI be creative? These are exciting questions that need to be answered."
A fight for talent in advertising
The digital revolution has also significantly impacted the advertising sector, as traditional players face new competitors and fight for talent to meet the changing needs of clients.
"It is a perennial challenge, finding great young talent to groom. We find that there is a mismatch with what they are studying and the reality of life in the media industry," said Vivian Yeung, Managing Director at Mediacom Singapore. Rather than just hiring graduates with a mass communications background, she said that advertising agencies now need people who can understand and analyse data in order to unlock solutions.
Dasheng Toh, Head, Commercial Planning & Solutions at Mediacorp, urged the industry to develop more programmes to mentor and teach the younger generation to think more progressively. "They need to learn how to tell the right stories and about the use of technology on multiple platforms," he said.
Another issue was competition for talent from technology leaders such as Facebook and Google, whose platforms are now a key part of the industry's landscape and are merging creativity and technology.
Singapore's creative renaissance
Despite the challenges, Singapore-based companies in the media and advertising scene were making their marks on a global stage. Homegrown ad agencies are taking on regional work for global brands and also winning international awards for their output. One example was The Secret Little Agency, or TSLA - a 10-year old local agency that has offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and was named among the World's Leading Independent Agencies 2016 by leading trade publication Campaign UK.
On the media front, Singaporeans are also making a splash in the gaming space, with more local studios producing titles that are global hits. "Perceptions are changing. People are less surprised when they come across a successful game that is made in Singapore," said Ian Gregory, CEO of Witching Hour Studios. The company's game Masquerada: Songs And Shadows was recognised by Japanese magazine Dengeki PlayStation as the Best Indie Game at the Tokyo Game Show in 2015.
To support this renaissance in Singapore's media scene, the Government is looking to create an environment here that encourages innovation. To do so, the Government is utilising a regulatory sandbox approach that involves creating a space light on rules where industry players can experiment with new technologies and business models, said SMS Janil.
"We make it clear that you can do what you want (in the sandbox), we will watch you and what we observe will inform our regulation," he explained. The end goal, he added, was to have an "agile, self-sustaining and updating regulatory process".
Innovfest Unbound is part of SNI Week, which was brought to you by IMDA, organised by NUS Enterprise and Unbound, in support of Smart Nation Singapore.