Key Takeouts: Trend and insights from WMG Content Creatives

May 28, 2024

The World Media Group hosted its annual Agency Advisory Board this week, where a group of senior agency executives shared best practice and discussed the topics affecting the media  industry.

This year’s session began with a discussion about Creative Solutions with a panel of experts from three of the World Media Group members’ Content Studios. Ibs Ajayi, Global Head of Films at Economist Impact; Helen Collerton, Content Strategy Lead at Create, CNN International’s Brand Studio; and Katya Ionova, Head of Creative Strategy and Global Brand Partnerships at Business Insider discussed the topics and trends they are currently seeing in the market. Here are some key takeouts from the conversation.

Increased use of data

There’s been a big shift in understanding of audiences as quality media brands benefit from more insight into their first-party data. Creatives and Strategists are increasingly required to analyse the data to strengthen their creative campaigns and find white space for content.

At CNN’s Create studio, for example, the ability to work with global data from a variety of different markets has provided a much deeper understanding of which specific products are performing better in different territories. At Economist Impact, data is analysed in real-time to optimise live programmes, and user behaviour data is continuously evaluated to inform everything from design to content enhancements.

Multi-platform campaigns to reflect the customer journey

A deeper understanding of the customer journey is changing the way creative campaigns are conceptualised because publishers know that viewers won’t interact with every single touchpoint of the campaign.

Publishers that were traditionally linear have had to adapt in response to this. Seventy-five percent of CNN’s campaigns, for example, are now multi-platform, which reflects a bigger trend of brands putting marketing budget across multiple platforms, not just linear and TV, where viewing habits have become less predictable.

“Ten years ago, we would devise a beautiful joined up, cascading campaign hero film, and cut-down social content, and we would consider it all as a single narrative,” says Collerton. “Now that we can see people are interacting with a single piece of content, it’s changing the way that we provide concepts for those assets because all the messaging needs to land in every single individual piece.”

A return to longer-form storytelling

According to Ionova, long-form content is “no longer scary,” even for a digital-first media owner like Business Insider, as audiences increasingly embrace premium, in-depth content. They are seeing a shift towards longer-form content across both their website and social platforms, particularly on YouTube, a key video distribution platform for Business Insider. Data indicates that 50 percent of views now come from Connected TV (CTV), suggesting their audience is watching both short-form and long-form content on a big screen

Ajayi also highlighted a similar trend at Economist Impact, referencing ‘The Childcare Initiative Dividend’, a 16-minute film created as part of a research-driven campaign that demonstrated the economic gains countries could achieve by investing in childcare. 

Keep commercial content brief

When it comes to clearly commercial content, however, Collerton believes it’s best kept to 60 to 90 seconds or less. “Everything that we do is led by human stories, but the actual narrative is often very brand focused,” she says. ”We have to offer a huge amount of value to our audiences to maintain their attention because we are openly, honestly commercial content”.

CNN is doing some behavioural work with its C-suite audience data to find out how a decision is made, which will help to inform the optimal length and duration of content. “We’re looking at the levers we need to pull in terms of head versus heart, rational versus emotional, but also what the pathway of that decision might look like on our platform and how long it will take,” Collerton says. They now have examples of how long it takes, on average, for a C-suite leader to make a decision, meaning they can shape a campaign based on the touch points they’ve seen for this audience.

Convincing B2B to be human

Ionova has seen a growing demand for human-centric storytelling, mirroring findings from Business Insider research where 87% of readers strongly prefer person-first narratives. This trend is gaining momentum in B2B campaigns, as 84.2% of Business Insider’s audience confirms that technology, business, and innovation content centered on human experiences is more impactful and memorable.

However, convincing some B2B clients that they should be more human-centric can be challenging, Collertion says, because they are less familiar with making that type of content. A B2B firm selling insurance can tell a very human story of how it affects people’s lives, but Collerton says she finds clients often “feel uncomfortable to enter what they see as consumer space”.

Trending topics

According to Ajayi, sustainability remains a popular topic to come through Economist Impact briefs, along with AI. Rather than jumping on popular bandwagons, however, he stresses the importance of  “being authentic and looking within your organisation to see what issues align within your brand’s values.” Collerton noted that every brand seems to be far more aware of their purpose these days.

Ionova observes that sustainability has become a baseline expectation for brands, making it harder to stand out with generic messaging. She encourages brands to differentiate themselves through niche and impactful initiatives, highlighting female and youth empowerment as underserved areas that offer unique storytelling opportunities.

Collaboration and quality media

One of our audience members asked for advice on scaling a campaign so that it works across multiple media outlets yet avoids disparate messaging or diluting the tone of voice that might come from creating a bespoke campaign with one specific outlet.

The panel agreed that all of their brands (and, more broadly, all of the World Media Group member brands) are willing to work in collaboration with other media partners, as long as it’s clear from the outset of the campaign what each publisher’s role is. The creative panel cited examples of collaborative campaigns that played to the strengths of each individual outlet, and importantly, sat within the context of quality trusted journalism.