Evolving content for changing times

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Sanad Kassem, Sales Director, CNN International Commercial

 

 

When you reach a particular career or personal milestone, it can often result in a moment of reflection. This happened to me recently as I marked ten years of working for CNN. Looking back over this last decade led me to think about the locations I worked from (first London, then Dubai), the incredible places I’ve visited, and of course the colleagues and partners I’ve met and worked with during this time. However, beyond this, what really struck me was thinking back to the seismic change that has taken place in terms of the way we work and how we deliver campaigns and content.

At the heart of it, the ethos remains the same – when working on our campaigns we still focus on telling a compelling story, produced to high production values and delivered to relevant audiences in a premium environment. However, even in the last ten years, the way that we devise, create and distribute engaging content has changed beyond all recognition.

A major reason driving this change is the continued growth in the platforms where people are consuming content, with particular expansion in audio, newsletters, streaming and newer social media platforms. Some of these platforms have grown exponentially and others such as TikTok simply did not exist a decade ago. As a forward facing media company, it’s vital that we follow the audience – an approach that has seen us launch or grow our content offerings in all these areas and ensure that our partners can connect with our audiences in these environments as well as the tried and trusted platforms such as TV, mobile and digital.

With over 75% of the campaigns we develop for clients spanning multiple platforms, it’s now become the norm that we are creating content and distribution strategies for several different formats and environment within a single campaign. Whilst a campaign will have a central theme and purpose, its execution will differ by platform both in terms of format and creative. What’s for sure is that a “one size fits all” approach does not work. Our brand content studio Create has many years of experience in this field and has developed our commercial content offering in line with the different platforms we are producing content for. This team of expert content strategists and producers know that we shouldn’t be producing a single piece of content and putting it in as many places as possible. Rather we are cognisant of the restrictions (and opportunities) of a particular medium, and therefore adapt our content to best suit the environment it is consumed in and the expectations of the audience. In addition to media executions, our campaigns are also increasingly involving other innovative solutions as we work with partners in new ways to expand presence to events and other experiential formats.

Another aspect driving the evolution of content is the use of data. Whilst we have had an industry-leading data strategy throughout my time at CNN, the complexity of data’s role in content development and campaign delivery, optimisation and evaluation has changed exponentially. And in this context, complexity is good! The data we are able to draw upon in terms of audience insight as well as campaign and content performance across multiple touchpoints is incredibly powerful. It enables us to plan, optimise and evaluate campaigns and creative executions with true insight and for maximum impact.

The campaigns we are now working on are of course also being supercharged with the accelerated use of AI. At CNN International Commercial we are using AI and machine learning in many ways – from powering decision-making in advertising delivery platforms to using AI tools that make our studio more efficient and free up our creators to spend more time making great content. From a content perspective this means using generative AI to help automate some operational and previously time consuming tasks such as transcriptions and translations from our filmed interviews or helping with auto colour correction or object removal within filmed shots. Whilst this realises efficiencies and optimises what we can achieve with our partners, our usage of AI doesn’t detract from the fact that both our campaign planning and our content creation is very much human.

In all, it has been a decade of change in many regards and on the surface many aspects of what we do and how we do it have changed immeasurably. However, an enduring commitment to working with partners, telling stories and reaching engaged audiences remains so intrinsic that I remain confident to still be focusing on these core attributes if I am invited back by Campaign Middle East to write a piece in 2034 about what makes for a successful content and campaign strategy.

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