Marketers shouldn’t look at branded content for CTR but for top of mind brand recall: Aditi Shrivastava

Aditi Shrivastava

Aditi Shrivastava shares insights on short-form content platforms, how consumer behaviour has changed over the years, and her journey in the industry, in a brief conversation with Social Samosa. 

Content creation and branded content have grown massively in the past few years. With short-form video platforms gaining popularity, the influencer marketing front has become extremely relevant for both brands and consumers. 

Talking about how the content space looks like today, in conversation with Social Samosa, Aditi Shrivastava, Co-founder & CEO – PocketAces gives insights on the fast-growing content creation industry and how the role of women has changed in the media over the years, among other things. 

Also Read: Women’s Day campaigns 2023: Brands look at gender through a different perspective

Edited Excerpts: 

From when you first started Pocket Aces to now – how do you think the content creation industry has changed? Right from the ideation process to measuring RoI on content – what do you think are some of the biggest changes?

We put our first piece of content out in 2015 and in around seven and a half years, a lot has changed. When we started, for us the primary platform was Facebook, followed by YouTube. Over time, the preference grew and YouTube became extremely relevant. 

Then came Instagram, and, several other short-form platforms started emerging. Today, Instagram is considered one of the most important platforms from a content creator’s as well as from a brand’s perspective. Instagram is a platform where discoverability, the building of faces and the building up of a new brand has become relevant.

On the other hand, YouTube has been great for creators like ours, whether it be long-form content or short. Now YouTube is slowly changing. Shorts have picked up and its growing at a massive scale. 

The content ecosystem is continuously evolving. Today the idea of consumer behaviour and preferences looks very different.

For us as a company, long-form has shifted a lot from YouTube web series, to now OTT being the main platform. OTT started off with just premium content but if you look at it now, it is SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) as well as AVOD (Advertising video on demand). And brands are taking advantage of this, as much as they can. Brands today aren’t just doing performance marketing on OTT, but also integrating into OTT content. 

Today, data has only gotten more transparent. Back in the day, we used to have to explain to brands, about everything. From metrics to the difference between reach and impression, and all the technicalities. The scenario has completely changed now. These titbits are pretty well known and the content space is witnessing rapid growth. 

With platforms such as Reels & Shorts democratising content creation, do you think the audience’s attention is now divided and getting a genuine view is harder?

I don’t think that’s true. Because, at any given time, the audience isn’t referring to all the platforms. There’s quite a bit of viewership distribution during the day.  For example, when people are scrolling through Instagram, versus, when people are clicking to watch a web series, is very different. The time of the day plays an important role as well. For instance, when I’m commuting to work, mostly, I’m not watching a series on my phone, rather I am scrolling through short video platforms. And after dinner, late at night, I am looking to watch something longer, like a movie or a show. 

That’s why we think that as long as the creator is optimising for the platform they are creating on they are sorted.

Hence, we’ll never create something larger for Instagram. Similarly, for YouTube, we’ll create something that will show up in the recommended section. Because that is how YouTube shows our content to the viewers. 

Some content works for both platforms, like cooking. People consume recipe content on both platforms. But when it comes to consumer behaviour, on Instagram, viewers don’t look up recipe content while cooking, they opt for YouTube. 

As a creator, we have to be very mindful of user behaviour, where they spend time, why they go to a certain platform, for what reason, and how it fits into their day. As long as we are cognizant of that, and create according to that, we don’t compromise on user retention.

If you look at it, at the end of the day, data is only getting cheaper, smartphones are only getting faster. And people still have time in their day to scroll through their social media. 

Hence, if tomorrow we create a series with a one-hour episode, we wouldn’t worry about losing that consumer to a FilterCopy video. At the same time, when we create a five-minute FilterCopy video, we wouldn’t worry about losing that consumer to a one-minute Nutshell video. Because I know that the same audience member will look at all these three different things at different times of day and with different intent. 

The key is to really go down and understand user behaviour. And for that, we do a lot of timely user conversations, trying to predict how their behaviours are going to evolve. We also do a lot of design thinking exercises with our audience. 

Pocket Aces has been one of the pioneers in the branded content space. With Third-Party Data & PII now actively going extinct, how do you think Branded Content can help in reaching the right consumer? Also, in light of the privacy updates, are marketers now looking at branded content with a new lens?

These things don’t affect branded content, it mostly affects performance marketing. With performance marketing becoming slightly harder, branded content will replace that functionality in some capacity. 

At the end of the day, performance marketing is great to remind you about something. If you see a branded story on Instagram or YouTube from the brand itself which you know about, these things work much better. When you watch something about the brand, you are much more likely to click on the ad. 

There is still a little bit of a gap though, because if a marketer comes to a branded content feed expecting a click-through rate from the piece itself, then that is a wrong expectation. The expectation from branded content piece is that it makes your brand top of mind.

And then when you target the consumer with a transactional performance marketing ad, then there is much higher conversion.

As privacy takes centre stage, definitely, marketers will have to think about more options. That said, I’m sure platforms will also come up with new ways of targeting because they are not going to want to lose ad revenue. And performance marketing is direct ad revenue.

Gender discrimination now is way different than what it used to be a decade ago. In your opinion, what are the challenges that working women now face? As a woman founder, did you ever have to face any setbacks or struggles?

Gender continues to be a very relevant conversation. It’s simple things like when in a meeting with a room full of people, folks would rather look at and be comfortable talking to my male colleague than me, even though they know that I might be the decision maker. 

I would say, it is getting much and much lesser in our privileged setting, a metro city with a white-collar set-up. In a tier-two city or in a blue-collar setup, sexism is much more rampant.

As a woman, I’ve been asked questions like what are my plans to start a family, whereas, my male co-founders never get asked these questions. I’ve been asked about how’s it working with my husband, which he has never been asked, funnily. 

The funny thing is, you know, often when people ask these questions, they actually feel that they’re trying to be progressive. It is also a sense of mistake, of what will make a woman feel better, they think that acknowledging her gender will always make her feel better. But simply what we need to realize is that women and men bring different things to the table. And you need both. You need that diversity in any school, college, and workspace so that you can understand your audience holistically, and you can build products that work holistically.

Hence, while wanting to have more evolved conversations around women, sometimes you also want to have a genderless conversation. That said, the fact that it’s being brought up and making people talk, is a good thing. Overall, although we are making progress, ‘abhi dilli dur hai’ if we look at the country as a whole. 

Post #MeToo agencies and organizations have created a lot of gender-sensitive & supportive policies, but a lot of these policies put the burden of safety, redressal, and growth on women. How do you think the A&M industry can create policies that are conducive to all?

Recently I read an article which suggested that a lot of women today are opting to quit their workforce at a mid to senior level. 

My opinion has always been that the biggest freedom is having a choice. At the end of the day, whether you choose to work till your retirement days, or not work at all, or you choose to work and leave midway, it is your choice, and if you’re doing it out of your own will, then it’s good. Obviously, pressures are more on women. Women still have lesser choices, but it is getting better. 

Now, the fact that conversations like implementing period leaves and such are even happening is a huge step in the right direction. Today people are comfortable talking about topics like #MeToo. 

I feel like media, entertainment and the A&M industry has been relatively more progressive than traditional media. If you see today, so many organisations are being run by women. 

My overall view is a lot is left to be done. But I am optimistic. Today if somebody asked me, ‘do you plan to have children? And how is that going to affect your career?’ I actually call them out. I used to either just like laugh it off or choose not to answer. This shows that progress is happening, even in our own mindset. Even if the questions are the same, we have a little bit more guts to give an answer which is – It’s none of your business!

Movies, ads, and more tend to use women’s representation as a tokenist act. How do you think women can be represented in a truly balanced manner on screen?

If you look at Ekta Kapoor’s content over the past few decades, she hasn’t represented women in a tokenistic manner. All her protagonists are women. But at the same time, so many of them are presented as negative characters who tear other women down. The men are always portrayed as innocent, and the women are fighting against each other. But at the same time, the female viewership for these dramas is really really high. Many top-tier female celebrities are happy to just be a part of a big-budget movie just for show, even though they might have a lot of power. 

I think it’s a mixed bag, that is slowly changing. You still see disturbing content, where there are all kinds of assaults on women, but not the other way around. But at the same time, we see some really strong female characters as well. This is huge progress in itself. 

At the same time, I do feel there is content out there, which is feminist on the face of it.

But feminism is reduced to women, like having sex with whoever they want, and like, you know, basically taking drugs and drinking. And that’s the kind of content which I feel, actually does harm. 

In our shows, we always have equality in men’s and women’s characters. There is always at least the same number of women protagonists, as there are men. And the idea is the story should represent us. The story should not represent some random version of us that we think we would become if we had any freedom we wanted. For us, the endeavour is that the character should represent the authentic setting of wherever that show is based. 

One piece of advice you’d like to share with budding women entrepreneurs out there

My advice to all the budding women entrepreneurs out there would be, firstly, to get it out of their own heads that they are at a disadvantage. Because if you feel from before that you’re at a disadvantage, then that’s somehow what you end up projecting to the other person as well. This will also result in you ending up feeling at a disadvantage, no matter what the person in front of you is saying.

Secondly, women shouldn’t be ambivalent about their success. Women are often underconfident than their male counterparts, they second guess themselves too much. We as women have a tendency to always want to prep to perfection before delivering something. Often all of that stuff is not required because our 70% is other people’s 100%.  A man with half the prep and half the kind of knowledge will appear twice as confident, and that is what we are up against. 

Number three, be very clear about the life choices you want to make and don’t be apologetic about it. Whether you want to get married early, or late, or never want to get married, if your sexuality is out in the open, or not, whether you want kids or you don’t want kids, you want to quit your job, or you don’t want to – you need to not judge your own self first, then think about family and friends. Don’t be scared to state your life choices out and be unapologetic about them.