The Future of Advertising: Authentic brands and the new age of content

By AdNews | Sponsored
Andy Morley, head of marketing at Uber ANZ.

This four-part series, brought to you by Xandr, explores where the future of advertising lies following a COVID-induced digital acceleration, changing consumer behaviours and the rise of video.

Authenticity and content creation will continue to evolve for brands following the COVID-19 pandemic as they strive to engage with consumers in the new normal.

Andy Morley, head of marketing at Uber ANZ, says the pandemic has led brands to undergo rapid transformations that will have long-lasting impacts on the way they do business and advertise.

“Change over the coming five years will be incremental compared to what we’ve seen in the last five months,” Morley says.

“COVID-19 forced rapid change, as brands and lives moved from the physical to digital world almost overnight. Brands have had to completely change the way they engage with their customers and re-evaluate what they mean to customers.”

Building authentic brands
Authenticity will continue to grow in importance for brands as consumers seek out those businesses that truly align with their own values.

Brands who don’t live up to the marketing messages they share will be called out for woke washing and lose customers as a result.

Morley says it has been key for brands to demonstrate authenticity throughout this period and will continue to be in the future.

“Ultimately the biggest legacy of COVID-19 will be greater authenticity from brands,” he says.

“For some time, our approach at Uber has been to focus on acts, not ads. We are always looking at ways to create meaningful impact and put action behind our brand promise to customers. This has only become more important during COVID-19.”

The rideshare company made the decision to put safety first as the pandemic began to spread across the globe, encouraging people to not use its ride products unless it was for essential travel.

“We said thank you for not riding and encouraged people to stay home if they could to help save lives and end the virus,” Morley says.

“And at the same time, we made a commitment to help move what matters.”

He says the company stuck to the commitment, pledging more than 10 million rides, meals and deliveries around the world to shelters and hospitals.

It also provided thousands of meals to frontline workers and announced a partnership with Dettol to ensure all drivers and riders had access to disinfectants and sanitisers during their trip.

In living up to its promises and executing these acts, the brand has built long-term relationships with customers and cemented itself as a trusted brand.

Morley says in the future, consumers will be more dubious in the products and services they use which is why building trust and demonstrating authenticity now is imperative.

“As we’ve flattened the curve and started to trend in a positive direction in Australia, Uber Eats has continued to move goods from A to B and our rides product is preparing customers to take their second ‘first trip’,” Morley says.

“Products will be scrutinised in the short term as customers ask - do I need this in the ‘new normal’? And, do I trust it?”

“For our rides and Uber Eats products that answer has been overwhelmingly yes. I think this has particularly been the case because of our early and consistent approach to safety and hygiene.”

Crafting content
This year of disruption has opened a new door into content creation and how brands craft their advertising.

Unable to produce big-scale campaigns with huge teams due to social distancing requirements, brands have sought out new ways to create content that will engage their audiences.

“This has driven some incredibly innovative approaches to production including greater use of user generated content (UGC), leveraging video conferencing tools such as Zoom, and also repurposing existing footage to create new stories,” Morley says.

“There are millions of hours of great content being produced every day, so there’s tons of opportunity for brands to tap into this to help communicate the stories we want to share, rather than always starting from scratch.”

He points to brands like Nike who have been able to tap into existing footage successfully to create compelling campaigns while remaining true to their brand values.

Morley believes many of these production changes will continue in the future and lead to exciting opportunities for storytelling.

At Uber, the brand has seen an interesting trend from consumers toward the type of content they now prefer to engage with.

“In many cases we also found that consumers are engaging more with the raw UGC than higher production value, further demonstrating a desire for authentic real content and the strength of these new methods,” Morley says.

“I think we’ve unlocked some new production approaches here which stay, and this allows us to increase our volume of content and storytelling which is exciting.”

Always striving
Marketers will need to be even more customer-focused in the future.

According to Xandr’s proprietary research, only 19% of marketers are very satisfied with their ability to deliver the right message at the right time to the right target.

With nearly seven in ten consumers engaging with content daily, marketers will have to better understand how to share messages across different platforms to the right audience.

“We are going to continue to witness an acceleration towards channel specific content. Not just medium-minded - say mobile video - but title-specific approaches,” Morley says.

“How do we tell this story most effectively across TikTok, Instagram and LinkedIn? The key to efficient campaigns is reaching those individuals at the right time and on a platform they’re most native to.”

Morley says for true success, marketers will need to “evangelise” the importance of understanding customers to their businesses.

“At Uber we’re consumer obsessed. That helps better position the brand and improve the experience each time for everyone who uses the Uber and Uber Eats apps,” he says.

“But there is always more to learn about consumers and how you can deliver them a more rewarding experience.

“I imagine no marketer would ever feel their work is 100% complete as they are always striving to engage with customers on a deeper level.”

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