By: Byravee Iyer, Campaign Asia-Pacific
ASIA-PACIFIC – UM plans to roll out its content creation unit UM Studios across certain markets in Asia, including Malaysia, India and Japan in the next couple of months, Scott Donaton, global head of content for UM Studios, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. 

Donaton oversees content capabilities for UM and leads a team of about 70 specialists who work with local markets to develop stories and experiences for brands.

“We are at a point where brands have to think about content development and storytelling as something that threads through social media, TV spots and long-form video,” he said. “It should be treated less as a separate discipline, and brands need to make it a part of everything they do.”

He anticipates UM Studios will become a primary driver of both revenue and profit for UM in due course. “It is already a significant contributor and has driven some fantastic results against some individual accounts,” he added.

UM Studios launched operations in the US in November 2013. Earlier this year, UM launched its content creation arm in London and appointed James McAllister as content director.

“In the world we live in, content creates media,” said Prashant Kumar, regional president of World Markets, IPG Mediabrands. “If brands are essentially networks of people with shared memories, need states and aspirations, content is the fuel of these networks.”

According to Donaton, brands in Asia are showing strong interest in the content category. “There’s not a client that’s not having a discussion about this,” he maintained. In India it’s tied to integration in Bollywood films, and in other markets it’s about original content creation. “It’s clear that every market has strong awareness of content marketing.”

The agency’s big challenge is to encourage brands to move from a heavy television focus to digital storytelling, he admits. Educating brands is key to success in the space. In the US, UM Studios has partnered with content owners like BuzzFeed and YouTube to understand how to produce relevant posts for clients and understand audience data. Donaton said similar partnerships are necessary in Asia, as well.

Donaton is already impressed by the work coming out of Asia. Coca Cola’s India-Pakistan vending machine is one example. “We see amazing work out of APAC from markets like the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia,” he said.