What is content as a service, and why should you care?

What is content as a service, and why should you care?
Grant is the co-founder and General Manager of Shutterstock Custom, a leading provider of on-demand visual content for the world’s leading brands. He has helped more than 250 enterprise marketing teams, including AB InBev, L'Oréal, Nestlé, and McDonald's amongst many others, change the way they think, develop, and source creative content at scale. Prior to starting Shutterstock Custom, Grant was the SVP Product at a leading social media management company and a product manager at Nokia. He has worked with a number of brands in a senior capacity including Coca-Cola, JP Morgan Chase, and Amway.


Social media is like a newborn puppy that demands attention and to be fed constantly. The battle for visual content is one of marketing’s biggest struggles and investments this year with 66% of marketers surveyed intending to spend more on visual content. 

The result? A massive shift in recent years in the way we connect with one another and how brands tell their brand stories.

We have entered a new social media era dominated by platforms that are visual in nature. Brands and businesses are learning to show more and tell less, because now ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ rings true more than ever.

The dilemma

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube; visually-driven social media platforms are proliferating faster than ever before. In fact, there are over 2.3 billion active social media users in the world today.

That is a lot of users for brands to connect with – and a massive amount of content to produce. With so many fragmented social media touch points, creating quality, engaging visual content at high volume and variety while maximizing working dollars is proving challenging.

The emergence of this new visual social media era brings forth a new set of challenges for marketers and brands 

We need only to login to Instagram to see the stunning visual imagery that’s setting the bar. And the bar is set high for brands just to keep up with this visual content race, much less stay ahead and relevant.

For audiences, our attention spans are not only waning, but these visual social media platforms are fueling our desire for more and more beautiful photos and videos in order to capture our attentions.

What does this mean for marketers? It means that, quite literally, they have a content problem. More than 70% of North American B2C marketers are finding creating more engaging content is their top challenge and that creating more visual content (55%) is a top priority for them (Content Marketing Institute, 2016).

But producing that content at scale is a strategic and logistical nightmare, especially for large brands.

The emergence of this new visual social media era brings forth a new set of challenges for marketers and brands who wrangle with this question daily: How to solve the daily content burden of having enough authentic, custom and personalised visual content at scale that will engage audiences today? 

The next generation of marketing

Technology has made the lives of marketers easier on every touch point and Content as a Service (CaaS) has emerged to fulfil the missing critical piece – to provide a scalable, frictionless, seamless solution – powered by technology.

CaaS, a new marketing model was spawned to solve this very real struggle for marketers. 

Tapping into a global network

In the CaaS system, large enterprises and brands, who have a tremendous need for quality branded content at scale, now have unrivaled access to a network of creative individuals.

Brands can now tap into an army of independent content creators – photographers, videographers and designers – dispatched across the globe to execute, delivering customised, on-brand visual content (photos, videos, GIFs or Cinemagraphs).

Outside the CaaS system, brands would otherwise not have access to such a broad array of talent who produces customized, on-brand visual content (photos, videos, GIFs or Cinemagraphs) from anywhere around the globe.

And as visual formats beyond static images continue to evolve – 360 photos/videos, cinemagraphs, GIFs, videos – CaaS represents an even more scalable and dynamic way of getting access to a wide range content than was previously available before, at a cost and scale that makes sense.

A frictionless solution powered by tech

The legacy full-service model is no longer sustainable or cost-effective for social media content at scale. CaaS strips away all the unnecessary steps involved – the extensive face time, the handholding process, the full production set, finding creative talent, the long process of editing and not to mention the astronomical cost.

This by definition is not scalable as it’s too dependent on human capital, and also limiting talent and creativity to only those who work at the agency or part of its network.

The agency model works well for multi-million dollar TVCs or big blockbuster campaigns where brands invest millions of dollars over months for creative direction, strategy, talent, crew etc.

However, that process is not scalable for high volume and variety of digital content. Many marketers today need technology to help them with daily posts – a seamless, frictionless content solution that manages all the complexities including recruiting, vetting, onboarding, payment, rights, logistics – while maintaining brand control (brand identity, positioning), and this can only be solved through technology. 

For today’s biggest brands, it is important to think about re-engineering their vendor system for custom visual content procurement in order to keep up with the visual content race.

As marketing budgets are getting squeezed, brands are looking for a more agile and cost-effective approach with a predictable subscription-based pricing that delivers dependable, consistent, and proven results.

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