There’s No Going Back to Normal (But That’s a Good Thing)

By Vivian Opsteegh, General Manager, MediaMonks Films & Content

I’d like to take you back to about ten years ago—when advertising was still “easy,” and you asked your agency to create a TVC. Both production and media budgets were solid. And to organically reach a younger audience you had a cool, up-and-coming social agency that created some not too high brow fun and simple visuals for Facebook. And TikTok? That was only a popular song by Kesha. Those were the days, right?

Now fast forward to today. When a pandemic accelerated digital transformation and shrank budgets—big time. And relatively more media budget is spent on digital than traditional media. It’s a time where there is an overload of content. It’s everywhere. In fact, almost everything is called content… Audiences are all over the place. TikTok is no longer a song but by far the fastest growing social platform. And the user group that is showing the biggest growth on this “kiddie” platform are adults.

It’s Time for More Relevant Reach

Despite these changes, many of the film briefs we receive continue to place TVC as the main creative, with other content being just a cutdown. This causes a mismatch between the creative brands to produce, versus what audiences actually want and expect to see on the platforms where they consume.

Brands can no longer shortcut to fame and reach through a TVC and some cut downs alone, requiring a need for a digital-first, fit-for-format approach. While the TVC’s promise has always been wide reach, digital’s promise is to make the content’s reach more relevant—but the content can’t be relevant when it was designed with a different channel in mind.

Consider this: more and more of the media spend today is going to digital. So why should most of your time and budget go towards a format that no longer gets the most media spend?

A big part of making effective creative is understanding the platforms that it’s built to support, and what resonates on each. Focus your creative strategy on the media plan—not just on the “big idea”—to find the optimal way to support your story within each of those formats. So, rather than cut down a story designed to be told in 30 seconds or more, play with the dynamics of the platform and consider the role that platform-native tools might play in your creative storytelling, building on your creative concept from there. Keep in mind that you have got less than two seconds to capture the attention of the audience.

Start with Digital in Mind

Brands and agencies need to take a digital-first mindset. Start with a collection of ideas based on the best practices for ad formats across platforms rooted in a strong strategic and creative foundation. This is an approach we took in our work with DoorDash, a brand that understands the power of mobile very well.

Our main idea for DoorDash was to create a series of videos–a TVC and social assets–depicting household items like a fork, a wallet and a dishwasher lamenting how little they’ve been used since their owner started ordering food through the brand’s service. While the TVC is made in gorgeous stop-motion animation, we took a different approach with the social assets, which we delivered at incredible speed despite the pandemic–before we even finished production on the TVC.

Rather than stop-motion, the simplified social videos featured a voiceover reminiscent of the TVC’s script, as well as a 2D animation style that emulated the aesthetic of stop motion. The short-form animations, which gave viewers a feast for the eyes depicting the variety of cuisine on the platform at a glance, was perfect for stopping scrollers in their tracks—while still remaining true to the creative vision of the TVC.

The Tech and Talent Are Changing

One of the ways to create fit-for-format content is to work with a diverse group of creatives–people who not only have a close understanding of the audience and culture you’re trying to reach but can also execute. Think about it: a high-end director used to working with a crew of 75 people isn’t likely to get excited overnight at the prospect of shooting a cinemagraph using an iPhone and one assistant. Chances are, he or she doesn’t even know what a cinemagraph is. But we also partner with influencers—and I’d recommend any brand focused on producing relevant content on platforms like Instagram or TikTok do the same. These creators are adept at recognizing and executing on the possibilities of their favorite platforms, helping brands achieve relevance and authenticity through their expertise.

But brands can still create impactful content using the same level of craftsmanship and production value they’d have in a TVC; it’s just a matter of combining the production of all this content in one integrated production with the right talent for the job. The exciting thing about building content today is that the technology is changing, opening up space for more people with diverse skill sets to become part of the process.

We were able to deliver the DoorDash videos by incorporating a wide mix of talent into one integrated production. All of this is to show that brands can maximize the impact of having a consistent look and feel across the platforms they market on. By adopting a fit-for-format and integrated production approach, you not only optimize the production value of assets but can lower the average cost per asset—and deliver in a shorter time to market. So, while content production has changed greatly over recent years, I’d say it’s a welcome change given the benefits—provided that brands and their partners are ready for it.