The creative industry is no stranger to shifting production timelines and budgets. But COVID-19 has upended our day-to-day, at home and at work, locally and globally. Restrictions on travel and group gatherings have resulted in halted productions and slashed budgets, and it feels as though creative options are more limited than ever before. Brands need to push out more relevant messages more quickly, which means agencies must adapt their creative processes to meet that demand. But you already know this, you’re living it. To navigate these uncharted waters, we recently spoke with creative and production leaders from across the industry to share insights about the options still available to keep making great work despite working remotely, and there are many!
These are uncertain times for our industry, but one thing is clear: adaptability is paramount. A survey commissioned by APR found that 87% of all productions in March and April have been cancelled, postponed or reimagined in light of coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean production stops -- the process just gets moved upstream, meaning planning has to start earlier than ever before. “Including production resources early in the creative development process is critical to successfully pivoting a strategy and creating new content,” says Jillian Gibbs, CEO of APR. The production industry had already been experiencing many of the same pressures we are facing now, like smaller budgets, shorter timelines and demand for more diversified content. While we may have been prepared for this moment, no one could have predicted the sheer force with which it would take effect.
Almost overnight, creative teams have had to reengineer their traditional ways of working. From logistical challenges like bringing equipment home and setting up increased wifi capabilities, to quite literally filming remotely using smartphones and video conferencing apps, creative production has been flipped on its head. Jennifer Lederman, EP at Nomad, observes that “timelines are completely different in a remote situation. Everyone needs everything now because they want their content and message to be so pertinent to the moment.” And since filming on location or in studio aren’t currently viable, advertisers are tapping into more scalable creative mediums, such as stock, Found content, animation or repurposing old live-action footage, to get to market faster with hyper-relevant messages.
As expected, working with existing footage brings its own challenges -- as well as unique opportunities. Stock works great for fast turnarounds because it's pre-licensed, but the content often feels too generic, too “stocky;” and the stock library itself is finite, so creativity can be limited. Found content, on the other hand, is limitless -- it encompasses all visual content that can be found and licensed from the internet, from professional photographers to independent filmmakers and user-generated content that is typical of social media sites. While the creative possibility of working with Found content is endless, securing necessary rights can seem daunting, especially if you don’t have tools in place that make finding, clearing and licensing this content at scale, fast and easy.
Found content has more to offer than you might expect, particularly when it comes to the vast range in quality and aesthetic. “Working with existing content from the internet is like working with clay, compared to a live-action shoot which is more like a blank canvas. With Found, you can pick and choose what you need and mold it into your creative vision,” shares Analisa Goodin, founder and CEO of Catch&Release. Found content lends itself well to ‘searching before you shoot’. Essentially, you search the internet based on an initial idea or the beginnings of a brief or script, and the content you find sparks further inspiration and informs the rest of the creative. This is a more fluid process that provides increased flexibility to edit as you build your story. On top of that, licensing found footage usually takes a lot less time than shooting, enabling you to meet the tight deadlines we’ve all come to know.
In unusual times, our usual ways of working may not scale. Working remote calls for nimble alternatives to a live-action production, like found footage that will inevitably redefine how creative work gets made. The same pressures that existed before this crisis -- impossible deadlines, meager budgets, increased deliverables -- have crystalized. They will continue to exist once we “get back to normal.” Moving forward, remember that as the internet grows, so do your creative options. We’ll likely see more advertisers flexing a new muscle to make more with less, by tapping into the largest content library in the world: the entire internet.