Marketing Brand Strategy Tv/Film Production

How rapid content creation on a budget helps brands cut through the clutter

By Ben Ducker | Executive creative director

Journey Further


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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June 8, 2023 | 8 min read

The modern ad environment has its fair share of noise. But Ben Ducker of performance agency Journey Further says that a new breed of agile, speedy content creators may be better at cutting through than their high-production-value predecessors.

Two people operating a camera at a videoshoot

Journey Further on how stock images, AI and rapid production are helping brands to cut through the noise / Natalie Parham via Unsplash

Earlier in my career, I worked with a leading VFX company on a TV ad for a phone network to produce a 30-second spot set in space. The director informed me that this heavily CGI-based production costs more per second than the Oscar-winning blockbuster Gravity.

I’ve always been a fan of the beautifully produced hero spot: those 30 to 60-second ads that offer escapism, humor, and a challenge to the way we see the world.

If nothing else, the pure production value of a celebrity-fronted or CGI-heavy campaign with a famous soundtrack makes a statement. The Tiffany & Co ad featuring Beyonce and Jay-Z is a prime example of using big production value to premium-ize a brand’s positioning, driving trust and desirability.

But for CMOs without a multi-million-pound marketing budget, there’s a rising industry of agile content creators. Together, these creators prove that engaging content, from TV-worthy production to raw user-generated content, is a growing fundamental, enabling brands to keep up with the speed of content consumption.

While traditional ad agencies play catch-up in this space and turn a blind eye to the rise of this new army, there’s growing pressure to offer clients a service that can deliver more reactive and affordable production of creative assets.

The reason for this demand is partly down to the speed at which we consume content. But it’s also down to the competitive landscape that brands are fighting for attention in. Gone are the days of genuine product USPs. Instead, brands need cut-through content to grab the attention of the mobile audience.

A data-driven approach to grabbing attention

So, how do you know what will grab attention? You don’t. It’s ok; neither do we, most of the time. Sure, we have years of award-winning experience, behavioral insights, and creative guesswork to lean on. But for brands with tighter marketing budgets, you need more than traditional agency finger-in-the-air thinking. You need data-driven creativity, designed to perform.

Knowing what will work comes down to experimentation (or ‘science meets storytelling’, as we call it). This drives the need for resourceful content creation at speed as brands look to invest less in a single hero asset and instead spread smaller costs into a range of possible executions and run them on social media to inform in which direction the advertising can safely head.

We’re seeing this trend supported in how Google requests ads are uploaded. While it used to be as simple as uploading two finished ads for A/B testing, it now wants to test 15.

So, before jumping into your next big production, why not explore possible creative executions using stock imagery, design, or even AI to find what works best, then invest in the winning creative.

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Reactive content at speed: agile teams, stock footage and AI

Another way to drive attention is by maintaining relevance, which means creating reactive content, at speed. This simply doesn’t allow for a crew of 30 and various rounds of offline to online post-production. Instead, it demands small in-house setups of agile creatives with interesting tools to create compelling video or static assets that can respond to reactive content briefs: adaptable lighting set-ups, drones and probe lenses (a sure way to give production polish on a budget).

Even with the ‘restrictions’ of location, equipment and talent, these teams can supercharge creative thinking as they provide instant parameters to explore within.

Take stock footage. Sure, there’s some dreadful stock material out there, but content libraries are getting better, richer and easier to navigate. At Journey Further, we’ve built stock-only TV ads for clients for a tenth of the cost of even a low-budget production. This enables you to write concepts and scripts in reverse – first knowing what’s available and getting creative with how you can bring the brand or product to life. It’s then easy to build a short CGI product sequence or pack a shot into the stock footage and finish with careful editing and grading, plus some light VFX tricks to produce premium, bespoke-looking content for brands worthy of TV. It’s simply a matter of creative problem-solving.

The same can be said for AI image generation. Using a brand’s product as a visual prompt to the likes of AI image generator Midjourney, we can quickly produce rich scenes that bring the idea to life as if we’d shot it ourselves. These tools also allow you to visualize campaign characters, mock-ups and create PR assets, all with dramatically reduced resources in design, time and money.

With so much to gain from creative asset testing to understand where your creative should focus, to production savings in stock and AI, the content era is giving brands the ability to experiment. The benefit to the creative industry is an expanded ability to build and deliver powerful creative built on data (not guesswork), therefore de-risking execution and allowing us to go bolder in the right direction for work that grows brand and performance.

Marketing Brand Strategy Tv/Film Production

Content by The Drum Network member:

Journey Further

Journey Further is a performance brand agency based in Leeds, Manchester, London and New York.

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