Despite the ad industry’s love for technology adoption, there is one thing that really hasn’t changed in decades: the way ads are delivered.
Oh sure, the process of filming a square has gotten more digital and better defined over the years, but if you’ve traveled back in time from a shoot in 1989 to a shoot in 2019, you can probably get started without too much disorientation.
Then came 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic brought global publicity production to a screeching halt and compels the marketing triumvirate of agencies, clients and production to rewrite all the rules for how work can be produced.
Now, as the advertising industry contemplates a post-pandemic future, the question is not whether anything has changed. The question is whether everything has changed.
Where we are now
Certain changes will certainly not be popular with those who saw the shoots as a much-needed escape from the monotony of marketing life. Lean teams. Less travel. More zooms.
But other changes are greeted with optimism: Wider networks of diverse talent, closer partnerships with directors, and fewer visitors with questionable need looming.
However, to understand where the industry is going, we first need to understand how complicated, difficult and unforgiving 2020 has been for those who work in the industry.
“Production during a pandemic is like running a marathon in bondage gear while chain smoking,” says Jason Kreher, Creative Director at Wieden + Kennedy Portland. “You are proud of yourself once it’s over, but the conditions are not ideal and your husband says if you do it again, he will divorce.”
An industry that had survived decades on team dynamics and in-person production suddenly became a sprawling constellation of separate pieces, all scrambling to come together as a unified whole.
Kreher’s team had no less than seven video projects in production simultaneously for the mobile game Brawl Stars. The secret to getting there from a distance? Letting go of the rigid roles of centralized creativity: “Designers write ideas for copy, plan and report, clients make jokes,” he recalls. “This way of working allows people to show up in places they didn’t have before.”
Good producers have always been the beloved wizards who turn impossible concepts into real advertisements, but even their broad job descriptions have proven to be far too narrow for the needs of 2020.
“As production manager,” says Diane Jackson of DDB Chicago, “my role now includes an expert in risk analysis and insurance, responsible for implementing state health and safety policy and of the federal government, as well as production capacities and a vision of feasibility. ”
It is not sustainable. But now that we’ve escaped 2020, there is reason to believe that production will normalize in a streamlined and manageable way, but also significantly different from what came before the pandemic.
Where we are going
Fully remote production has forced ad companies to rethink how they source everything from their content to their directors. And what they discovered, aside from new logistical headaches, is that there is a phenomenal range of talent beyond the usual pantheon of sales directors and studios.
When the first lockdowns hit in March 2020, the agency WorkInProgress took to LinkedIn to see who might be available to produce content due to blocked projects. “The response has been overwhelming and has introduced us to so many new talents with an arsenal of equipment and capabilities across the country,” says Video Production Manager Molly Schaaf. They called the initiative “Home Made Content,” and she credits it for helping uncover a wider and deeper talent pool.