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A New World of Production: Staying Ahead in the Branded Content Arms Race

Ever since the cataclysmic decline of online media publishers in 2016, largely due to new algorithms created by Facebook to eradicate the effectiveness of organic posts to drive site traffic, brands were presented with an interesting predicament.

Tired of the expensive CPVs that publishers were charging for content and distribution, brands saw a lifeboat through social media platforms that were enabling them to be their own video content publisher, with complete ownership over their content. That, coupled with advertising tools more sophisticated than anything they’d seen before, allowed ownership not just of the content, but of their targeted media too. 

And so began the migration of brands to becoming their own content hubs, starting with the likes of Pepsi and Red Bull Media House before a tsunami of them realized the opportunity that stood in front of them. It sounded like the ideal situation. What no one envisioned however, was that platforms like Facebook and Instagram were going to require massive volumes of content and obedience to ranking signals to stay relevant in a competitive pay-to-play environment.

The Content Ecosystem of Today

Fast-forward to present day and it is a daunting task for even the biggest brands in the world to stay relevant in today’s content ecosystem. Not only is it more important than ever to stay culturally relevant, but the emergence of new platforms means one size of content no longer fits all. 

Marketing has become omnichannel and production has had to adapt quickly. And that’s really the bigger topic here. How does production and the needs of brands marry so there’s a sustainable, efficient way of solving this complex challenge?

The traditional way brands and production teams work together is no longer viable. We’re way past the days of contracting a production house to create the hero film, send it off to the media agency and hope it lands. Brands and their agencies now need to create at least a dozen pieces of content in addition to the hero film, for the same budget or less, which will live and breathe in 16:9, 1:1, 9:16, etc.

It’s sink or swim time for most production companies. Most haven’t been able to adapt, or don’t want to adapt. The other way of producing content – partnering with online publishers – is also slow and inefficient. Red tape and inflexibility have essentially rendered it impossible for brands to get the most out of these partnerships.

Old-school production houses are living in a bygone era that is no longer relevant today. For years, they got away with murder, charging premium fees and forgetting the bigger content ecosystem that was forming. That’s changed for good, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Smaller crews and reduced budgets have made brands realize that you can get the same, or more, for a lot less. Brands don’t need a director who’s charging $10,000+ per day for their time to be creating content in the language of social media audiences. That model works on big TV spots around iconic events like the Super Bowl, but not for the 99% of content marketing – which is now on social and digital.

In this new era, challenger brands need speed, efficiency and cost reduction in order to win. That’s a fact every Chief Marketing Officer knows. For too long, production has been complicated, expensive and inefficient. It’s also had a reputation for not yielding high-enough ROI. With oversized teams and a lack of technological infrastructure, traditional production is no longer sustainable in a post Covid-19 world.

Despite what some might say, it’s an exciting time to be working in the content world. It’s bringing production and creative closer together, because the creative team needs the production company to help scale the idea across different platforms for different audiences; and the production team still needs the great idea to build upon.

With the democratization, sophistication and ease of media buying, brands no longer need to borrow equity and 1st party audiences from publishers.  Brands have more autonomy now than they’ve ever had before when it comes to creating and disseminating content.

Large Volumes of Content

But is there too much content being produced? That’s the million-dollar question. Some will argue that creating content in large volumes is diluting campaigns, but those people are missing the boat. The need to create content isn’t just because Facebook and Instagram are demanding it. Social channels span far and wide, from YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok to LinkedIn and Line, depending on the global reach.

Each platform offers different ad products and different formats to enhance a campaign, which mean that creative and production teams need to be ready. Even as we see brands demanding back ownership of their audience and content, they still need to be ready to optimize for all channels.

The Next Frontier of Content

Volume was the equation we were all solving before, but speed is the next frontier, and its need shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s the ultimate differentiator. We live in an “always on” space now. To stay culturally relevant online, brands can no longer plan their creative months or sometimes a year out. It’s about responding to what’s happening in our world, whether it’s a movement, a pandemic or a heroic achievement.

I am not talking about the now infamous Oreo blackout tweet seen around the world, I am talking about rich, narrative, even cinematic content that it produced with agility and urgency. The speed and dynamism needed to jump on a moment in history and create content around it has changed production just as much as the need to scale. This adds another layer onto the needs of the modern-day production house. You have to have an "always on” capability.

The secret sauce lies in the recruitment of the finest new-age filmmakers in the industry who understand the nuances of social media channels. These filmmakers themselves need to have marketing brains, not just artistic minds.

If the director has 10 minutes to get the shot but knows s/he has to frame it for 16:9, 1:1 and 9:16, that filmmaker is going to be lightyears ahead of a traditional filmmaker who sees the world in a 16:9 or 2:35 lens. I know which one I’d want on my team.

The other key component to creating faster, more scalable production is the integration of technology. This requires a whole different discussion, but I want to touch upon it briefly because so many production houses and agencies have underestimated how valuable it can be.

At CLICKON Media, we’ve established an entire office for technological innovation and built an intuitive, cloud-based platform that lets creative and production teams manage pre-production, approvals, asset management, publishing, chat, analytics and campaign tracking in one single place. When you’re producing thousands of global assets each year, you need to make sure there’s a no-nonsense tool that enables seamless workflow.

In the past, production teams have been relying on five or six different programs to organize, review and deploy content. That’s slowed down the workflow and has proved expensive. Our innovation team has built one tool to rule them all, taking the best of each of these programs and housing it under one roof. For us, it’s the icing on the cake.

The content landscape may have changed at lightning speed over the past five years, but it’s only going to continue as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. Content creation has to be smarter, cheaper and better than it’s ever been before. 

What worked last year won’t work in the future. Adaptability, speed and brilliant production minds will forge an exciting future where we’ll reach a new frontier in creativity. That scares a lot of people, but I’m buzzing with excitement.

Benjamin Potter is CEO North America at CLICKON. For more information visit: clickon.co  

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