The How-To: Crafting Content For A Post-COVID World
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If you have been around or worked with filmmakers and other creative professionals, chances are you may have heard that occasional murmuring about selling the soul to pay bills. The combination of a pandemic and shrinking budgets have become cul-de-sac for ad makers and the advertising sector as a whole.
During the pandemic period, many brands pulled the plug or scaled back on advertising budgets. However, several FMCG and lifestyle brands are redressing their online visibility and engagement plans to keep up with the spike in the number of consumers who have transitioned to shopping online during the lockdown. According to a survey commissioned by consultancy firm Kearney Middle East, around 79% of consumers in the UAE and 95% in KSA are now spending more online amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, while 48% in the UAE and 69% in KSA indicated they would maintain current shopping habits after the pandemic.
Pre-COVID, numerous small to medium size brand owners did not subscribe to spending money on online ads or content.
Their primary reasons ranged from target audience not being on YouTube to creating content for online channels being expensive. Amidst the pandemic, when consumer behavior started changing significantly, local and international brands recognized the need for a functional and relevant online presence and have turned to video and digital content to engage with consumers.
Some brands, investing in video or other online content for the first time, want to follow what competitors or industry heavy weights have been doing. In advertising, what works for one brand might not necessarily work for the other. Joe Martinez, Director of Client Strategy at Clix Marketing, recommends that ads should not sound like a used car salesman; instead, brands should focus on being partners in solving the customers' problems. Furthermore, Cathi Li and Stefan Hall from the Media, Entertainment and Culture department of the World Economic Forum shared, “Pre-coronavirus, the ad market were forecast to grow to US$865 billion by 2024. Coronavirus has forced a rethink - the pandemic has led to an immediate drop in advertising spending.”
In a market where competition is high and opportunities few, filmmakers and creative directors may unconsciously start following a template, which is a safer and easier thing to do, when faced with submitting multiple creative ideas for similar products. While it is useful to understand what is trending across various digital channels, banana bread and dalgona coffee should not become boundaries set in stone for new creative content.
Some brands may be able to serve the customer immediately while others might have to keep communication alive by pointing them towards the future. The lockdown and returning to normal phases are opportunities for filmmakers and creative directors to discuss and explore these objectives with clients who have no prior experience with advertising, especially digital.
Some brands successfully used the pandemic to change the creative approach. For example, Vogue Italia's April issue featured a blank white cover symbolizing rebirth. Ditching its rich glossy photoshoot history, the magazine's June issue is entirely dedicated to children, featuring eight covers drawn by eight authors aged between two and ten.
According to Sadie Thoma, Google’s Director of Creative Partnerships, creative content should follow three essential themes- authenticity, connection, and empowerment. Now, ad makers may not be able to stick to this consistently due to creative exhaustion and/or digital fatigue, especially during a time when most briefings and meetings are still taking place via video calls.
To engage one’s creative quotient and stay relevant, ad makers have to practice a reasonable balance between screen detox and observing content by clients' competitors. Inspiration does not have to be limited to what other brands do, it can also be what no one else does. Creative currency is key when crafting content for a dynamic landscape where existing and target consumers have the option to pay to stop seeing ads or just skip it.
Creative restriction and meager budgets may intensify the darkness in the tunnel for the industry but for the true optimists, there is light to look forward to and bounce back by using this period as a catalyst to rethink creative approach and keep the soul happy too.