PRODUCTION STRATEGY: DIGITAL'S MISSING LINK


Most marketers and advertisers believe these two things:


1. Digital marketing is powerful because of all the data and information we get from it.

2. People react to ads that feel genuine, authentic and are (usually) relevant and entertaining.


But most advertisers don't act like they are connected.


The first point is fairly self-explanatory. As for the second I want to discuss creative and video production in the digital ecosystem. This is particularly relevant for small to medium sized companies and organizations attempting to grow and scale their digital and social media marketing programs - while still keeping production and ad creation costs under control.


Having managed, analyzed and planned marketing strategies for nearly thirty years - and digital for over twenty - I've observed that the way in which we commonly think about creating ads for digital or social media hasn't evolved as much as our media options have. We're still thinking about ad creation from a very 'traditional' media perspective.


THE CHALLENGE OF PRODUCTION OPTIONS


First of all, creating and producing ads can vary widely in costs. A common and very efficient method is to utilize the creative resources with the medium with which you will be advertising. Newspapers, radio stations and television stations offer either free or greatly reduced creative and production resources to create your ad. The down side is that your brand or messaging may not be consistently presented to your target customer if you end up using a patchwork of different creative resources for each advertising medium.


While inconsistency can be overcome by sheer volume, that's neither efficient nor smart regardless of your marketing budget. This is one of the principle reasons you may need a marketing professional or advertising agency.


While these resources may be useful for creating print or TV ads, they aren't very useful for creating digital advertising. And in that context you won't get Facebook or Pinterest to create ads for you (although there has been significant improvement in self-serve ad creation tools) .


On the other extreme is utilizing a professional firm that specializes in producing ads. For video content and ad creation specifically, there are highly talented, creative, fully equipped vendors that can ensure that your video will look good, sound good, is professionally edited, and will probably feature an appropriate music track (correctly mixed with other audio!) and on screen graphics that truly represent your company and brand without necessarily looking like your ad come off an assembly line.


In every situation, this arrangement is nearly ideal, except for one thing: Producing video content is not cheap. In addition to the cost of professional equipment (cameras, microphones, lighting, editing suites, etc...) its also very time consuming as several hours of shooting video easily can take many multiples just to begin to edit it together!. So its relatively expensive.


It'll be good. But it might actually be too good. Too good? What???


THE RIGHT AD AT THE RIGHT TIME


Marketers understand that their target audience may be at one of many different places along a marketing funnel. Some are well aware of your offerings and what your company does differently, while others have never heard of you. And in either case, either of those examples may be ready to buy the product you sell right now, or it may be something they may purchase at some point in the future.


We can create a simple dichotomy with the sort of ads we might create as an ad built to grow your name recognition or differentiate your brand (a 'branding' ad) or an ad more specifically designed to promote a short term event, a specific (i.e. not 'mass market') value proposition ('military discounts'), or a feature or dimension of your business that may be important, but on its own is not valuable enough to be successful as a stand-along branding message (a great example of this is the important 'locally owned' message which is too frequently used and fails to differentiate or provide specific values on its own). We may refer to these ads as 'in-market', 'direct response' or whatever (these will vary based on your business and your marketing strategy), the main point is that they are likely going to be more targeted, more bespoke and more time-sensitive than your 'branding' ads will be.


A PRODUCTION STRATEGY: ALIGN COSTS WITH MEDIA INVESTMENT AND PRIORITIES


A production strategy is not something I don't believe I've ever heard of before, but it follows the same logic as a media strategy, distribution strategy, creative strategy, etc.... and, in practical terms, means understanding that NOT every ad requires a high level of production value or effort, although some should and must have a level of quality and effectiveness.


On the flip side, because a company should be using the data available with digital marketing to 'micro-target' ads, as well as to analyze and respond to performance of existing ads for future messaging, it is not necessary (and for most, practical) to invest thousands of dollars producing advertising may only reach a few hundred or thousand people, or will be of such short duration that the cost/benefit is not apparent.


LOW COST PRODUCTION SCENARIOS:


Previously, we discussed the values of having professional shot and produced video ads, but how can a small or medium sized business produce ads for very small micro-campaigns? This answer will vary, but the one common denominator for many will be to figure out how to do passable production consistently. Here's are some guidelines:


Maintain brand consistency. Its imperative that your 'low cost', or DIY video production use the same logos and overall themes of your more broadly-reaching and higher quality branding ads. It is essential that you provide the visual and audio cues to your audience that you are the same business that they've seen before.


Minimum Quality Standards. It is possible with todays smartphones to shoot some quality video, but be careful....there are some important things to keep in mind for using that smartphone video in an ad that doesn't apply to sharing videos of the kids with their grandparents.

  1. Camera Shake: It is incredibly distracting and can undermine whatever it is you are trying to show. Discipline yourself to hold your phone as steadily as possible or, better yet, get a cheap tripod.

  2. Audio Quality: If you are shooting video of someone talking, get a microphone for your smartphone. The audio that you get in your phone with the video will probably not be usable. This might even be more important than camera shake for the same reason: its incredibly distracting and really annoying.

  3. Lighting: You don't need to be Ansel Adams or know about 3-point lighting, but you should understand some basics: Avoid shooting against bright backgrounds (windows in background), avoid shooting in direct sunlight. Avoid shooting in dark rooms.

  4. Record for longer than you think: When you are recording, don't be too quick to stop recording - keep the video rolling and keep your camera in the same position for several seconds AFTER the point that you think you are done with the shot you wanted.

  5. Editing: The biggest problem with most DIY video is editing. Make sure you know what you want to say, say it, and then move on. Practice what you want to say. And then figure out how to use any of the many free tools to edit your video and get it down. Remember...you need to get to your point or be interesting as quickly as possible.


The above is just a short list of some very minimal requirements. They are requirements. There are many more things to work on to improve the quality as your comfort and experience accumulate.


MOVING BEYOND UNIMODAL PRODUCTION CONCEPTS:


While the above sort of 'DIY' solution may make sense, its likely that for most companies the availability of resources (employees, etc...) to achieve this might be out of reach.


Which is why the 'Production Strategy' approach is a market opportunity for professionals that may be untapped. If there is a need in the world of production for broader range of quality and cost, it doesn't appear to be well met. Advertisers who may only be able to support a few, higher-quality ads are challenged when it comes to the need for a quicker or more narrowly targeted special event or promotion ad ( a common band-aid is to attache a quick and cheap ad revision, but this is going to fail hard in digital, and probably didn't work well for TV).


Its a risky move for video production companies to address this opportunity, and rightly so. A significant amount of their identity as a video production company is bound up in promoting the high quality of their work....and therefore for them to market and or create work that requires fewer people to shoot, edit, compose and manage to reduce costs can appear to undermine their very position in the market.


At least now. As long as we have a unimodal understanding of advertising creative and production, it'll be a challenge for production to have a diverse range that isn't judged merely on elements that require a huge staff. Yes, these will (or should) always look better, but a good idea, a relevant message, or an authentic story is not something that should be forgotten merely because there isn't enough key lighting or boom microphones around.


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