What Brands Can Expect When They Return to Advertising

From consumer attitudes to production hurdles

The pandemic has impacted every facet of our lives over the past couple of months. Advertising, specifically the production of content, has completely shifted because of Covid-19. As a creative content agency, our current environment and circumstances have put our skill sets and capabilities to the test. There have been hurdles to overcome, but ultimately we've continued to flex our creative muscles and have become nimbler than ever.

It would be a shame if we came "back" to advertising and didn't incorporate the lessons we've learned throughout this. As social distancing restrictions start to ease and our lives slowly get back on track, we at Mustache are anticipating a hybrid of pre-Covid and during-Covid realities emerging as the "new" normal. Here's what that looks like.

Shift in consumers' expectations of brands.

As brands start to move advertising to the front burner again, providing "value" to consumers takes on a new meaning. Sure, consumers will still consider the best deals and convenience when choosing a brand, but the value-add has become more of a priority. As much as it's about good deals and accessibility, it's also about safety, security, emotional/psychological benefits, and enjoyment for your family.

The state of the world has completely shifted consumers' expectations of brands. People are hungry for trust, transparency and credible authority that's delivered with a human touch. We've seen brands completely shift their advertising to align with Covid-19 and reflect an appropriate sentiment, and consumers' expectations for this won't dwindle as we enter the next phase. Actions will speak louder than words now more than ever. Consumers are now actively policing and scrutinizing brands' actions to see if they are reflective of their desired positioning and marketing messages.

Adapted production strategies.

Production has always been the heartbeat of Mustache. Pre-pandemic, about 80 percent of our projects involved an in-person shoot of some capacity. Once social distancing became the norm, we pivoted to a mix of remote production capabilities—drone operators, in-home studios, and tabletop scenes—to bring projects from start to finish. Production surely didn't look the same as before, but with some careful planning, innovation and many video conferences, we've been able to create live-action shoots that we're really proud of.

The most significant change we made to do so was adopting freelance micro teams, which is essentially utilizing small, scattered teams across the globe to produce content safely while in isolation. We leaned on our network of trusted creators—directors, producers, photographers, folks with in-home studios and access to equipment. Instead of one or two large shoot days, we break apart the spot shot-by-shot and delegate each piece of the puzzle. Sometimes that means a remote shoot gave us about 40 percent of what we need for the total spot, and sometimes it's literally one or two shots (say for an aerial). The micro teams gather maximum amounts of content during shoots that can later be amplified in post-production.

Every shoot has presented its challenges and limitations, and therefore, every shoot requires a different strategy for the best creative outcome. Having said that, utilizing micro teams is an adaptation I undoubtedly see continuing over to our post-pandemic production era. It's offered content that's just as good at a fraction of the price, all while supporting more independent and small shop creatives.

Heavier reliance on post-production.

Many brands and content creators have realized it's both effective and financially resourceful to build (or enhance) content in post-production, and we don't see that disappearing overnight either. The way we see it, the direction toward post-production heavy content has been accelerated because of coronavirus circumstances. A sizable portion of the work we've seen over the past couple of months has been for post-only projects that use stock footage and remixed media.

Leaning on post-production, you don't need to film anything. Stock footage is your friend, especially from free sites (Pixabay, Pexels, iStock). You have the opportunity to tap into archives and use old footage in new ways. Think on-screen text, voiceover or music to unify footage from different projects. You can also let motion graphics do the heavy lifting from moving shapes to transforming text. A little animation goes a long way.

Being able to flex our post-production muscles during this time has helped fulfill the needs of our clients and empower us to deliver in a way that is cost-efficient. It's become evident that quality work can be produced in post, and we anticipate it will continue to be this way moving forward.

Takeaway.

Without a doubt, the world is changing in ways that we've never experienced before, and this includes every element of advertising. We couldn't have predicted this or have been prepared to tackle the impacts the pandemic had on the industry. What's important now, and as we move forward, is to continue to be flexible, adapt and evolve as creators. While this time proved extremely challenging, we've learned to adapt accordingly. We can't change what has happened, but we can most certainly push forward with a renewed and arguably better outlook on the advertising process from start to finish.

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Roger Ramirez
Roger Ramirez is head of accounts at Mustache.

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