Brands need to shift to a strategic production mindset

Production is the key to shifting from delivering campaigns to delivering engagement / Unsplash

Sergio Lopez, Publicis Groupe’s newly-appointed global head of production, explains how creative production is changing – and how brands can stay ahead of the curve.

It is a fascinating challenge to start my new role in this new world of post-pandemic, metaverse-intrigued, NFT-curious, personalized-driven production. For brands and agencies that are still trying to figure out integrated production, are flirting with branded entertainment, haven’t built a content studio solution, or are researching automation, their heads are going to explode with the implications of true personalized data-driven content and web3. It is not an evolution or even a revolution – it’s a new universe.

We expect an unprecedented level of customization on the platforms we consume content from (Spotify, Netflix, Youtube, Instagram), and yet a vast part of the advertising industry still focus on a silver bullet-like creative campaign to appeal to everybody.

The increased complexity of the ’making’ is jeopardizing smart strategies, brilliant creative and precious media spend, leading production to shift from being an area of interest to becoming top of mind for marketeers.

Production is the key to shifting from delivering campaigns (a few creative assets sliced and diced across multiple channels with a limited number of messages) to delivering engagement: work that different audiences connect with at the right time, in the right platform with a relevant visual and message.

Be aware of what is constant, but be ready for change. Above all, start with good storytelling. Web3 is not going to kill TV in the same way that TV didn’t kill the radio. New formats, platforms and publishers will constantly appear, and while terrifying, it is also exciting because of the creative opportunities that it brings. Whatever the platform, audiences will continue to ask for entertaining or educational content that is told in an engaging way. It’s always been about good storytelling, and that doesn’t seem to be ready to change any time soon.

Know your audience – and connect with customized visuals based on insights. Choosing a visual style and who is going to bring it to life (whether a director, photographer or designer) has to be informed by what the audiences connect with and what the competition is doing in a certain category. What appeals to TikTok-obsessed teens might not be the same as their parents on Instagram. Use production to go beyond artistic preference, and layer the insights from data, planning and media to truly produce executions that engage.

Upgrade your tech – and let it do the heavy lifting. It is the cornerstone for a better, cheaper, faster, easier and smarter way of producing. Media has been developing incredible assets-hungry platforms that need to be fed. Approving edits via e-mail, renewing rights over the phone or sending PDFs is not going to do when dealing with thousand of versions. Production tech allows us to review shoots remotely, opening the possibilities to shoot anywhere around the clock and reducing the carbon footprint of air travel. It allows borderless collaboration, and us to automate non-creative functions and optimize our work – and most of all gives us valuable data.

Efficiencies are great, but effectiveness is better – go beyond time and cost saving, focusing on ROI. Data is key to have live visibility on what is working and what isn’t, what is worth doing, what is being produced, how long it takes, how much are they paying for it, ways of working and – most importantly – to relentlessly improve based on that information.

You need to get the most out of every frame, so shoot what you need and put it to work across channels. Most brands waste 80% of their assets. Film, video and stills are wasted in servers and local drives because of a lack of asset management. It does not mean that getting access to those assets is going to make them fit for purpose. The key is to shift from asset re-use to an asset-capturing strategy. Plan from the beginning what will most likely be needed to reach different audiences, with a consistent look and feel ownable to the brand across motion and stills.

Think ‘big picture‘ – don’t let production distract you from running your business. Looking at a brand‘s marketing needs as a whole opens the door to architect a smart production ecosystem. Traditionally the brand has taken the burden of managing production through individual agencies, making their focus shift to stakeholder management and taking focus from running their business. Some of them deal with over 100 production suppliers globally. It can be a struggle to maintain brand consistency, and have visibility of the work and of spend. Some have in-house studios that introduce a major level of complexity to their business by having to adapt to a totally different way of working in their organization, leading to major HR and IT issues as well as underperforming in the long run. Beyond decoupling and centralization, brands will seek a strategic partner that builds and manages this production ecosystem.

Evolve from producing campaigns to creating a production ecosystem. Production will be at the center of bringing to life creative ambition, media needs and data insights to architect these production ecosystems for the brand connecting the production industry, global studios at scale and in-house agencies using technology and data.

Long-term solutions managed by producers that think beyond execution provide brands with strategic thinking to ensure consistency, simplicity, visibility, efficiency and insights – producers that are highly creative, strategic and informed, focused on bringing value.

Leading production across the ‘Power of One‘ platform within Publicis Groupe, with truly integrated and unique assets, capabilities and talent, will enable this vision to be brought to life for our clients.

That is what it is going to take to deliver engagement. That is what it is going to take to produce content that audiences are drawn to, in the right channel, format and time with an effective message. Strategic production is the key to achieving creative ambition and media reach – as a brand’s true production partner.

Sergio Lopez is global head of production at Publicis Groupe.