for brands on a mission
How to approach content in a post-COVID world: stop worrying about how it looks

“How can we give it more ‘POP’?”

“Can that be more dynamic?”

“I feel like we need a bit more ‘Wow factor’?”

If you have ever worked in content production, or even worked in the near vicinity you will have no doubt heard some variation of these. It makes sense, in a world full of seemingly bottomless content, clients are always searching for ways to make theirs stand out, to cut through the white noise of social media feeds. I once received feedback to add more ‘phazazle to a video’. Use whatever word you like, it all means the same thing.

As an industry we’ve slowly become too dependent on being eye-catching. Too often the bold and interesting ideas are cast aside, and instead we chant “You’ve got three seconds to grab them”.

More and more the solution is just to throw more ‘pop’ at it (pronounced budget). And fair enough, it’s become the easy, safe fix. A little more budget can move from a B-List celebrity to an A, it can put that extra twirl in the animation or push content to ‘work harder’ in performance. But that’s all just smothering a layer of polish on the top, it changes nothing about the core concept, message or idea of the content. To steal an excellent expression,”there’s no point polishing a turd”.

We’ve become too reliant on quickly dressing up poor quality ideas, pumping them out in 4K, adding a jingle and hoping audiences don’t look too closely at what we’re actually saying. It’s often the easy sell, a safe concept that doesn’t say anything new but it’s not going to rock the boat. What’s not to love?

Along comes COVID-19 and much like every other industry, content production has almost ground to a halt. Budgets are slashed and ideas go back to the drawing board. The one thing that hasn’t dropped is demand for content. With Aussies consuming more content in lockdown it has become more important than ever for brands to be engaging their audiences and producing quality content.

And so the big question, how can brands make quality content that audiences will engage with when they can’t just throw money at it? As the economy slides towards a recession and budgets are tightened, I doubt we’ll be seeing a dozen A-List celebrities chomping down on Uber Eats or a thousand choir kids singing ‘I still call Australia home’.

As a creative, I’ve become quite familiar with how limitations breed creativity. The smaller the box, the deeper you have to dive for the solution, the more interesting the ideas that come out. When you lose the option of doing things the safe way, suddenly you’ve got to find a way to outsmart your competition, not just attempt to outspend them.

I believe the brands that will thrive, will lean into bold ideas in order to do more with less budget.

This approach is embraced by Ryan Reynolds’ telecom Mint Mobile and their latest ad created by Reynold’s own creative agency Maximum Effort. The ad is Reynolds at home, presenting powerpoint slides that take the piss out of corporate presentations. The ad focuses on delivering their message through humour and it’s loaded with pop culture references and easter eggs for the keen eye. There is clearly no production budget, the footage and audio quality is average at best, and not only does it not matter, that’s the point. It doesn’t try to appeal to you with polish, it offers value in humour and approachability.

Reynolds, an advocate for big ideas trumping big budgets puts it like this, “the movies I’ve worked on that have less or fewer resources at their disposal seem to be a little bit more creatively fulfilling just because you have to lean on character a little bit more than spectacle. I think the same may apply in the ad world”. By understanding the culture of their audience, they created a highly effective ad that will outperform far more expensive ‘spectacle’ campaigns.

Over the next year, the brands that will separate themselves from the competition won’t be the ones outspending everyone around them. It will be the ones who invest in clever creative and bold ideas. The ones who strive to better understand their audience and the evolving world they live in. Brands need to back ideas that resonate with the core mission of the company and the experiences of their consumers. You don’t have to yell louder than everybody else if you can talk the same language as your audience. Seeing as the average Australian ingests 600 messages per day from brands, if your brand doesn’t take the time to really understand your audience and intelligently find a way to connect with them, then you’re just wasting their time.

At Magnum we have a saying, ‘Culture First’. It doesn’t mean knocking off early, it means that at the heart of every mission we take on, there has to be a core understanding of the culture. I don’t believe in churning out shimmering, values deaf content. I believe in bold ideas that really connect with people, because at the end of the day, that’s all that people are going to remember.

Words by Senior Content Specialist, James Manning