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Content Production During Quarantine: How Brands Can Keep Creating, No Studio Required

John Degray, Associate Creative Director
Liz Furze, Associate Creative Director
April 30, 2020

High-quality digital content has become a core pillar of marketing for modern brands. It’s how you reach new audiences, engage with your existing fans, hone your message, and express your brand’s unique values and personality. It’s how a new brand emerges from chicken-scratch on a whiteboard as a living, breathing online entity. 

At AMP Agency, social content creation is our bread and butter, so to speak, and we’ve built out an in-house studio capable of producing top-notch stuff for the brands we work with, from follow-along recipe videos to stop motion lifestyle layflats to jaw-dropping beauty product photography. We learned to measure the impact of our work and evolve accordingly; we adapt to the always-shifting landscape of best practices (4:5, no, 9:16, still images, no wait, everything video!). 

Then COVID-19 hit. And all of that changed.

Suddenly, brands across the board have been forced to approach their content strategy from an entirely new angle. In some cases, content created months in advance might now seem irrelevant, or the entire strategy may feel off. At AMP, we’ve been challenged to create the caliber of content our clients have learned to expect from us...but without the tools and processes we’ve become accustomed to. And it’s not just an ‘AMP’ challenge. It’s an ‘everybody’ challenge. 

We’ve learned a thing or two from the last few weeks of coping with this crisis as we strategize along with our clients to deliver content in a whole new way, while our studio remains dark in our Times Square office and our employees are scattered throughout New York City and beyond. Of course, we’ll all continue to adapt as the crisis and its aftermath play out. In the meantime, here are some strategic ways that brands can re-think content production during a time of uncertainty.

Look Back 

In a world of pay-to-play, unless your pockets are bottomless (if you’re one of those clients…call us?) there are plenty of eyes that haven’t seen your content from the past year. Chances are, lots of dollars and time went into that work. This is the perfect time to reflect on your past content calendar, assess your output, and consider how you can adapt it for right now.

We always start by asking a few questions: What worked? Why did it work? Would it work again? What would need to change? 

Sometimes, this solution can be as simple as resurfacing old content and running it again with refreshed copy. For Welch’s Fruit Snacks we were able to update old creative by swapping in new packaging and put the ads back into market with updated, more tonally aware copy.

welchs-4

Or, if your past content doesn’t feel relevant now, simple edits can often help breathe new life into your existing assets—no production required. That might mean adding some updated art cards or a new text overlay. It could also mean experimenting with the ad format—can you translate older Instagram feed assets into Instagram Stories, or update a few existing ads to run as one collections unit? 

When it comes to video, try combining high-performing assets or re-cutting a spot to create a new story arc. We’ve worked with recording houses to do completely remote sessions with our voice over talent to update our scripts on the fly—no sound proofing required!   

Re-using content might not be the solution to all your social needs, but it’s a low-touch way to take what you’ve already done and up-cycle it into something fresh. So before you rush to create all-new everything, take some time to peruse your inventory. Just like going through your closet, you might find a piece from last season that just needs a little re-working to fit your current style.

Look Inward

Okay, but what if your content from last April just won’t work right now? Don’t fret. It turns out there’s a small army of passionate creators right at your fingertips…your own team. 

Right now, depending on your workflow, employees may be feeling restless and eager to find new ways to contribute to business. The internet is on fire with the quarantined masses showing off their newfound love of breadmaking and their perfectly choreographed dance to Blinding Lights. Chances are your staff is discovering new skills, new passions, and new dance moves just like the rest of us. So embrace it. Encourage them. And then feature them.

Has anyone internally expressed interest in creating content for you? Or are they already creating interesting content for their own personal brand? Handing the reins over to your team is an ideal way to champion some of your brand’s biggest fans. Plus, consumers love to know the insider scoop. That might mean sharing a carousel of recipes your employees are making, a video of a makeup look they’re trying out, a snap of their stay-at-home #OOTD, or a blog post on how they’re approaching childcare while working during quarantine.

Feeling adventurous? Go Live. It took a pandemic for brands to really embrace Instagram’s live feature, but it’s having a moment and we are here for it. Live Q&As are a simple way to let consumers engage with your brand in a way that feels bespoke, and get to know the humans behind the brand. For example, for our coffee client Lavazza, we partnered with their in-house trainers to launch a live series around helping consumers elevate their at-home coffee experience beyond traditional drip coffee.

Need more inspiration? TBWA Singapore produced a heartwarming spot for their client Ikea created exclusively with TBWA staff members. Nordstrom has done an incredible job of utilizing their internal team on Instagram TV, showing off a cocktail recipe from one of their store bartenders, a self-care tutorial with one of their beauty directors, and a yoga series with a member of their marketing team. Our own client, Sam Edelman, recently launched a weekly series called Moodboard Mondays, featuring the inspo their staff is pinning in their Instagram saves. 

Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 1.20.18 PMChances are your staff is full of creative minds with diverse talents. Featuring them brings authenticity and humanity to your brand—and will only bring you closer to your consumer. 

Look Outward 

When you’ve got goals for your brand and a distinct vision for your social media feed, sometimes DIY content won’t cut it. But how can you bring outside resources in to help your brand when professional production is at a standstill?

We usually see influencers as a way to reach audiences. But what if we shift to see them as micro production studios? Influencers can be extremely affordable one-person operations, capable of crafting high-quality content with the talent fees baked right in. Creators across YouTube and Instagram are accustomed to working with limited resources, often shooting at home on their own equipment. Try to find lesser-known influencers whose visual aesthetic aligns with your brand’s and partner with them to create the custom content you need.

Alternatively, you might not have the resources right now to create custom content at all. That’s where your fans step in. Asking questions and creating hashtag buzz on social media isn’t just a best practice to engage your audience; it’s a way to generate more content. Take inspiration from clothing brand Maje. They use Instagram Stickers to ask questions of their audience, and then re-posts the answers with a simple image. It’s a low-lift way to show some brand personality and build affinity with their audience, and it’s something they can replicate again and again with success.

Contentproduction

You can also try setting a challenge for your audience on TikTok or elsewhere on social. For our client Just For Men, we launched the #letsgrowtogether challenge around the insight that lots of men are using this opportunity to try out the quarantine beard (some more successfully than others). We cheer them on, and re-purpose the posts we receive across social media and re-post to Instagram.

JFM-2 For Lavazza, we asked fans to share their WFH setup (plus their daily coffee, duh) using #LavazzaAtHome to win bags of coffee. It was a chance for us to collect images to encourage consumers to drink more Lavazza at home. We reshare those images across our channels and give fans some love at the same time.

Lavazza

Finally, when in doubt, curate. In a recent piece on the rise of the curator, Strategy Exec Ana Andjelic writes, “Modern aspiration is not about having money to buy things, but having taste to know what to buy. That’s where human curation comes in, and why it’s increasingly considered both a differentiator in fashion, food, travel, wellness, [and] design...” In short, curation is an expression of your brand’s point of view and distinct niche. Re-posting found images and video from other sources allows for brand storytelling and can help you develop an atmosphere around your brand. 

Woman-focused coworking space The Wing does an excellent job of this, posting stills from films or shows that evoke the image of a well-rounded, culturally savvy woman with a wicked sense of humor, no doubt their intended audience. See also the oft-hyped Supreme, which solidifies its NYC cred with gritty photos and footage pulled from history

Look Good - But Not TOO Good

As Creative Directors, we’ve spent years trying to elevate our brands. We labor over the minute details, from lighting to props to pantones, all in pursuit of perfect visual consistency. But that desire for spot-on perfection has been replaced with a greater need. We’re all craving authenticity, vulnerability, and honest connection more than ever. Looking at the world through brand marketing goggles feels insensitive and, frankly, inappropriate. And as a gesture of solidarity with our collective feelings of fragility, the content your brand releases right now doesn’t have to be so polished—and in fact, it shouldn’t be.

Consumers have become forgiving and are willing to look past less professional production in hopes of seeing a greater impact or a more human message. If your brand is doing something important to help those affected by COVD-19, don’t be afraid of putting out an awareness video that’s not up to your normal audiovisual standards. Your audience won’t mind. At AMP, we’ve turned employees’ kitchen pantries into makeshift studios to record voice-over so brands can update their messaging quickly in the ever-evolving landscape. Sure, the sound quality isn’t flawless, but in the era of COVID, the greater sin is appearing tone deaf. And in fact, it can be really refreshing to see brands release content that has a more personal feel.

Across social media, we’ve been inspired and delighted to see our favorite Sesame Street characters take to Zoom playdates (filmed on an iPhone), or the Bon Appetit gang moving from the glossy BA Test Kitchen into their own home galleys. We loved the moving montage that Facebook put together using both user-generated and photojournalistic footage to intro the Facebook Community Health Platform. This content feels all the more impactful because it reminds us that we’re all in this together—we’re all stumbling through the novelty and the inscrutability of quarantine and doing the best we can. So as a brand, don’t be afraid to let your guard down. Shoot on an iPhone. Record on your laptop. Show your consumers you’re right there with them. 

And Above All…

This is, admittedly, a tough time for brands—because it’s a tough time for everyone. And while we sometimes forget it, there are humans behind every brand who care and want to do right by their product, their consumers, their employees, and their society all at once. 

Our ultimate advice: be genuine and provide value. Consumers are seeking meaning and action due to the heavy nature of our current cultural climate. If your brand can’t make a big splashy contribution to relief efforts, or if COVID-19 messaging just isn’t really relevant to who you are as a brand, remember it’s okay to be quiet on social media right now. Take a step back and orient your efforts toward where you can truly create impact for your brand and your consumers. That might mean focusing on customer experience or employee relationships rather than content. Just remember: if a tree falls in the woods and you don’t post an Insta story about it…it still fell. 

Doubtless, the situation will continue to evolve, and so will the way we communicate as brands. Embrace the uncertainty. Let your teams be creative. Loosen the reins. And above all, be true to the soul of your brand. If you’d like to talk more about how your brand can navigate the presently murky waters of content development, we’re excited to continue the conversation. After all, murky as those waters are, we’re all floating in the same boat.

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How to Evaluate if Influencer Marketing is Right for Your Brand Right Now

Anna Tremblay, Senior Manager PR & Influencer Relations Jennifer Carroll, Director PR & Media Relations May 27, 2o2o As our world continues to face lots of change, each level of the marketing funnel is changing and influencer marketing is no different. It is paramount that brands evaluate their influencer marketing efforts to ensure that it is an effective and efficient spend as budgets continue to shrink. Over the course of the last few months, we’ve been able to aggregate learnings from well-executed (and not-so-well executed) influencer programs from brands across many consumer categories. Prior to launching any influencer campaign, we believe that the performance of a four-step audit can help determine if influencer marketing is the correct approach for your brand at this time. By auditing the brand/segment, storytelling opportunities, potential partners and go-to-market messaging, we are able to build end-to-end recommendations that ladder up to overarching brand goals and KPIs while remaining sensitive to the current climate. Step 1: Brand & Segment Audit Does your brand/segment have something meaningful to contribute? The first step in our audit process is to identify the key brand product or service offering and the segment category it falls into based on consumer perception. Some questions that are helpful in identifying these offerings and segment categories are as follows: Is the segment category providing a service that is applicable to the current climate? - Example: Stay at home/lounge clothes everyone needs vs. High-end fashion. What value does this product bring to consumers? What sets your brand apart from other players in the space? - Here, you can leverage customer incentives and brand differentiators to help drive consumer consideration. Once you’ve established that the segment category is applicable and the product offering brings value to consumers in the COVID-19 era, you can move on to establish the potential storytelling opportunities for each key product offering. Step 2: Storytelling Opportunities What are the storytelling opportunities for this product or service? “Buy this product” messaging no longer works with consumers – particularly during a global pandemic. So, we have to get creative. During this stage of our audit, it’s important to identify all of the potential storytelling angles for your brand or product. Here’s what we recommend doing in order to achieve this: Establish a editorial calendar of tentpole moments. - These moments could include promotions, holidays, cultural moments, etc. Prioritize up-to-date editorial themes. - What are consumers going to relate to most right now? Determining the answer to this question will help your brand pinpoint winning messaging placements and strategies. Ensure storytelling angles are positive and uplifting. - Consumers get enough doom and gloom on the news today. Now is an opportunity for your brand to spin up some positivity in its messaging. Step 3: Potential Partner Identification Who are the partners that can relay this message with relatable authenticity? One of the most important (and fun) steps to planning an influencer program is sourcing partners to help tell your story. First and foremost, key customer demographics must be identified in order to create sourcing criteria. Influencer needs must also be determined during this step. Does your campaign require a tiered approach? Just one macro influencer? A network of micro-influencers? Answering questions like these will help in selecting the best possible partners for your brand. Leveraging an influencer sourcing tool to confirm key influencer audience metrics is paramount to connecting with the correct consumers and providing program ROI. Last but not least, brands must do their due diligence to ensure that selected influencer partners not only align with brand values, but that their online presence reflects these values. Step 4: Messaging Assessment Does our message need to be altered or tailored to the current climate? Now more than ever, it is incredibly important that both your brand and your influencer(s) do not come off as tone-deaf. We recommend taking the following steps prior to pushing content live in order to ensure that the content will be well received: Acknowledge the current climate without centering campaign messaging around it. - “Since we’re spending so much time at home...” or “These days, I love trying out new recipes…” are two solid examples of lead-ins influencers could use when discussing your brand or product. Be nimble and pivot as necessary. - Things change rapidly. In the time between content creation and posting, circumstances can change. This means it’s imperative for your brand to ensure that content stays relevant and gets messaged appropriately. Coordinate with influencers to determine tailored messages based on their knowledge of their content performance and audience. - Influencers know their audience better than anyone and know what will resonate with them – so why not ask them to help your brand? By auditing your process through the steps outlined above, any influencer campaign you work on can successfully meet consumers where they are with relatable stories and a product or brand that they can get behind. Check out the piece on Little Black Book Online: https://www.lbbonline.com/news/how-to-evaluate-if-influencer-marketing-is-right-for-your-brand-right-now

The Absence Of Sports Effects On Advertising

Guy Rancourt, VP of Media May 14, 2020 I miss sports – both personally and professionally – and I know I’m not alone. Those sentiments are echoed in conversations almost as frequently as you hear people say they miss seeing friends or just going out to eat. An unintentional consequence of COVID-19 is the realization of how much sports powers the advertising world. The absence of sports has thrown our marketing ecosystem into flux, and the ripple effect of canceling major sporting events is being felt across all mediums and all categories. In the short term, the loss of linear GRP’s, digital impressions and multi-platform marketing opportunities, not to mention the amount of unspent dollars freed up with these cancellations, is staggering. Countless marketers rely on the scale and platforms that events like the NCAA Tournament, professional sports seasons and the Olympics provide in order to showcase, launch and sustain their businesses. Removing these from the marketing equation is proving to be troublesome for many brands and agencies. Countless conversations, spreadsheets, flowcharts, meetings and revisions – all culminating in media plans of which sports play a major role. Poof! Gone. All for naught. But when they eventually come back this fall, what does that mean for the marketplace? It should be good news for brands and agencies. Many events have already been stricken from the 2020 calendar: the NCAA Tournament, Wimbledon, Tokyo Summer Olympics and The British Open, to name a few. While others have been postponed until later this summer and fall – NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, Major League Baseball, The Masters, French Open, Kentucky Derby – many more still wait for their fates to be determined.  As the leagues and television partners continue their weekly dialogues around how and when they can resume play, there are countless rumors swirling about how each of them will land the plane:   Playing the NBA season at Disney World   Pushing the college football season to the spring of 2021   Sequester all MLB teams and staffs in Arizona and Florida   Eliminate NFL bye weeks to squeeze in games in the event of a delay While all of these options are up for consideration, they’re merely speculative solves until the country gets a handle on the Coronavirus. But the point here is that they are all working on solutions to resume play. Each already has mapped out countless scenarios and contingency plans to employ, once they are given the all-clear, in an effort to save their seasons. And they may all come back around the same time later this summer and into the fall. Clearly, there are more grave and consequential things going on in the world, so I do not highlight the lack of sports as the most pressing of challenges facing us. But make no mistake – the removal of sports has turned the marketing world on its head. According to Bloomberg, more than $2.5 billion dollars have been removed from the market this year already.  That’s billion, with a B.  We’re undoubtedly headed for a recession as businesses try to recover later this year and into next. We also know that production schedules for scripted entertainment will be impacted, causing delays in original programming. This will mostly affect prime time as their pilot season has been impacted the most – and who wants to invest heavily in what could be a light schedule of first-run scripted content this fall? As such, many are speculating that the sports marketplace will be flush with cash as the logical landing spot for all of those budgets. Another sellers’ market? Consider this: the back half sports schedule will be very condensed when all of these sports return. Imagine this very real scenario on November 15th: Sunday final of The Masters, followed by a National NFL window that then leads right into a World Series Game and Sunday Night Football. Talk about feast or famine. The point I’m making is that there should be a concentration of premium sports impressions in a tight window. Will there really be enough demand for this glut of sports GRP’s? Our industry is quick to say that sports – and football in particular – are mostly immune to market fluctuations. But can Madison Avenue afford to fund all of these hungry mouths this fall?  I say no, and I think brands and agencies are in store for one of the softest sports marketplaces in a long time. Even the mighty NFL shield could see dents in the armor for the first time in a long time.

Google Search Trends Insights April 2020

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for April 2020. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Yes, Banana Bread Did Have Its Moment There are moments in time that you will always remember. For me, I will never forget how in April 2020, “banana bread” peaked in its search interest. Although it never made the top three queries in the month of April, it did have an impressive jump in query volume in the month of April. I’m not sure it will reach these heights again, but may we always take with us the knowledge that there is a use for that browning bunch of bananas sitting on the countertop.  The Top Trending Keywords Beyond the search increase of fruit-based bread, here are the top queries we collected in April: IRS stimulus check portal- April 15th - 10,000,000+ queries Coronavirus tips - April 19th - 10,000,000+ queries NFL Draft - April 23rd - 10,000,000+ queries Coronavirus tips - April 23rd - 10,000,000+ queries Kim Jong Un - April 25th - 10,000,000+ queries Popular Google Doodle games! - April 26th - 10,000,000+ queries Google Doodles make up half of the list, the “Coronavirus tips” query was triggered on two days in April along with the Doodle and announcement that “Popular Google Doodle games!” were going to be re-released to help with everyone’s boredom on the 26th. The IRS stimulus check portal received top queries on what is normally tax day and the nation’s need for sports was sort of fulfilled with the virtual NFL Draft that began on the 23rd.  Lastly, queries about Kim Jong Un reached its peak on the 25th as there were multiple reports about his whereabouts and health condition. Where’s My Stimulus Check? People were also trying to figure out the whereabouts of their Stimulus check in April. Of the 90 phrases we recorded in April, phrases related to Stimulus checks made up 10% of them, including the one that made our 10 million club above. Here are the rest of the keywords in the order of the date they were searched: Stimulus check IRS - April 2nd - 200,000+ queries Stimulus checks deposit date - April 5th - 1,000,000+ queries  IRS stimulus portal - April 9th - 500,000+ queries Stimulus check 2020 direct deposit - April 10th - 200,000+ queries Stimulus Checks - April 13th - 5,000,000+ queries  Stimulus Check Calculator - April 14th - 500,000+ queries IRS stimulus check 2020 - April 17th - 500,000+ queries IRS stimulus payments - April 21st - 500,000+ queries It certainly makes sense that this topic had multiple entries into the top three queries throughout the month and how much the phrases varied from day to day..  It’s a reminder of how needed the financial assistance is and that having thorough online resources available for people who are seeking information is crucial. What Takes The Place Of Live Sports? If you have followed this series of posts, sports is the most popular category of the top queried phrases in past months.. If there aren’t any sports to watch, what do people search for?  Thank goodness for documentaries and NFL players coming out for retirement: The Last Dance - April 19th - 5,000,000+ queries  Rob Gronkowski - April 21st - 2,000,000+ queries  Dennis Rodman - April 26th - 2,000,000+ queries If TV ad buyers are looking for alternatives to live sports, documentaries are getting a good amount of search interest. Singing Songs On TV The top keywords in Entertainment were related to singers on television. Andrea Bocelli - April 12th - 1,000,000+ queries Disney Singalong - April 16th - 200,000+ queries One World: Together At Home - April 17th - 500,000+ queries  Eddie Vedder - April 18th -  2,000,000+ queries  Stevie Wonder - April 18th - 200,000+ queries  As we try to get through this together, the power of song is noticeable in our search queries.  Live event TV that is geared toward family viewing appears to be driving search interest. Holidays One of the things that we picked up throughout the course of this project is the popularity of non-traditional holidays. For instance, Easter is an established holiday but did you know that National Siblings Day happens every April 10th and it’s a top searched keyword for two years running? In 2019, we recorded the phrase “national siblings day” as having driven over 1 million queries – just as it did in 2020. The Google Trends chart for this phrase shows that it was slightly more popular this year: Earth Day is a more established holiday, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Let’s take a look at how popular “national siblings day” is compared to “earth day”: Although we can’t tell with absolute numbers how many more queries Earth Day (April 22nd - 2,000,000+ queries) had over National Siblings Day, we can tell directionally that it still has a while to go until it’s as popular. Both holidays have a nice year over year trend, so brand marketers should consider them for their April 2021 plan if there is an appropriate tie-in with either holiday. Thanks for reading - Until next month.