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Creation in the Time of Quarantine

Making adjustments during a shoot is nothing new. Weather occasionally doesn’t permit. Scripts require rewrites. Talent informs you that being in front of a camera makes them uncomfortable and visibly sweaty. One time, years ago, we couldn’t find a sound guy because he had wandered off into the woods collecting bird calls. Creative teams pride themselves on rolling with such punches, parrying potential knock out blows in order to capture what’s been painstakingly storyboarded.

More than a few months ago, AMP was awarded the opportunity to create videos explaining what goes into a popular brand of protein bars and butters. Each video would answer questions about ingredients through colorful set pieces designed to inform while entertaining. Everything was going according to schedule. Scripts were approved. Voice talent was cast. Food stylists  saved dates on their calendars. Then COVID-19 changed everything.

As dates were pushed back, we set up home offices. As the realities of social distancing became apparent, we fine-tuned storyboards. And as we were beginning to think this wouldn’t happen, we figured out ways that it just might. Instead of unforeseen issues arriving during a shoot, we faced our biggest challenge beforehand.

We decided to break it down, to focus on one thing at a time. First, we outlined if and how we could have a shoot while keeping everyone safe. Taking a cue from the protein bars we decided to start with basic ingredients. This meant limiting attendees to essential personnel. The shoot was capped at ten, including a medic whose sole responsibility was to make sure everyone was cleaning their hands, masking their mouths and maintaining their distance. Liz Grant and Anika Dhar represented AMP Agency. In addition to their roles of creative and project manager, both were required to wear several hats and in some instances even act as on-screen talent.

After safety was addressed we focused on making sure we were able to capture everything both the creative team and client wanted. This was accomplished by using a live streaming tool, that linked the camera capturing all the video with all parties through several channels. The feed itself had roughly a 30-second delay. Comments would then filter in through AMP Agency members on set to the production team and then be seen on screen moments later. As a creative director being able to watch a feed from my home and have my opinions effect the shoot was nothing short of magical.

While this of course makes it all seem like a well-oiled machine, the entire process was a learning one. There were still the usual challenges and hiccups but it was thanks to trying circumstances that we were able to try new things. No solution seemed implausible. The additional time due to the delay allowed us to have many options for every shot, so if something didn’t work we could move on to the next set up. And from a team perspective, the live stream allowed more people to tune and weigh in than we’ve ever been able to do during a standard shoot.

This experience will change the way we look at shoots and content creation in the future. Because of live streaming approvals can be given remotely, meaning only those really eager to participate need to be on set. This will limit the number of people fielding emails and increase the number of people who craft what’s in the shot. As odd as it sounds, it seems that being kept apart has helped us find a better way to bring things together in the future.

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Tackling Unexpected Marketing Situations With Everyday Tools

Marketers have many reasons for getting into advertising. Maybe it’s a fascination with brands or love for creativity. For me, it’s my passion for diving into culture and understanding what motivates people. It doesn’t hurt that my job as a Strategist is incredibly variable and fun. On any given day I could be interviewing men about their relationship with their beards or researching snack food super fans. Even when I worked in the more serious pharmaceutical space, I enjoyed tracking patients' journeys and uncovering their concerns when it came to their health.  But in the past few months much of the joy that came with my role had been replaced with worry as my coworkers and I grappled with the heavy impact of a global pandemic and sweeping social justice movements. The COVID outbreak in the US, murder of George Floyd, and call for brands to boycott Facebook advertising in protest of the platform’s unjust practices seemed to come in quick succession. Many brands had been (rightly) spotlighted for being disingenuous or not contributing at all to the dialogue, and we were thrust into the high-wire act of guiding our clients towards the right decision (if there was even a “right” decision to make).  “I did not sign up for this” This was one of my first thoughts and the thought of several of my coworkers who until this point in their careers had never grappled with anything more serious than a customer complaint. I recognize that this comes from a place of extreme privilege - not only am I in an industry that to me had felt removed from these topics, but I myself had never chosen to actively investigate them as a marketer. After sorting through the flurry of questions and news headlines and finally face to face with these issues, I realized that the work required for “this” was not a far cry from the careful research and planning we’ve always done for our clients. It’s with this realization that we were able to come together and create a plan.  Where do we go from here? Go back to basics Understanding that no two brands are alike, AMP created a framework for approaching crises that could be adapted to each of our clients’ needs and values. After quickly pulling any creative that would contradict the tone of the moment (ex: a social post that encouraged consumers to meet up with friends), we leveraged steps and tools that had served us well in the past when faced with a difficult brand problem.  Take a beat With marketing moving as quickly as it does, it’s natural to want to respond as quickly as possible to an event. The problem with this is that you may not have all the proper information to react appropriately, or understand whether or not it’s necessary to react at all. Much like reviewing a client brief to confirm what they’re asking of the team, taking a minute to assess the issue at hand and the impulse to get involved helped us understand the most logical way forward.  Know your brand In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, several brands were called out for quickly responding, despite the fact that their company and product had no connection to social justice and never been vocal about these issues in the past. This dissonance made communications feel disingenuous to consumers. While the messages may have been lighter in the past, the goal of feeling genuine in our communication has always been a high priority. When building a strategy for a campaign or analyzing competitors, we start with our own brand to make sense of their values and where they stand in the category. We looked inward at our own brands to review their values and past history. Once we had a firm grasp of our brands’ histories, voices, and perceptions, it became easy to know how they would react in any given situation.  Listen to your consumers Henry Ford once (supposedly) said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This quote is often used in marketing contexts to demonstrate how consumers don't always know the proper solutions for their problems. While this line of thinking often works for communications for laundry detergent or snacks, it should be thrown out the window when it comes to high-stakes situations. A deep understanding of consumers’ needs and motivations is key for any product, but addressing those needs directly was essential in this moment. During the early stages of the COVID outbreak, our grocery clients became essential businesses overnight, with consumers urgently needing information about product availability and store hours. We helped our clients pivot their social channels to provide consumers with the exact information they needed in an otherwise confusing time.  Observe the cultural climate Once we took a minute to assess the situation, looked inward at our own brands, and outward at our consumers, it was time to take a step back and look at the given category and culture at large to give context to our work. While we didn’t want to copy our competitors, it was important to understand who was contributing to the conversation and how they were sharing. Category and cultural research is a standard part of the job, but instead of gathering creative examples and trending memes, we were gathering public statements and news alerts. These pieces of information were added to personalized live dashboards that clients could monitor.   While I most certainly didn’t sign up for the high-stakes events of the past few months (and the inevitable events come November), I take comfort in the familiar and foundational tools I gained in the “before times”, finding ways to adapt and make sense of the (supposed) chaos. This new normal may not be as light, but I’ve been able to find satisfaction in diving into research, solving problems, and finding a way forward.  

Doug Grumet Featured In Retail Digital Ad Spending Report

AMP Agency’s SVP of Media & Analytics, Doug Grumet participated in providing insights for eMarketer’s recently published Retail Services Digital Ad Spending 2020 report. The report looks at trends in Digital Ad spend in the financial service industry.  The report found that US retail digital ad spending will increase by 3.1% this year, to $28.23 billion. This is slightly faster growth than US digital ad spending overall, which will shrink to just 1.7% amid the coronavirus disruption. Retail will remain the largest digital ad spending vertical. Check out the report summary to learn more about why this matters for your brand:  https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-retail-digital-ad-spending-2020

Doug Grumet Featured In Financial Services Digital Ad Spending Report

AMP Agency’s SVP of Media & Analytics, Doug Grumet participated in providing insights for eMarketer’s recently published Financial Services Digital Ad Spending 2020 report. The report looks at trends in Digital Ad spend in the financial service industry.  According to the report, digital ad spending in the US financial services industry will increase 9.7% this year to $19.62 billion. It will be the second-largest spender on digital advertising  behind retail, with a particular emphasis on performance and brand marketing due to the pandemic.  Check out the report summary to learn more about why this matters for your brand:  https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-financial-services-digital-ad-spending-2020