With data analytics and audience profiling offering tangible results, several brands are shifting much of their ad spend to the digital domain. Phil Griffiths, founder of UAE-based Nomad Media, looks at why the time is ripe for brands to set up in-house production units to cater to this increasing demand for branded video content.
By Phil Griffiths
As I went through a recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a particular insight caught my attention. It was the statement that advertisers will boost spending on their branded digital video content by more than 25% in 2019, to an average of $18m per company in the survey.
My initial thoughts were: no wonder the agencies and production houses are taking chunks out of each other when there’s such rich and fertile land at stake. Agencies are rushing to boost their video production capabilities and production houses are becoming ever more important in the creative and strategic process for brands.
I haven’t been able to get that number out of my head ever since. 25% spending increase… in a year! That was no incremental adjustment to an established trend. It was clear evidence that when it comes to digital video content, saturation is nowhere near in sight. Quite the opposite, in fact; the brands are only getting started, and the consumers are all too happy to lap it up. A recent survey by Wyzowl reported that 87% of consumers said they’d like to see more content from brands in 2019. The brands are duly complying.
“Create an in-house production unit that is able to invent, create and engage, giving the brand the best possible chance to build a genuine following from an increasingly fragmented digital audience,” says Phil Griffiths, founder, Nomad Media
This shift in spend has made for some interesting viewing in the way the agencies, productions houses and brands work together and interact. The traditional model is becoming redundant and new models are emerging. These are exciting times, where the best-in-class will flourish. But what I find really interesting is: what model is most likely to deliver this seemingly insatiable thirst for branded video content in the long term?
The answer is one that delivers value for the brands, and is capable of devising and delivering content threads and campaigns that reliably stimulate the six canonical consumer needs: ‘Surprise me’, ‘Help me’, ‘Reassure me’, ‘Educate me’, ‘Impress me’, ‘Thrill me’ (Google & Kantar). I’m convinced that brands need to start looking at the possibility of setting up their own in-house full-service production units, capable of satisfying this phenomenal growth in demand for branded video content.
If the current rate of growth is anything to go by, outsourced alternatives are not going to be economically sound strategies over the long term. Now is the time for brands to steal an advantage on their competitors. Create an in-house production unit that is able to invent, create and engage, giving the brand the best possible chance to build a genuine following from an increasingly fragmented digital audience.
A few CMOs will read this and say they already have in-house production capabilities. However, I am not talking about hiring an ex-agency exec to translate the jargon, combined with one or two disillusioned videographers that are over-worked, lack support and are starved of any freedom to truly create. This is not a solution. In fact, it probably does more harm than good. The set-up is all wrong, the content suffers and so too does the brand and its messaging.
If you are going to make content that has a constant cadence and delivers a consistent, well thought-out and structured message that supports the DNA of your brand, you need to commit. And in order to do that, you need a team with proven technical and storytelling abilities to devise and deliver a multi-platform content strategy, with a mind to turn your digital channels into broadcast platforms in their own right.
The idea of an in-house production unit is understandably daunting. It is a language that many speak, but few understand. There are upfront costs in terms of equipment and a commitment in terms of hiring staff; and who wants a bunch of needy, self-entitled creatives mooching about the office making the place look scruffy?
In terms of equipment – yes, there will be upfront costs, though you will make your money back quickly. Cameras and editing equipment required to make mid-range ‘always on’ output is becoming cheaper, and with some prudent acquisitions you will probably make the CapEx wash its face before the year is out through savings made from not having to outsource, as well as using and repackaging archive content.
Technology continues to replace production personnel, resulting in more competent people available, capable of breaking down, experimenting with and ultimately understanding complex marketing messages and core brand attitudes, and in turn forming them into powerful video content. The key to the success of your production unit lies in the structure of your team, its leadership, investing in the correct equipment and, most importantly, your workflow. Once you have that in place, your team can grow as the demand for content increases. You can be lean and efficient, and at the same time create consistently valuable output.
As for the agencies and production houses, my money is on quality becoming the differentiator. For me, digital branded content sits in two core categories: quality and quantity. The quality is the high-end, big-budget campaigns and marquee pieces of content. The quantity is the always-on content that maintains an ongoing conversation with your audience – the so-called ‘disposable content’. (I hate that term. Can we please stop using that term? Who wants to make disposable content?)
The quantity content is what I am proposing brands should take in-house. The quality type of branded video content, on the other hand, I don’t expect to be brought in-house. To make truly affecting output, you need the freshest ideas from the best creative brains, executed by the most skilled professionals; and those people are very difficult to bring in-house, not to mention expensive.
Outsourcing this is a wonderful opportunity to use external talent for a creative sense check. While they are working for you, they are thinking about your brand, and you should not waste the chance to capitalise on that. Further to that, if you’ve had the wisdom to set up your own in-house production unit, the in-house team can manage the whole process and at the same time learn, share ideas and ultimately enhance their own output.
I believe the old agency model (or the current model that it has now become), driven mainly by winning awards, milking brands and maximising profit in order to survive, will no longer hold up. Brands with foresight will boost their in-house capabilities. Agencies and production houses will need to be brilliant, and consistently so. And as a result of the increased pressure to constantly reinvent and perform, I’m hoping they will combine, evolve and collaborate more, forming collectives of the best and brightest individuals and companies from all walks of media life.