COVID-19 has disrupted every area of our home lives, livelihoods, communities and local businesses.
While organisations around the world are coming together to find new ways to limit the impact on our health and help our economies recover, advertising agencies are doing their best to forge ahead and continue to produce some outstanding work for their clients.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s business as usual.
The challenges put in place require creative and new ways of thinking. Luckily, for agencies, this is part of the day job.
Here’s how S3 Advertising has revamped creative and production processes to deliver safe and special work.
Creativity in a pandemic
Producing content is one of the biggest services we provide to our clients.
When lockdown came into force, physical shoots were near impossible. With social distancing and limited travel continuing for the foreseeable future, they remain questionable, but where there’s a will there’s a way.
We’ve turned to user-generated content, where possible, allowed for self-shot content from home on smartphones, and narrowed our casting for home recording.
While we are in no means medical or health and safety experts, we are keeping up to date with the latest APA shooting guidelines which are constantly changing depending on the country/level of lockdown of area. Keeping our staff, talent and clients safe throughout our production process is our top priority.
All pre-production is now conducted virtually with scripts and treatments considering the current restrictions in both their tone and messaging.
Socially distanced on set
On set, models style themselves and do their own makeup as social distancing is adhered to at all times – and even built into the mechanic of the shoot itself. You’ll still be able to see what’s going on, though; clients can view progress and give their feedback through wireless video monitoring systems.
The risk assessment has stepped up a notch. Every participant is asked whether they’re feeling well and has to confirm they aren’t showing any COVID 19 symptoms. Furthermore, every person on the shoot is documented in order to trace and contact should anybody begin to show symptoms of COVID 19.
Finally, everybody wears a face covering (we’ve even had some S3-branded ones made up especially). Models will only be able to remove their PPE just before the shots they feature in and only when the situation is deemed safe.
It’s a lot, and that’s why having an inhouse CGI and animation department has also been a real benefit for S3 over the last few months. It’s meant despite film shoots being cancelled, we’ve still be able to offer new digital and television content.
We’ve also invested hugely in our server capabilities, allowing our production team full access to all our stored content while working remotely – opening huge archive, leading to new ways to use old content.
So, rest assured, there are still options and it just so happens we can show you what we mean.
Continuing to deliver for Clogau – The gift of love will always mean more
Jewellery brand, Clogau, has captured the hearts and imaginations of jewellery lovers from far and wide for 30 years, with every piece they create containing rare Welsh gold – something valuable to pass down the generations.
With this in mind, when tasked with coming up with a creative approach for the brand’s latest television campaign, we came to the conclusion that – as everybody spends more time within their four walls – they’re all contemplating and appreciating the precious gifts in their own lives.
S3’s Creative Planning Director, Sarah Mason, says, “We had to overcome the barrier of not being able to send the team out on shoots but somehow still manage to strike a chord with the times and remain true to what the Clogau brand stands for. As a result, we teamed up with Welsh photographer, Kate Stuart.”
Usually spending her time capturing weddings and family occasions, social distancing meant Kate was missing shooting those special moments in life. So, she got creative and gave herself something positive to focus on – photographing residents in Barry, South Wales through their windows while out on her daily exercise; providing couples and families a reflection of their lives during an historic time.
The ‘Through The Window’ project soon took off – children were encouraged to get into their favourite fancy dress costumes, while the adults could write notes to hold up at the window if they wanted to. Kate left it up to her subjects to decide how they wanted to communicate with the outside world.
On seeing her work, S3 and Clogau tasked Kate with shooting a montage of beautiful stills that prove, despite coronavirus, we’re living in a world where life is still going on behind every window. Overlaid with a poem – written by S3’s Creative Copywriter, David Warfield – and voiced by a Welsh voiceover from home – the advert aims to show how, above all, now is the time to celebrate friends and family.
Continuing to deliver for the University of South Wales – Hands On Potential
Hands on Potential is designed to recruit undergraduate students to the institution by focusing on USW’s key USPs: its hands-on learning practices and unrivalled links with industry. S3 helped USW identify the messages through a programme of immersion days and strategic workshops across the university’s three campuses, but when the time came to produce the creative, lockdown struck.
“As it quickly became clear we wouldn’t be working out of our creative agency in Cardiff for the foreseeable future, let alone be able to film anything new for the campaign, we instead began thinking about new ways to demonstrate the core concept. It was time to open up the USW footage vaults”, says Creative Copywriter, David Warfield.
While this work was underway, live UCAS data from our insight team informed us that addressing applicants’ anxieties would be key as students entered a period of mass uncertainty. We quickly understood greater cut-through could be achieved by addressing concerns head on.
David adds, “We couldn’t possibly predict exactly how prospective students would be feeling at any given moment they saw the ad, but we knew USW’s confident, inspiring and friendly tone needed to shine more than ever.”
S3 recommended that two adverts – one core, and one referencing students’ lockdown troubles – be produced to run in tandem, with media specifically planned so they would work together alongside a 10 second sting for as long as the lockdown message stays relevant.
In a sea of sombre ads on the subject, we aimed to create a feeling of energy and motivation for USW’s lockdown ad, providing reassurance for the future when it was needed most.
A logos reel at the end of each ad provided a simple way to reinforce the partnerships the university has with industry employers.
“Adapting this message for radio was always going to be tricky,” says David, “the original TV executions had no diegetic sound, only backing music with visuals and supers doing most of the work.”
To combat this, four courses were instead brought to life through audio, using one consistent character who can be heard passing from scene to scene – allowing listeners to hear how hands-on each course is through authentic SFX.
David adds, “These aren’t the sounds of small student seminars or quiet lecture halls, but a big experience.”
Hitting our target Gen Z audience while they adhere to lockdown rules became the job of our Media Planning & Buying team. Covering video-on-demand TV including All 4, ITV Hub and Sky Go, major commercial radio stations, and extensive digital advertising from TikTok to YouTube, the campaign has been planned in response to changing media consumption habits as a result of the pandemic.
Performance is being monitored daily by our media team as we work hard to convert the increased brand interest into virtual open day bookings and applications. Look out for the campaign as it runs across England and Wales this summer.
Why you should remain confident
Of course, none of this should really be a huge surprise, the nature of our business it to pivot with relative ease to the needs of our clients so they are in the best position to respond to their changing customer demands.
As the economy begins to pick back up, it’s more important than ever for brands to be on the front foot when it comes to being back in the hearts and minds of their customers. Inevitably marketing strategies will have shifted focus, but the point remains; have confidence in your agencies to continuing steering you in the right direction, delivering on projects to the standard you expect.
For more information contact our Business Relationship Manager, Matt Lewis.