In many ways, the pandemic-driven switch to remote work just sped up video’s move to a distributed workforce. Big companies that had historically relied on agencies of record for all creative work are increasingly looking toward small shops or independent content creators to work more nimbly.
Big companies that had in-house teams are asking those folks to work at a social distance and to reduce their hours in the field or go out in smaller crews. Editors no longer have to work with clients and producers hanging over them. Remote collaboration tools are being adopted en masse.
10 ways teamlancing has reshaped branded video
Overall, in order for the teamlancing model to work for video creation, there needs to be a shift in standards for the finished product. Pieces that have been reworked a hundred times and focused-grouped and tested before general release may just not be worth it anymore. Here are the trends that are driving creative and production now.
1. Brands rely more on influencers/independent content creators to develop and produce
There’s never been a better moment for people to produce content in their living rooms or backyards and see that content make its way into ad campaigns and feature publications. With an ongoing need to push out new content without convening large teams or going out in public, brands are turning to independent creatives more and more. Unprecedented times have forced them to reconsider the way they market — halting annual budgets and reconsidering every tactic month-to-month.
2. Hybrid creators are in peak demand.
Many companies have rolled out semi-permanent remote work and distancing policies, so whether they rely on in-house people or agencies to do their content creation, they don’t want groups of more than a few people to convene. Because of this, they are looking to a distributed workforce with multiple tiny teams or one-man armies who can all handle part of the work and collaborate in the cloud to create the finished product.
3. Big agencies go direct for skilled talent.
The white label business model is extremely common in creative industries, but the pandemic has forced big agencies to compete with smaller ones that use the friend-network model much more than the expensive traditional trickle-down model of allocating different parts of the business to established subcontractors and often working through agencies who then hire talent. The go-betweens at each layer of hiring are being trimmed as businesses realize they can speak to each other directly rather than giving several intermediaries a cut.
4. Corporate travel bans mean that video content generated in-house is also slowing down.
Even in-house staff is often not able to work freely in pandemic times. Many corporate employees are under tight travel restrictions, and a lot of corporate content teams’ traditional workplace responsibilities — i.e. shooting corporate events or filming the company executives — are curtailed. In-house teams need to find different ways of doing things, or just find different things to do altogether.
Instead of shooting incentive meetings and conferences, they might be:
- Producing Zoom luncheons for a thousand staff members
- Livestreaming the annual shareholder meeting
- Doing mid-day virtual learning sessions for stakeholders
- Touring the CEO’s pantry
- Filming virtual media events
Many of the teams who work in corporate video find themselves taking a closer look at the day-to-day workings of the company, from the perspective of, “When there are no cool events happening, no non-essential gatherings, no way to bring in cool outside talent — what quieter stories are unfolding right here at the plant, in our hometown, with everyday heroes?”
5. Remote shoots are a must in video teamlancing.
If you can’t film in person, you’ve got to figure it out remotely. I’ve written before about the various new tools and collaborative platforms that are becoming available to accommodate this, from OpenReel to Canva, and becoming familiar with this filming method is a must for anyone who wants a future career in production of any kind.
6. Editors need — and are getting — clearer directions.
In the past, many producers resisted the tedious task of putting story on paper, often preferring to have editors put together a stringout and then physically hang over them requesting cuts and changes while watching the video play. In fact, among the better practices to come from the pandemic-distanced work paradigm is that story scripts for editors now need to be carefully drafted rather than given in the editing bay. When nobody’s allowed to hang over the editor’s shoulder asking for changes on the spot, it necessitates proper and well-thought-out storylines to be done before the editor starts on the footage.
7. UGC is more important than ever.
User-generated content has long been the secret weapon of social media managers and marketers who need to fill their company feeds with content on a low budget. Instagram comment sections often contain from brands large and small, “Hello, we love this post and hope we can get permission to repost on our channels.”
In pandemic times, the practice of sourcing creative assets for marketing purposes has expanded beyond social media and into every channel including broadcast, as creative directors suddenly need to get creative and lightning-quick in sourcing assets for campaigns.
- as a writer
- on a production team
- at a social media agency
- in R+D
- in production
… or as any other kind of creative vendor, you very well might need to engage real-life product users among your teamlancing collaborators.
8. Employee-generated content is part of today’s teamlancing video strategy.
While I have written about the usefulness of employee-generated content before, it didn’t used to be as popular for consumer campaigns as UGC – for various reasons. First, it’s hard to lean on employees to create content when their day job is something else, and quite demanding on its own. Second, there’s sometimes a bit of internal resistance to pulling in non-creative staffers to do the creative work. Or… there WAS.
At this particular moment in time, there’s a consensus at the executive level that authentic employee voices, especially essential workers, are the best and sometimes the only people to tell a company’s story. But their footage has quickly become the creative standard. If you’re working with employees to incorporate them or their personal photos and videos into a campaign, remember that their value isn’t based on how well they can write/produce/shoot – it’s based on their lived experience and POV.
9. Brand managers are open to less polished, more authentic content
The pandemic is forcing brand managers to reexamine what engages them, what they enjoy watching, and what they believe about their own customers.
Things are changing so rapidly in today’s world, there’s no time for the customary market research, focus groups and so on. Brand people need to decide what content will resonate with consumers based on what resonates with them, and get it out there in the time windows that are hospitable to marketing and advertising. They are making decisions that aren’t necessarily aligned with what the AOR says –and this is going to have lasting repercussions across how budget is spent, whose guidance is most trusted, and the accepted thinking around how to connect with customers.
10. Audience tastes are leaning toward less staged and pre-packaged content.
People are used to video content looking a certain shiny flawless way, just like they’re used to stunning, flawless makeup ads and perfectly packaged studio movies. But that does not at all mean that audiences only want that type of content. Many these days prefer something that looks a little more raw, rugged and relatable. This was already a trend in influencer content before the pandemic, and it’s been intensified to a different order of magnitude in today’s society.
As a team hiring other small teams, you’re no longer calling on modeling agencies, makeup artist, camera crew and recording studios to set up a perfectly by-the-book shoot. Instead, you’re thinking, “Where will my audience be a week or a month from now? What will make them feel safe and sane? What will resonate with them instead of feeling tone-deaf or passé?”