May 01, 2020
Creative casting, agile messaging, and remote editing services have kept the in-house creative agency busier than ever.
Creative studios are used to navigating challenges—like tight timelines, limited budgets, or in a very specific case—how do we make this witch character float?—when producing content for partners. We love a creative challenge. We like the chance to be scrappy. We relish the chance to use our creative muscles to, quite simply, make it work. And despite the unprecedented limitations caused by the coronavirus, we are doing just that.
At Velocity, ViacomCBS’ in-house marketing and creative content studio, we needed to adapt to a new way of working to deliver for our clients. We set up our entire creative and production teams —staffed with writers, editors, directors, producers, motion designers, and art directors – to work remotely. We got creative, finding ways to produce spots that could be in-market immediately, some in less than 24 hours. We operationalized a new shooting process, edited existing work to ensure it’s appropriate to the current cultural climate, and in some cases, cast our families in spots. We also gave advertisers the opportunity to amplify a powerful message in our portfolio-wide PSA campaigns.
We started to explore options for remote capture and self-capture on Day 1, looking at everything from drop kits, Zoom, iPhones, and remote editing tools, to test creative concepts and produce new spots. After a series of tests and proof-of-concept shoots, we launched a remote capture playbook with best practices for talent and producers. This ensures that our entire team, our talent, and our clients are up-to-speed on all the ways we can create and distribute content remotely. It also empowers everyone to be a producer; I used the playbook myself to capture footage in my house from a shot-list created by one of our in-house directors.
Adjusting In-Market Messages
In the first few weeks of the pandemic, we both created new work for clients and did fast edits of clients’ existing spots as an immediate solution for marketers who would otherwise have no choice but to go dark.
For example, one of our clients had a spot currently in rotation that suddenly felt tone-deaf to consumers’ reality. Within a day, our internal team created a new one for them using custom motion graphics and voice-over. The solution enabled the brand to get something back in-market and gave them some flexibility as they work with their external agency to produce a new commercial campaign.
Prior to COVID-19, we created custom content for Mattel's Barbie for the 2020 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, which featured a group of kids dancing together. Given that schools are currently closed and social distancing measures are in place, the content could feel confusing or alarming to kids. To address this, we shot our talent from the safety of her home via remote capture to let viewers know that the ad was shot previously. Another piece of custom content we made for the KCAs, in partnership with MilkPEP, featured kids in a skate park. To adjust the spot, we did a quick re-edit to show separation between the kids.
Another way we helped advertisers pivot commercial messaging that had suddenly become inappropriate or irrelevant was to work them into our #AloneTogether and #KidsTogether PSA campaign. Clients had the option to run our existing #AloneTogether PSA, or work with us to create customizable versions that could align closer with their brand positioning while also sharing a positive message of support for consumers. On Nickelodeon, we created a series of #KidsTogether PSAs (and used our own kids for the voiceovers).
These spots made it possible for brands to stay in-market in a relevant and meaningful way, while also providing an avenue to use their commercial time to amplify a positive message.
Perfecting Social Campaigns and Remote Capture
To support the #DistanceDance, a social distancing initiative targeting Gen Z created by Proctor & Gamble in partnership with TikTok phenom Charli D’Amelio, we activated our linear, digital, and social content to drive mass awareness and fan engagement for the dance challenge across the ViacomCBS portfolio.
During #KidsTogether: The Nickelodeon Town Hall special that aired on the network and YouTube at the end of March, D’Amelio gave host Kristen Bell a #DistanceDance tutorial and encouraged families to dance, share, and spread the message. Additionally, our networks rallied fan participation by leveraging talent with massive social reach; creating original #DistanceDance videos on MTV’s Wild ‘N Out with Justina Valentine, Paramount Network’s Lip Sync Battle, VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, and others. The ViacomCBS campaign garnered more than 2M impressions on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, and 10 billion views on TikTok.
For our client Modelo, Velocity worked with the team at The Daily Show to spotlight the brand’s support of First Responders First. The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah has been a leading voice in late night during the Coronavirus pandemic, so it was a natural fit to explore integrating feel-good stories from our advertising partners who are equally invested in helping people through this crisis. In the April 30th episode of the show, Trevor encouraged viewers to celebrate the upcoming Cinco de Mayo holiday by raising a glass to all the health care workers on the front line. Courtesy of Modelo, for every toast posted on social media with the hashtag #CincUp, the company will donate $1 to First Responders First, up to $500,000.
For MTV, we engaged our network of talented dancers to self-shoot a sequence we directed and then edited together to make a spot that rivals anything done via traditional production.
Overall, the last weeks have given us a chance to spotlight our capabilities and find new ones. It’s made us realize what’s possible when it comes to delivering for clients and consumers. We’ve found ways to work together and work quickly even when we can’t all be in a room together. If you told me a writers’ room could be just as fruitful (and hilarious) without being in an actual writers’ room, I wouldn’t have believed you. And I would have been wrong.
Beth Trentacoste is Senior Vice President and Head of Creative & Production at Viacom Velocity, a full-service in-house creative advertising and branded content studio.