How the Pandemic Will Change Production Forever
The pandemic is not going to bring about a metamorphosis in production. But recessions are always a good opportunity to reset and get rid of things that were never liked. The changes will be permanent because Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated two powerful underlying trends that were already affecting production.
The first is that costs just need to come down. Consumers are consuming less so there’s less to spend on marketing. Car sales drove off the edge of a cliff in the UK, dropping 97%, retail sales are down by almost a fifth. Marketing budgets have shrunk at least two sizes and production will have to work smarter.
The second trend is shoot attendance. For many clients, remote shooting will be a welcome change. No longer disconnected from set (and the office) in a draughty video viewing tent, they can now watch the monitor from their kitchen table.
No matter how well they have been looked after marketing people have long felt like a fifth wheel on a shoot and battled to find the time even to be on a local set. Far preferable to decide everything at the PPM and be on the end of a phone to resolve any issues on the shoot. And, to extend the point further, do the creatives, producers and suits need to travel as well? The savings could be substantial.
The new order won’t call for a new kind of production company. But it will need experienced hands who really know what they’re doing. Budgets will be too lean to absorb unforeseen events.
Production will have to use fewer people, doing more things, with fewer toys and working more quickly.
Producers have to be more resourceful in crewing and find more polymath directors, working in lockstep with them throughout. Knowing crew members who have passed antibody tests or have Covid-19 certification will be essential for the speed dial list.
Foreign options will need to be constantly explored and assessed. Relationships with offshore service companies will be more critical for quality and cost reasons. Until a vaccine is found there will be abiding concerns about heading overseas, and the constant evaluation and updating safety protocols will be critical wherever we go. The future promises less travel, and less time in hotels and restaurants.
Creativity is back
Creativity, will become more prized than ever. Scripts will need to be cheaper to make: simpler, sharper and, hopefully, funnier. Advertising will be all the better for it. Soon it will catch up to the content that surrounds it. Extravagant productions will have to lie low for a while because they will seem out of step with a world in recession.
Budgets and the added costs of Covid protection will mean more work will need to be produced abroad. Until UK producers and directors are permitted to travel, agency producers may have to deal with foreign directors and overseas production companies. That will take hugely experienced producers with wide ranging expertise. They’ll need to negotiate language barriers, semantic differences, crewing differences, time zones, currency fluctuations, weather patterns and insurance.
Agencies’ in-house production in particular will have a lot of upskilling to do. Risk will increase with smaller budgets and foreign shoots and their bosses won’t like the sound of that.
Hand in hand with the creative renaissance will be a new golden age of television with bigger audiences and cheaper airtime costs. Ad revenue is down 50% with some broadcasters so there are terrific deals to be done. Brand building on TV has never been easier. What’s not to like?
Procurement departments, who had a makeover after the 2008 recession, will have still sharper teeth and CMOs will be required to triple bid every production, no matter how small. In house production will have to prove their worth constantly. Brand managers will keep a closer eye on quality and value.
Top-down, one-way communication that worked in bull markets will change. Robust thought sharing and communication between creatives, clients and film makers will prove to be better suited to the business complexity in unstable times.
The post-pandemic era definitely holds hazards for advertising but, with smart thinking and a bold approach, the industry can quickly lay the foundations of a healthy and vigorous future.
Jeremy McWilliams is executive producer at Bang TV