Longer Shoots and Nowherelands: What's Driving Production Trends for Brands
2018 saw adland continue to explore new and diverse ways of working – as evidenced by the growing interest in non-traditional production models and a greater demand for transparency. Now, as 2018 speeds past us, we're seeing new trends emerge to engage universal appeal and to adjust to leaner budgets …
1. The Rise of Nowherelands
Across both long form and the commercial spheres, we’ve experienced a steeply rising demand for locations that aren’t rooted in a specific place or time.
A good example of this is Netflix’s breakout teen comedy-drama, Sex Education. Its unplaceable setting sparked unusually high interest in the show’s locations amongst its audience. It features a cocktail of different influences: British accents, American props and interiors, and Nordic-looking landscapes and architecture. Many were surprised to learn that the series was actually shot in Wales.
This interesting cultural and geographical hybridity was no accident. Sex Education’s creators made a conscious decision to make a setting that “seems both everywhere and nowhere”. By inventing a ‘nowhereland’ that mixes cultures and eras, the series boosts its universal appeal. It’s a move that appears to have paid off, with the series attracting an impressive 40 million viewers in under a month.
"Big brands such as Apple and Coca-Cola no longer necessarily want their ads to feel like they’re set in a specific place"
In short form, we’ve seen big brands leveraging abstract locations to boost their content’s cross-audience appeal. I’ve serviced productions in Ukraine for over two decades and we’ve seen a notable uptick in brands and agencies looking for a globally relatable, generic European or worldwide look. While there is still demand for very specific looks – such as the post-soviet, brutalist aesthetic that used to dominate our briefs in the early 2000s – we’re finding that big brands such as Apple and Coca-Cola no longer necessarily want their ads to feel like they’re set in a specific place. Apple’s ‘Roll’ campaign last year was set in a railway station that could have belonged in any grand European city, whereas Three’s ‘Phones Are Good’ campaign relied heavily on builds and CG to recreate iconic historical scenarios.
If this trend continues, we can expect talented art departments and robust crews to play a bigger role in productions. Countries with underdeveloped crews that only offer strong locations are increasingly becoming rare as they only tend to attract one-off jobs. This will heighten as solutions such as full builds, building on location, or dressing on location will be needed to make locations look even more abstract.
2. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome
Budgets are becoming undeniably tighter year-on-year but the expectation to deliver world-class creative and impactful ideas remains unwaveringly high. As a result, advertisers and producers are being driven to continually re-educate themselves on where they can get the highest production value for the most competitive price.
Despite industry cynicism, we’re still seeing colossal, incredible ideas being brought to life – ones that transport us to vivid new realities like Apple’s ‘Welcome Home’ or that break the mould of traditional advertising, like Tourism Australia’s ‘Crocodile Dundee’ movie trailer/ad. It’s heartening to see great ideas being given the space to flourish on our screens and the way that brands are achieving this is by constantly reassessing where they can be shooting.
Rather than scaling down the build or cutting down the number of shoot days – risking not doing the idea justice - we’re seeing bigger brands look to where they can get the same scale and safe pair of hands at a more affordable price.
Six-day TVC shoots, with comprehensive builds, are becoming rare in areas like North America due to their cost. Advertisers wanting to make a splash are increasingly re-evaluating options around the globe as an alternative outlet for their colossal creative. For example, in Ukraine alone, in the past year and a half, we’ve been seeing a huge increase in the scope of jobs – not only in terms of the directorial talent, but also the number of shoots days – which often number at least five or six. As purses continue to tighten, we can expect more brands to look at smart ways of achieving their epic ideas in this new climate.
Darko Skulsky is owner of Radioaktive Film