The Back Office Plays a Key Role in Producing Branded Content

By Amit Jagwani  | 

*This article was written for ANA Forward and originally published on the ANA website.

Brands continue to bring some or all creative production in-house for many compelling reasons, foremost among them is the need to pivot quickly in response to unexpected circumstances. And there’s no better example of that than the coronavirus pandemic.

An ANA survey conducted in March 2020 showed that 90 percent of brands were modifying ads in response to the crisis, and 50 percent of respondents said their in-house agencies were the “most important” resource for producing new creative assets. It’s no wonder that an increasing number of brands have opted to do more of their creative production in-house while still partnering with outside agencies to create new, effective models for working together.

Sure, for marketers it’s exciting to be on set and watch brand stories come to life. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch (at the craft services table) without a ton of work behind the scenes.

The production back office is a hive of activity before, during, and after the cameras roll. Teams manage a multitude of essential functions, including onboarding talent and crew, processing timecards, adhering to strict talent requirements, managing the production budget, tracking the post-production process, and managing the hand-off to campaign activators.

For production teams, putting everything together is as thrilling as the live action in front of the camera. There are five ways to leverage best practices so the folks behind the camera can move at the speed required for content creation in marketing today. Here’s a closer look at each of them.

Location, Location, Location
Across the U.S. and Canada, states, cities, and assorted territories are eager to serve as locations for shooting brand content. That’s because it brings revenue to their area and supports many small businesses and local production professionals.

When scouting and choosing locations, marketers should take into account the variety of production incentives, among other selection criteria. While the recoupment process and associated paperwork can be tedious and complex, the cost recoupment can be sizable, which is why brands most often outsource this specific function to professionals steeped in the detail of state regulations. Many U.S. states are now adding incentives by allowing COVID-19 precautionary costs (e.g., personal protective equipment, safety costs, medical oversight) as qualifying spend in the incentive calculations.

Assembling the Crew
Marketers who have been on set know that it takes a village of specific functional experts to create the art of brand marketing. All these individuals — most of them freelancers — must be onboarded, which involves an array of paperwork. Each day on the set involves processing timecards to ensure a smooth payroll processes. It may not be the most exciting aspect of a career in production, but it’s certainly essential, and mistakes can quickly throw off tight production timetables and budgets.

In selecting an onboarding and payroll partner, brands should prioritize modern, paperless software and processes, and a dedicated payroll and support team that can handle any real-time surprises that pop up during the creation process.

Storyboards, Casting, and Compliance
Every great story begins with a concept. Or, more likely, a few different concepts that all deliver on the advertising brief but have different cost variables that need to be considered. This is when a brand’s business affairs and talent and rights partner jumps in. How large is the cast? Who will be in focus in the shot? Are there extras involved? Who will speak and who will just be in view? Is there a celebrity or influencer who may require negotiation beyond the union guidelines for payment? Will there be music and/or stock imagery or footage that needs to be licensed?

Luckily for brands, there are partners with very deep and wide expertise who handle these complexities and strict guidelines so that the creative process runs smoothly.

Post-Production
Things get even more exciting as stories move into post-production and all the pieces come together. It is very common in this phase to have changes to the original talent and rights scenario.

For example, maybe certain cast members don’t make it into the final cut. Or an extra was pulled from the background and is now an integral part of a scene (even with just a close-up of a facial expression), which means that person now qualifies for a higher payment structure. Or, perhaps there is new stock imagery that needs to be licensed as the content comes to life in the edit suite.

All of these various elements are essential to the art of story creation, and brands must have the right partner by their side so the artistic process can flow while the business (and cost) of the production is happening simultaneously.

Central Hub for Assets
There’s no better feeling for everyone involved than watching the cut and realizing no further changes are needed. Boom! There it is, approved and ready to distribute to screens everywhere.

Increasingly, brands are requiring that all their precious brand creative and associated talent and rights data live in one central hub. This gives the marketing team total control over how assets are used while also granting access to final materials to everyone involved in activating multichannel campaigns.

This way, brands empower the various activation teams in-house, at their ad agencies, and across multichannel teams. It also ensures compliance, which can help eliminate any risk to the budget, should any asset roam where it is not supposed to go.

This is a very exciting time to create brand content. Limitless possibilities now exist to connect with consumers across countless screens and devices.

Consumers see the stories but marketers understand that it takes a multifunctional team of specialists behind the cameras to make the action happen with speed, agility, and budget oversight.

Fortunately, with today’s tools and seamless processes, brands can meet the moment and create a steady stream of content to satisfy consumers’ insatiable appetite for great stories.

Amit Jagwani
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