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Leo Burnett Company, Limited
175 Bloor Street East, North Tower
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R9
+416 925 5997

Margaret Arnold

SVP, Director, Human Resources

EVP David Kennedy


Lisa Morch

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Why Video Production Has Become Good, Cheap AND Fast

Feeding the ever-hungry content monster is going to need new thinking, writes Leo Burnett’s Ken Gilberg

When I first started at Leo Burnett, regular day-to-day information circulated on printed green memos. A pink memo meant agency-wide news or maybe a promotion. Phone messages came on little pink slips of paper, and when you left the office you were pretty much off the grid because cellphones were the size of a brick and few people had them. Video media outlets came in two flavors: broadcast and cable. And cable options weren’t plentiful. With so few media channels available, planning for and filling those media spaces was pretty easy: shoot a TV spot and ship it for air.

I was going to say “fast forward to today,” but even that expression originated with a technology that’s obsolete, so click on a date 35 years later and let’s look at where we can now place video: anywhere.

TV hasn’t gone away by any means. Cable channels have multiplied like rabbits over the past decades, but in addition to broadcast and cable, on-demand and streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, draw away increasingly large numbers of viewers from traditional TV. Add to that online video channels, such as YouTube and Vimeo, and throw in the online versions of familiar broadcast and cable outlets and the possibilities are in the thousands. Throw in the explosive growth of social media—Vine, Facebook, SnapChat and now Periscope—and you begin to get the whole picture.

In a 2015 study by Zenith-Optimedia, online video consumption was expected to grow by 23.3% in 2015 and by 19.8% this year. Most of that growth is fueled by viewing on smartphones, especially among the younger, more affluent demographic. That is the group that spends the least time watching traditional TV channels, but is the most desirable target for advertisers.

In 2012 only 22.9% of videos were viewed on mobile devices, but by 2017, that number is expected to soar to 58.1%. While that probably won’t signal the death of the traditional TV commercial, it has created an insatiable need for both effective pre-roll video and creative online content.

In the pre-roll space, advertisers still make the mistake of running a version of their TV ads and believing it will work just fine, but 94% of viewers skip pre-roll after five seconds because there’s nothing to hold their attention. A few advertisers have learned that calling out this medium’s inherent limitations in the pre-roll video itself grabs and holds attention. Allstate’s “Skip Punishment” and Geico’s “Unskippable” ads that ended before they could be skipped are two that come to mind. It takes foresight and a lot of creativity, yes, but it also means investing in a separate production.

Video for owned channels, as well as in-store, digital out-of-home and PR efforts, will become an increasingly important aspect of our clients’ media budgets, yet as we are all aware, their production budgets have not increased to fill the need for more content. On the contrary, they have shrunk.

So the mantra of “Good, fast, cheap, pick two” has been replaced with “Good, fast, cheap, pick three.” We as an agency no longer have the luxury of spending weeks working on strategies and briefs, creating, testing, bidding, shooting, editing and, in some cases, post-testing before we’re on air. Clients are demanding that we go from brief to media in a matter of weeks, not months. In a media world driven by social media, to hesitate means to whither and die. We need to be ready to react to a trend instantly.

This is the area where in-house production resources are finding a sweet spot. Given their proximity to the agencies they serve, in-house units can be uniquely responsive to client requests. And because they know the clients, as well as the teams that work on those clients’ businesses, in-house production shops share an appreciation of the clients’ culture. Not designed to be a replacement for traditional production companies, in-house units supplement the traditional production offering by providing nimble, affordable solutions for clients who need to feed the ever-hungry content monster.

But there needs to be a change in both agency and client behavior in order to realize maximum speed to market at minimal prices. Teams need to be lean, on both sides of the agency-client spectrum. C-Suite occupants can’t be relied upon as decision-makers. Fewer hands and eyes in the decision process will lead to the “more, faster, cheaper” goal that today’s marketplace demands. That will be the biggest challenge: changing a process that has been entrenched for more than half a century.

Ken Gilberg is VP, production resource director at Leo Burnett USA.

The views expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Leo Burnett Group.