A question that commonly comes to mind when attending a TVC shoot as an observer. The truth is a shoot is always complex. The question should be: why do we take so little content from it? The average TVC shoots around 250 times as much content as gets aired. So when you finish and air 30 seconds of it, what happens to the other two and a bit hours?
Usually nothing. You’re technically paying for enough footage to make an entire film, yet you’re using such a small fraction of it. Yes, I know it probably wouldn’t make a great film, but you get the point!
So why does this happen?
Generally speaking, it comes down to “ad-centricity.” This means focusing too much on a single script, or small series of scripts, polishing those to the nth degree, and delivering them to your audience. And this is where things get tricky. The vast majority of people are not interested in advertising at all. It’s a nuisance, something that interrupts their enjoyment of content they have chosen to watch. Additionally, they end up watching the same ads over and over.
Yes, there are still perfect 30 second spots. But in most cases you’re paying a whole lot of money to release a very short piece film that most people don’t want to give you the 30 seconds it takes to watch it.
How do we solve this?
As with all great stories, we have to start with a bunch of questions. Why should anyone care? What other content are they watching and why are they more attracted to that? As mentioned earlier, most people don’t want to watch advertising specifically. They want to be entertained. And if we examine entertainment, we don’t usually see that being served up in expensive one-off 30 second films. Whether it’s comic books, sit-coms, or drama series, this is not about four to five lines of dialogue, ending in a product relevant strap-line.
Entertainment is about building universes.
It’s about characters, relationships, styles of humour, relatable situations, adventure, the unexpected. It’s about serialisation, not just a single piece of content. Lots of content. Stuff you can come back to, where every new piece builds on the last.
I digress, we were talking about what a waste it is to shoot over two hours of footage for a 30 second commercial. So how do we get more usable footage out of a shoot and solve the problem of nobody wanting to watch it in the first place?
Let’s say, creatively, rather than setting out to create a perfect 30 second script, you set out to create a group of characters, their relationships, the style of humour (or drama), and while scripting the scenes, you allow plenty of room for ad lib, spontaneous situations, improvisation. And while you shoot, you keep the cameras rolling, allowing for all these natural moments to happen. Then, when you get to the process of editing, you can create as much content as you want. You have shot what you scripted, and you have a whole lot more besides.
If you’re not shooting people, think about how many times you could capture the product—or series of products—and how many different ways you can show it. We recently finished a campaign for Polestar where creating this kind of universe was crucial for the brand. We shot for three days, produced over eight minutes of finished, original film, which was then transcreated into over 4,653 assets for 29 markets.
We may call it ‘smart production,’ but I would rather brand everything else “dumb production.” Although we may have trouble persuading our competitors to adopt that.
So more content, for a similar amount of effort and budget, resulting in something more entertaining, something that people actually want to watch?