Location shoots and large budgets may be on pause as a result of COVID-19 and the oncoming recession, but Vox Media has shown how, with careful planning and a creative use of animation, it is still possible for publishers to create high-quality branded content.

While some publishers have opted to downsize their branded content operations, Vox has decided it can trust its creators to continue production remotely. Its journalists, hosts, writers, designers and editors have turned their kitchens, phones, closets and cars into makeshift sets and studios.

Since March, Vox has produced “dozens” of videos, driving “millions of views and counting”, AJ Gutierrez, Vox Media’s creative director, told the Lions Live digital conference held by Cannes Lions (a sister company of WARC).

And the format that has proved “most resilient” is known as the “Explainer”, he added. The “Explainer” content series, which combines text, video, audio and animation to provide a succinct, informative overview of a wide array of subjects, favours written narration over interviews, and motion graphics/archive content over field shooting – an advantage during lockdown.

Explainer has proved so popular during the pandemic that Vox took the decision to extend it beyond the parameters of its owned-media platforms.

For instance, it partnered with streaming giant Netflix for a 30-minute documentary about the coronavirus outbreak. The show was produced remotely within three weeks and was the second most-viewed programme on Netflix in the US during launch week.

This format has been central to Vox Media’s ability to continue to create content on behalf of brand clients – a process which has also required a degree of re-education as to what is possible.

“Vox’s existing foundation for making ‘Explainer’ content with limited ingredients and straightforward production approaches has kept us serving up beautiful stuff for conscientious clients,” said Gutierrez.

For more details, read WARC’s report: Vox Media finds success with ‘Explainer’ branded content during COVID-19.

Lions Live, by Cannes Lions, is a free digital event taking place all this week. You can read the agenda and access the live feed here.

Sourced from WARC