What started out as temporary fixes during the pandemic are now evolving the way the creative sector produces content, says Shutterstock’s Aiden Darné.

During 2020, we saw a seismic change in the needs of brands and agencies who are all looking to meet the new challenges that the pandemic has brought us. We saw our clients restricted in their content creation by travel bans, lockdowns and health measures put in place. In response, we launched Shutterstock Studios to directly assist brands facing an unprecedented “new normal” but who still needed an avenue to engage with their audiences.

Change of relationship – from service to partner

As normal life became disrupted, the creative and advertising industries looked to their peers for much needed advice and support, with many uncertain how to navigate the next step. We witnessed the rise of communities within the business world, with formal and informal partnerships established across all industries. The power of collaboration became clear – we all needed to work together to successfully achieve our goals.

Across the board, it was widely understood that simply providing a service for a client is no longer good enough. To offer true value, becoming a true partner is key. With budgets slashed and pressure to produce exceptional work, we’ve refocused our business model to ensure our clients can get the most from us at a time when they need us the most. Launching a fully holistic global studio for creative content creation means we can support brands and partners every step of the way.

Change of messaging – responding sensitively

In a space of just two weeks, we were all forced to work from home, with many of us turning our bedrooms into boardrooms. Work from home is a constant in certain industries, but not for all, and especially not those that require bespoke creative. 

As the year went on, the need for smart and safe production solutions continued – not to mention the demand for new types of creative ideas that would resonate with audiences during one of the strangest and most challenging years in recent memory. Almost overnight, previous ideas for creative executions had become tone deaf, and were not going to resonate with audiences effectively. A common question was asked: what do we say during this time, and how do we say it?

We worked with brands and agencies to develop new messaging for use in content on both social channels and TV campaigns. As an industry, we understood it was better to say something and to be a part of the conversation, than do nothing at all.

Change in approach – finding a global solution quickly

Once refocused messaging was established, new content needed to reflect this. COVID-19 restrictions meant the way most creatives were used to working was turned on its head. The demand for turn-key content encouraged us to formally launch a capability, which would allow the industry to continue business as usual, or even better than usual.

Being unable to assemble a traditional production team due to lockdown restrictions meant the ability to tap into a global network of creatives became a valuable asset to brands and agencies to create the content that was needed.

Change for the better – creating more authentic and sustainable advertising

As ways of working changed, the wider impact of these changes began to reveal themselves in surprisingly positive ways.

Shutterstock Studios uses local talent, from cinematographers to producers, to shoot content that is in demand. This means no planes, no hotel stays, no hire cars: we’re simply using our community of creatives to reach every corner of the globe, but from their doorstep. With the ever-increasing pressures on agencies and brands to manage their carbon footprint, be more sustainable and become more diverse, this change in approach to content creation has a hugely positive impact.

It speeds up production, cutting out travel time from project schedules. And, more importantly, it means content is created with local, diverse and authentic talent. No one is better placed in capturing a culture or place, than someone who lives and breathes it every day.

Creative formats are continuing to evolve. They were changing before the pandemic and will continue long after. COVID-19 has pushed creatives to be even more innovative, thriving outside of their comfort zones. We saw the need for advertising to change, and I think as a result, we’ve improved it.

The industry has responded well. After the year we’ve had, you wouldn’t expect Christmas adverts to hit our TV screens in the same manner as before. While the pandemic may have forced us all to adapt, we’ve seen the value in what we can now offer as partners. This change is not just a temporary solution, but an evolution in the way the industry produces content.

Content needs to connect directly with the consumer, and it needs to resonate with the world agenda. There is no doubt we will face more challenges in 2021, but adapting the way we work, and displaying resilience during difficult times, puts us a step ahead in supporting the goals of our partners.