Steve Jobs liked to say that innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – so in these transformative times it’s no surprise that agencies and clients are innovating rapidly. Some of these are tech-based; it’s hard to have a conversation these days without hearing the word metaverse, while filmmakers (like ourselves) are getting excited about the possibilities XR studios offer to creativity and production values.
Other innovations are more about attitudes; our expectations of how brands should think and behave have evolved, and many clients are placing purpose at the very heart of their storytelling.
Hybrid working is having an equally big impact; while it’s great for family life and productivity, it’s not quite so good for building a company’s culture (we ran a deep dive on this in December 2021). It’s just one of the reasons sustained internal campaigns have made it onto our hotlist. We’re still making the big brand films, of course, but they are much more likely to be the centrepiece of a wider employee-engagement strategy than they used to be.
Last, but by no means least, we’re talking about authenticity. Communicating integrity and building trust between businesses, customers and employees is vital, and a few recent trends reveal an evolution in how brands are going about it.
Our expectations of the role brands play in society has transformed. In one recent study, 85% of respondents said they wanted to buy from companies that support causes they believe in. Customers, partners and employees all want brands to have a positive impact on the things they care about, like sustainability, diversity and climate, and to treat their people and communities with respect. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s vital for the bottom line.
So, first in our list of what’s hot in moving image is purpose-led storytelling. Brand purpose is fundamentally a set of beliefs encompassing why you do what you do – and is far more inspirational than talking about what you do or how you go about it. That’s why Martin Luther King had a dream, and not a plan. And while brand purpose and social impact have been news for a while, they are now absolutely front and centre in our clients’ minds, enabling more meaningful, emotive storytelling that is having a very positive impact on the entire sector.
Music innovator David Bowie once said of a new-fangled concept called the internet, “I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.” He was proved right, of course, and while no one quite knows what the metaverse will eventually become, it presents an exciting new frontier in immersive brand storytelling.
The elephant in the room, of course, is that the metaverse doesn’t actually exist yet! Facebook brought it to wider attention with their name change to Meta, but their vision of a Ready Player One-style world is a long way from reality (even a virtual one). But there are some proto-metaverses that give us a flavour of what it might feel like. The world’s most successful entertainment industry – computer games – is leading the charge. Fashion label Balenciaga recently built a virtual shop within the global phenomenon Fortnite, with well-known characters wearing their latest collection. While top ad agency VCCP recently opened their own virtual HQ within social gaming platform Roblox, replete with digital avatars of their staff.
The metaverse itself might be a while away, but the hype is getting brands excited. VR and AR in particular are key technologies to enable the metaverse that clients can explore today. The possibilities are (virtually) endless.
Talking of AR and VR, there’s a new R in town. XR stands for Extended Reality. The term covers the technologies we use to make locations look bigger and more impressive in our films than they are in real life; literally extending the perceived reality of the scene. The big shift in this area is that bespoke XR studios have arrived in the UK and the price point is dropping fast, making them much more accessible to clients for filming and virtual events.
Originally developed for the Disney show The Mandalorian, XR studios use a computer games engine to display realistic-looking locations on a massive LED screen in the background of your shot. The really clever part is that if you move the camera, the background changes too – giving a highly realistic effect that enables the filmmaker to be spontaneously creative, something you definitely can’t do with greenscreen, which this technology replaces. It also solves all of the issues around lighting that cause sleepless nights for DoPs and VFX supervisors from Hollywood to Bollywood and beyond. It really is a game-changer.
Integrated Internal Campaigns
Smart clients have always known that it’s much more successful to shape hearts and minds in your organisation with a long term campaign than a standalone film or event that is soon forgotten. Sure, you can get people really excited for a while, but if you don’t keep the messaging front and centre they’re much more likely to revert back to old attitudes and behaviours. It was tricky enough when employees were all in the office together, but how do you build a culture, or try to change one, when your teams are working from home?
We’re seeing a real shift away from standalone comms to creating truly integrated campaigns that take the long view and build advocacy through meaningful films, live and hybrid events, social media and more over time. And because these ideas are often tied up with brand purpose and social values the campaigns can straddle internal and external audiences, enabling seamless storytelling that feels authentic for all.
Over the past two years we’ve seen a lot of user-generated content on our screens. Partly, this has been practical – for a while there, it was a lot safer to ask folks to film themselves on smartphones and DSLRs than it was to send film crews around the world. As a result, lots of businesses made brand films and TV commercials that featured their employees, often getting on with the job from their kitchen tables. It felt like we were all in it together, and those brands have never felt so real. Context is everything, of course, and it didn’t take long for them to get back to more polished production values, but our taste for authenticity has been refined.
It’s part of a bigger trend for brands to celebrate people’s uniqueness. Once hidden, brands are more often enabling audiences to peek behind the curtain and see the real humans behind the scenes, in all their messy, wonderful oddness. It’s a welcome trend that’s having a profound impact on the look and feel of moving image work, enabling deeper connections with more diverse audiences – and we’re all the richer for it.
Take a look at some of our existing moving image projects here.