The context of content makes teamwork essential

Jason High Res[2] (1).jpgBy Jason Dooris (left), CEO, Atomic 212°

I don't envy the brilliant people who work in our creative department. While we're all working hard to keep up with the ever-changing media landscape, those poor creatives have a new platform - and therefore a whole new set of specs and methods - to get their heads around seemingly every other week.

And it's one of the best reasons you should never start a campaign unless you've got media, creative and technology together in a room, working things out as a team.
Let me paint a portrait

Just ten years ago, the thought of shooting something - anything - in portrait was laughable.

Five years ago, due to the advent of the smartphone seeing billions of hours of portrait videos uploaded to the internet, there were countless blogs ranting about why you should never shoot in portrait.

Today, we've just learnt to accept it. People shoot and consume most video on their phones, and flipping our phones to landscape is vaguely annoying, so we've just had to embrace video in portrait.

And that means creative have had to rethink how they shoot video. Is this content going to be seen on a site that's largely accessed via desktop, meaning it's fine to be done in landscape, or is it for Snapchat, which basically means it has to be portrait to be relevant.

What if it's for Facebook? If so, you're going to need to put closed captioning on it, because 85% of their videos are viewed without sound.

Is it for YouTube? Then you need to give it the inverse pyramid treatment, because you've got five seconds to get your message across, because 85 to 90% of people (depending on which survey you read) hit 'skip' on pre-rolls.

That is barely scratching the surface. It can be easy to forget just how much there is for your creatives to be mindful of when they're creating content for a range of platforms.

As for those of you who think it's as easy as re-cutting it for a variety of platforms ... while that can occasionally work, more often than not it's forcing a square peg into a round hole.

The content slayer

A great example of someone deciding they could just re-work what they had into a new format was 20th century Fox's 2014 re-release of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The iconic show was first released in 1997, and so was obviously shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

But when Fox brought out their remastered version, to be released on Bluray and Netflix, the world had moved to widescreen TVs.

"No biggie," they figured, "we'll just cut it to the 16:9 aspect that people have now."

It did not go well.

There are two obvious ways to make 4:3 go into 16:9, the first being to trim the picture. But that led to as much of 25% of the images being sacrificed, seeing a whole lot of heads and feet being chopped off (and not in the traditional, 'Imma kill me some vampires' way).

The other method was to use original footage which had been cropped. But the problem with that was these wider shots had been trimmed in the first place because you could see where the sets ended, or even crew members walking into the shot.

Fox didn't seem to care, and released these clearly inferior versions of their content.

But fans weren't impressed, with some even creating a dedicated page, called 'What's Wrong with Buffy's HD?'

The show's creator, Joss Whedon, wasn't happy about it either, saying "Adding space to the sides simply for the sake of trying to look more cinematic would betray the very exact mise-en-scene I was trying to create. I am a purist, and this is the purest way to watch Buffy. I have resisted the effort to letterbox Buffy from the start and always will, because that is not the show we shot."

Be kind to an unforgiving audience

Now, granted, this was a TV show with a global cult following, which made its way into the cultural zeitgeist, and the creative you're putting out won't always have that kind of decades-long impact.

But that's all the more reason to get it right.

Marketers are increasingly recognising the need to create engaging, entertaining and interesting content, but if we focus for a moment on traditional ads, all too often these are the aspect of entertainment people simply put up with. That means your audience are far less forgiving and therefore there's very little room for error.

And it's why it's absolutely vital that creative and media work together from the get-go on all campaigns.

It's not enough to simply say "It'll be digital" anymore - that might fly with a particularly naive client, but to your creative team, that could mean any number of platforms, all of which have completely different demands.

While it is challenging to be across everything, all these new platforms are also massively exciting - they provide us all with new boundaries to explore and push. But exploring works far better when you do it as a team.

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