How Wella cut content cost by 70% while upping production assets

Wella is one of the largest beauty companies in the world with multiple brands under its umbrella. But like any other company, in the initial phases of building up its content pipeline, it too faced issues around content efficiency and optimisation. Ad-hoc requests, emergencies and conflicting targets would leave its production team in disarray, disrupting planned timelines and workflows.

Speaking at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Content 360 virtual conference, Mark Pontrelli (pictured), director, creative content, Wella Company, US said: “We didn't know exactly who to target with our videos or what platforms they should be on. There was a lack of fundamental production knowledge our teams didn't understand.”

With a lack of video production knowledge across the company, many teams had unrealistic expectations when it came to resourcing and understanding the price tags associated with video content production. “There was no sustainable model in place and everything was a one-off request. We knew we had some issues to deal with and we had a couple of ways to go about finding a solution.”

Luckily for Wella, it found a pretty good solution. While Pontrelli and his team contemplated with the idea of building an in-house team, with a crunched timeline, Pontrelli knew he needed to think out of the box.

“Did we want to continue with these ad hoc requests, conflicting targets, multiple platforms, organisational capability challenges, unrealistic expectations of resources and timing, and no sustainable model that raised cost, or did we want to do something else?”

Pontrelli was also challenged to increase the company’s production assets by 50% while decreasing cost by 40%. “We had to come up with an idea and we had to prove a concept,” he said. Taking a page out of NASA’s book, Pontrelli decided to call this new project, Wella’s very own “Project Gemini”.

“We had this gorgeous studio in Calabasas but we didn't have the right team in place [in-house] in order to maximise our capabilities. Project Gemini was a new workflow for our organisation, and it created a sustainable cost efficient and agile content creation model. It grew our internal capability for content production,” he said.

While most big in-house content arms have content production teams with digital content leaders, production managers, production coordinator and in-house videographers and editors,  Pontrelli decided to keep his team lean so as to ensure respective brand managers would come on board to become digital producers. Not only would this help grow their capabilities, but the duties and expectations too could be shared and managed better. The only outsourcing done as a result, was for editing of the content and creative agency work. Having operational discipline and clear boundaries of what could be done in house, and what needed to be outsourced also increased the volume of work for Wella’s agencies which ultimately drove down cost due to bulk project entitlements.

Training of teams

Following the establishment of the content arm, the various teams at Wella also underwent training to understand the fundamentals of video production. They learnt about the benefits and drawbacks of single camera and multiple camera functionalities, along with platforms and storytelling techniques.

The teams were given up to 40 weeks a year to create content with brands appointing dedicated days of the week for their executions. “We allowed for dark months in July and December and for the holidays also so that we could go in and do maintenance. The benefit of this plan was it allowed for the team to have 160 days a year for content capture, and it also gave the various teams firm production guidelines – which is what Wella initially wanted.

Before any shoot, the teams also had a concept meeting about four weeks out where they would align on the idea and which products to focus on. The teams huddled to discuss techniques, type of content and what worked with their core target audience. The team would also align on the critical steps for each production and content contributors.

Another pre-production would occur a week out as the teams reviewed schedules for shoots and discussed technical requirements.

“On the day of production everybody, I asked everyone to be attentive and to be focused and resourceful and to have fun. It's not every day of work you get to film,” he said.

As for post-production, work would generally be done within 14 days and all of the teams would have to review the cuts and edits. “The teams had to coordinate approvals to make sure that everyone who had to approve was available, after which the video would be uploaded to the content management systems and distributed the assets to various outlets,” he added.

While the initial challenge given to Pontrelli was to increase in-house production by 50% while reducing cost by 40%, the final review showed in-house production capability increasing by 75% and video production cost decreasing by 70%.

Dealing with disruption

Despite the success, when COVID-19 hit, the team found itself again evolving its methods as production houses shut down due to the pandemic.

“We had to teach people how to be content creators from their own homes! So we rallied a group of our artists and we taught them how to use their iPhones or Android devices along with their ring lights and Instagram Live,” Pontrelli said.

With over 200 live sessions done across three months, today the teams are confident in remote capture techniques. “We recorded people we directed through zoom and now we can turn the content into a really good videos. In fact we got so good at it that we created over 200 new videos while in quarantine, driving down costs even further than before. We created a completely new production workflow and boost efficiency.”

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