Opinion: How smart production balances budgets and consistency

Production challenges may be stalling efforts around the world, though there is never been a more urgent need for content - and for cost efficiency across the board, from concept to market. To remedy these difficulties, many brands have fallen back on reusing archival material or stock. Both strategies showcase the benefits of having a library of assets built for the long-term.

But asset libraries have another key benefit, too, particularly in the Asia Pacific region: they offer a strategic way to balance visual consistency across locally produced assets. With each market building and executing its own creative, it can be a challenge to ensure the brand identity stays coherent throughout. This drove the strategy behind our asset library for Shiseido's Senka.

MediaMonks set out to build a centralised asset library with a full year’s shelf life. Organised from the top down, the library depicted each product in a variety of ways. We took careful considerations to ensure assets could be used with relevance in a variety of markets, like holding back on typography and only partially featuring models in a way they would be relevant for all markets. Through this strategy, a global brand is able to not only retain some control over locally produced assets, but also makes the process easier for local teams that no longer have to build their own creative from scratch.

Of course, this strategy helps a brand build a large volume of creative as well. For an automaker advertising in Asia Pacific, for example, we built a platform that enables local marketing teams to quickly mix-and-match creative assets and copy into new banner ads. The platform came out of a need to create, review and approve a volume of ads that had previously seemed unsustainable for the variety of Asia Pacific markets and their different guidelines.

A fit-for-purpose process

Building an asset library that not only remains relevant throughout the year, but to a diverse audience throughout the Asia Pacific region, requires an efficient, fit-for-purpose production process. To shoot as efficiently as possible, we organised the process around a handful of photographic setups. Each setup was built around a specific purpose and goal, and by establishing these compositions early in the process, we minimised the amount of time you would need to set up each creative asset. Some of the setups included: shooting skin, shooting water, highlighting the products’ unique foaming quality, tabletop flat lays and more.

This process offers an important learning that applies to any production:

It is critical that your producer serves as a guardian of efficiency and is aligned closely with the creative team from the start.

The strength of creatives is that they love to dive deep into storytelling whenever they are given the chance - and a producer that is focused on opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle helps to put much-needed constraints in place and keep the process grounded. Striking that balance between creative output and efficiency is key, and teams that are able to align both put themselves at an advantage.

Whether you aim to produce a traditional shoot or want to shoot over 110 diverse, unique assets in just three days, including the producer in the mix from the earliest conceptualising phase ensures the project stays on-track, both from a budget as well as a timings perspective. Similarly, a liaison between the production team and client is equally important. Just like the producer’s role in safeguarding efficiency, the person connecting the team to the client ensures that client needs are met—for example, that budgetary requirements are strictly adhered to.

Bypass format challenges with versatility

While the process above worked well for Senka’s needs, other smart production strategies exist to achieve the required creative output. An alternative to the process above is to shoot each element individually, which can then be stitched together in post-production. A benefit to this approach is that it can enhance the shelf life of your library, or you can continually tweak and remix elements to increase the effectiveness of your creative using performance data.

Brands that have taken such an approach may find that it is well-suited for a reality in which doing new shoots has become increasingly difficult. But a caveat to this process is that post-production becomes more time consuming—so it may not be the optimal approach for a brand that aims to meet budget efficiency as much as possible. With this in mind, brands should carefully consider the practical purpose behind their production strategy.

The fit-for-format approach also typically begins with specific formats and platforms in mind. For most countries, this is a straightforward exercise since there will be the favourite social and eCommerce platforms. In Asia Pacific, with a much wider variety of formats, building such a media plan in advance can be tough. Therefore, organising creative production around these specific formats can be difficult.

To be truly multipurpose, it is important to create assets that do not work just in specific dimensions but have large, neutral backgrounds you can resize to fit a large variety of formats, whether they skew wide or tall.

Key details in each asset need to be visible and legible no matter how the asset is adapted. This approach also enables you to account for different sizing needed for different languages and writing systems, which is another challenge that is particularly unique to the diverse Asia Pacific market. For Shiseido's Senka, we set everything against plain, colour-blocked backdrops that were easy to resize.

This all goes to show that strategy and alignment are key to an efficient production process, which enables brands to develop a large volume of high-quality assets - enough to last a whole year but produced in just days. From budget efficiencies to enabling visual consistency targeted toward diverse audiences, a strategic approach to production gives brands the tools they need to offer relevance across markets.

The writers are Joris Knetsch, MD, MediaMonks Singapore and Chin-Han Yu, growth monk at MediaMonks.