What Grab learnt by shooting its campaign for Ramadan virtually

The Movement Control Order (MCO) has forced brands to think on their feet and adapt to the changing landscape quickly. Ramadan, which is just around the corner, is one of the occasions where brands normally go all out to produce captivating campaign videos. However given the movement restrictions imposed this year, remote shooting is one idea that has been talked about recently. One brand that has embarked on this for its Ramadan campaigns in Malaysia and Indonesia is Grab.

In a phone conversation with A+M, Grab's regional country marketing head, Sulin Lau, said the marketing team completely re-designed the messaging and shoots of its Ramadan campaigns to be shot entirely from home, in support of Indonesian and Malaysian governments' call for safe distancing. While brainstorming for the campaign concept, the team in Malaysia analysed Google Trends data to see what consumers generally searched for during Ramadan, especially during the MCO period.

According to Lau, its Google Trends data showed that Ramadan-related searches jumped 1.6 times in 2019 compared to 2018. They included bazaars, buffets, buka puasa, baju raya, biskut raya, raya makeup, home makeover and cleaning. Based on this, the team built the entire campaign of seven short videos titled "Amy Cari, Grab Ada" (Whatever Amy searches for, Grab has it), around trending search intents. Rock legend Amy Search is the feature talent in all seven videos.

grab my ramadan 2020 1

Lau told A+M that props had to be sent through delivery and the director had to direct the talent virtually. "We initially had a slightly different idea approved in early March when the world at that time didn’t look like what it does today. When the MCO was implemented in Malaysia, the only location we could do the filming at is at Search's own family home. We simplified the films to be VLOG-style, lighter on equipment and his family helped out with recce by taking photos of the different rooms in the house. There was a lot of 'DIY-ness' in here," she explained, adding:

The biggest worry about a remote shoot was always going to be quality control.

As such, all the films were shot from the perspective of one's laptop and phone, making it easier to manage production quality and expectations. Despite the change in production requirements, one thing that remained the same was the campaign's title, which Lau said was even more relevant during the MCO.

grab my ramadan 2020

The campaign features Search adjusting to life in a safe distancing world. He tries his best to avoid grocery shopping hiccups, learns how to disinfect his home safely, and how to support struggling local street food stalls at a time when the government has closed all restaurants and bazaar Ramadan markets.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, Grab had originally planned a more celebratory campaign so it had to quickly pivot the idea to become Grab Siap Antar Ramadanmu (Your Ramadan, delivered by Grab frontliners). The campaign centres around a stay at home music video shot entirely in talents’ own family homes using a combination of DIY props, puppets and miniature cardboard sets, with lyrics and music composed by Grab employees. Some of the hand-drawn props were even homemade by the talents and their children.

The #SiapAntarRamadanmu campaign highlights the spirit of Grab’s delivery rider heroes that are ready to bring joy and happiness to Indonesians and appreciates Indonesians who can still be productive from their own home, as they follow the government’s ask to stay at home.

While the two countries' campaigns have different creative jump-off points - a search-inspired execution in Malaysia versus a DIY musical in Indonesia - the core idea remains the same, Lau said. And it is keeping one's distance might be the best way for everyone to come together as a country this Ramadan. Grab teamed up with Fishermen Integrated in Malaysia, while the campaign and song in Indonesia was created by its in-house team.

Challenges faced during remote shooting

As this was Grab's first time doing a remote shoot, the team faced some challenges, one of them being learning to let go.

According to Lau, film production is typically one of the times when even senior marketers get deeply involved in the smallest decisions - set design, props, wardrobe, framing.

One example that Grab emphasises on during filming is its partner community. For example, the customer usually tends to be the natural centre of focus for most film directors but for Grab, it is the drivers, delivery partners and restaurant partners who are actually the true face of Grab's brand.

"It's not often you have to let go a little bit to allow each talent to inject their own personalities. The good thing is we're used to not physically attending shoots. If you do pre-production really tightly, and expectations are clear, the actual filming process is usually something that is best left to professionals," she explained.

"We also specify exact ad units to complement our media strategy at pre-production stage eg. 1:1, 9:16 or 16:9, 6 seconds and 15 seconds so the directors can build these requirements into their framing and shooting," Lau added.

Meanwhile, also weighing in on the challenges of remote shooting was Joris Knetsch, MD, MediaMonks Southeast Asia who said there are different factors brands need to take into account that they did not previously foresee in the creative proposal. These include whether a similar location or talent is available, and if there are any language restrictions.

The key to all of this is flexibility.

"Is there a way to adapt the script? Can I change the location from outdoors to a controlled studio environment? Do I need people to speak in my shoot? Can I dub, or alter it in post?" he added. Knetsch also said brands could even go bolder and challenge the need for a live action shoot itself, given the fact that there are very high quality alternatives available for a live shoot. MediaMonks is no stranger to remote shoots, having done similar work for clients in the tech and consumer businesses. MediaMonks declined to reveal client names due to confidentiality purposes.

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Type of content brands can create remotely this Ramadan

Remote shoots are perfect for any type of live action production, ranging from TV commercials to digital content, vlogs and photoshoots, Knetsch said. However, next to remote shoots, brands could also consider live streams with CGI overlays as a digital way of engaging with their audiences. If live action is not required, brands can also consider alternative production methods available, such as animation or 3D, that can be shot digitally in a virtual studio.

Regardless of the approach, Knetsch said brands should use a smart production approach that optimises the number of assets that can be used across channels and markets.

They should also ensure the assets are produced fit-for-purpose as well as fit-for-format. For example, clients should consider whether the creative will work as intended on the target medium, and how they can creatively optimise for formats on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Things to note when preparing for a remote shoot

It is important to work with the right partner for a remote shoot to ensure results are of equally high quality as having a physical shoot. However, there are some points brands should reconsider, based on circumstances around the remote shoot, Knetsch said.

According to him, brands would probably need to be flexible with talent, as there may be less options to choose from and individuals may not speak the desired language. Also, if the remote shoot is taking place in a different part of the world, brands would probably have to consider a studio shoot. "Outside locations will probably not have the same look as they would closer to home. Moreover, there may be some form of social distancing in place at the location the remote shoot is now organised," Knetsch said.

The above will only apply if the reason for organisation a remote shoot is due to restrictions at home. Nonetheless, Knetsch said remote shoots can become the new normal, even closer to home. This means there will be savings in travel costs and productivity. 

"As a client, you can be much more productive while logging into a remote shoot and provide feedback when needed from your home or office environment and do work next to it, than you would be at a remote location," he added.

Separately, equipment is one area that clients do not really need to worry about as Knetsch said production partners will be responsible for that. The only thing, however, is that brands will require fast and stable internet connection to login to the several streams, such as directors view, monitor view, set or studio overview, and probably a second screen for comfort. 

From a production perspective, extra cameras would be needed. Citing MediaMonks as an example, Knetsch said that it has a remote shoot management system that enables clients to quickly provide feedback or approve specific shots. Clients also have a direct communication line with the producer, and the producer works in the same system with the director. "This way we can ensure shoots happen efficiently, and no feedback gets lost in translation, no matter on which part of the world the team is actually located," he said.

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