COVID-19 has impacted ad agencies in many ways, almost all of them bad. It’s forced us to think creatively (kind of our job…) and act resourcefully to keep production flowing normally for our clients. Video production is one area that was hit hard, especially in Los Angeles, where production crews could not gather safely under state guidelines for months. Creating even the most basic video ads professionally usually requires a crew of 10 or more people to come together in close quarters for long stretches of time… not at all possible in April, May and June of 2020. Meanwhile, our clients’ products are still being launched on major retailers e-commerce sites… so the show must go on!
This is the short story of how we turned a campaign that was in jeopardy due to COVID-19 into a successful product launch for our client, Jazwares.
“Stop motion?” suggested our producer, Asher, in April, after it became clear our original approved commercial concept was no longer viable. I’d always been curious about stop motion production, seeing it in music videos and on youtube. The products we were advertising were the first items from a new line of collectible dolls based on the members of k-pop group sensation, BLACKPINK. Stop motion seemed like a good fit right away: our client wanted to reproduce the energy of a BLACKPINK live show or music video, and bring the dolls and accessories to life in a familiar way to BLACKPINK fans. Stop motion animation was the most interesting way we felt we could achieve this — recreating iconic video sets, concert scenes, and animating the performance of the dolls by articulating their movements to the beat.
We began to craft storyboards, and mockup some lookalike images we used to pitch the concept.
With social distancing protocols in place, production was organized so each animator had their own isolated station/stage, and our mini sets were prepped in advance by the art department. Some sets were built in full from scratch to replicate, while others were built with a green screen in the background. In post production we would add dynamic stock video backgrounds to bring the sets to life.
Stop motion video is just a series of still images strung together to make video frames. With the cameras locked in position on tripods, the dolls are mounted to wires, brackets or other rigs, and an animator moves the dolls just slightly… then take a photo… and repeat. Connecting all the photos in rapid succession creates a moving picture scene (aka video!). It is a painstakingly detailed process… but the beauty is in the detail.
We planned for a six day shoot with a crew of 10 people. Everyone would wear masks, sanitize hands, and be temperature tested upon entry to the studio. We had to produce two variations of a 30 second video spot, plus 2 x 15 second videos, plus some shorter form social media content and still images. It was an aggressive plan for 6 days, especially when we could only get 7-8 seconds of stop-motion footage per day.
Setting the videos to a BLACKPINK music soundtrack was crucial to connecting the live band members to their 4″ counterparts. We tapped a talented music composer friend to create an original sound-alike of the band’s most popular track (Kill This Love) — that did not infringe on the music copyright. This is not as easy as it sounds, and is risky from an agency perspective because we needed approvals from several different rights holders, including the band’s management. Our original plan was to simply license stock music, but an exhaustive review of available stock music left us and our client feeling dissatisfied. Original music was definitely a more costly option for our agency, but we decided it was necessary and would deliver added value to the production quality of the spot. Fortunately, the music created was perfect and quickly approved.
Along with the sound and visual effects really gave the spot an authentic BLACKPINK vibe, and added a more glamorous feel to the video.
At the time of this writing, 3 video ads have been running on multiple platforms for over one month, and ad performance has been outstanding across the board. For example, we maintained a 45%-50% view thru rate on YouTube pre-roll & mid-roll ads (industry benchmark is closer to 25% VTR). This tells us that the ad creative is resonating with our targeted audience. Outstanding sales figures indicate that our media strategy and audience targeting decisions are successfully driving the program at retail.
I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at one way we are dealing with the disruptions COVID-19 has created in our industry. Our team is motivated to keep finding creative ways to overcome these challenges, and help our clients drive awareness and sales. If you’re facing your own marketing or content challenges these days, drop us a line to see if we can help.