The growth of film and episodic content over recent years has resulted in a rise of cinematic quality across advertising. As craft in filmmaking continues to push the boundaries of commercial content, Dublin-based post production powerhouse Screen Scene partners with LBB on the Meet Your Makers channel for a new series exploring the ever blurring line between entertainment and commercial film.
Speaking with heads of production, agency producers, production company owners and executive producers, ‘Craft Where Worlds Collide’ will discuss how entertainment and commercial trends are reshaping the quality of content that consumers expect from advertising, and what this means for production.
In this interview, we speak with PRETTYBIRD UK founding partner and executive producer Juliette Larthe.
LBB> What does craft mean to you, and how important is craft to the effectiveness of advertising?
Juliette> In one word. EVERYTHING. It’s sometimes hard to judge the efficacy of advertising, yet it’s pretty easy to identify a great piece of work. Craft is always at the heart of
it, when it has meaning - elevated by the mastery of the craft - it becomes effective.
Craft can create unique aesthetic pleasures and become intertwined with a whole bundle of different values, and never exclusively monetary. How we perceive a piece of well-crafted work is by naturally becoming more invested which is a vital engagement for the industry. Creating work that resonates and impacts the viewer, is down to how it's crafted. So craft is everything.
LBB> How have you seen film craft evolve over recent years and how has it impacted the advertising world?
Juliette> Crafts value is locked up in its confusion. The discussions to be had at its fuzzy edges which is what brings in the fresh perspectives. The seismic shift in representation going from next to ZERO when I began my career, to having at least some now, has changed our landscape of craft, the fabric of our culture is defined by identity, that's what makes us.
Our audience's desire for authenticity grows at breakneck speed, matching the onset of technological advancements, inclusivity and representation becomes the game changer in the advertising world and there’s no going back… With a cultural drive at our core to celebrate ingenuity, the skills central to craft continue to have great value, the importance of who is being represented and who is representing has to be recognised as a key element in the evolving of craft and the impact it has on the advertising industry, furthermore it has intense political currency.
This is being recognised by British Arrows who created the YOUNG ARROWS this year, an initiative set up to build a path for emerging talent into the industry, clearly recognising the need to shine a light on emerging crafts and skill sets. I have to thank them for inviting me to be the co-chair alongside with Melody Sylvester of this inaugural awards, it was a huge honour.
LBB> What are some of the biggest entertainment and commercial trends you have seen emerging over the past couple of years?
Juliette> In the big picture, cross disciplinary utilisations have created trends from AI to smart home entertainment, social apps, immersive tech, streaming VOD and obviously the metaverse. Facebook - though not trendy - is still the lion in the clowder of social video network and has created a new universe which TikTok is the current leader in.
Podcasting is now a mainstream medium, the outlets to support creators directly and notwithstanding entertainment has quickly moved from our homes into our pockets. Eight of the main streamers do not currently have advertising, looking at the wider picture and the long term game, it's important to be working with brands to develop longer forms as well as satisfying the need for the SVNs and our traditional modules. Those adapting to this shift in where and how consumers are entertained are poised to become the media mainstays.
Bringing it home, the use of Zoom has stayed post-covid, still inviting us into each other’s homes, humanising each other and engagement with those we can't meet face to face, creating more of a global village for the industry. It's also forcing us to communicate better and shows the many benefits of WFH which is apparent in this industry.
Awareness of privilege is becoming an open topic and bought into by clients/brands from grassroots to corporations, there is more awareness of social and fiscal responsibility for brands to pull on their disproportionate purse strings, recognise their consumers and align themselves with change and makers of change. We see some of this resulting in representation, social and environmentally responsible practices that now feature prominently in major advertising content which is progress and should be due to expand.
LBB> There has been huge growth in film and episodic content over recent years which has raised the bar for craft in advertising too. Have you seen a change in consumer expectation and demand for cinematic quality in commercial content?
Juliette> As a rule of thumb, there is still a blindspot in the analysis of consumer expectations and trends within advertising. The industry is being quite slow overall in the uptake of growth potential in marketing / product strategy when it comes to investment in long form to meet the demand for cinema with brand alignment and even commercial content. How it affects cinematic quality in the commercial content context is down to how it's made.
Consumers now demand an equal level, competitive playing field where honest business can thrive and prosper in the global marketplace. The bar gets raised everytime we see that truth through authentic compelling craft, through storytelling that gives us huge capacity and ranges from insights into the world at large, into ourselves as members of society or into our minds.
LBB> How has this demand evolved the way in which you approach your work as a production company?
Juliette> Interesting (but also pretty intuitive) studies have shown that people tend to associate 15 and 30 second messaging with “advertising”, and long form (over a minute) messaging with “content”. It is likely because of this that long form film averages 50% more organic views, meaning more people are actively seeking out branded video content. Additionally, Google found that branded content longer than 60 seconds led to a 40% lift in brand awareness and 70% lift in ad recall, compared to the shorter versions created for standard TV durations.
Always returning to craft, in order to meet the demand and in order to keep it fresh and relevant, we actively participate and rally to find young persons that want to be filmmakers as broad term to cover all the roles. What's important is providing access then nurturing and educating young people, ensuring they can discover their own talents in this field and figure out where their skills lie. Craft takes time to learn and experience on the ground. As we open more doors we access the future generations of creators providing a thriving, competitive, interesting and audience/consumer focused environment with which the mastery of craft can be learnt, which is fundamental to our practice.
LBB> Any recent project examples you can share to illustrate your point?
Long form/episodic - On Running and Dr Martens by Jess Kohl
Branded entertainment - Fracture, by Bradley and Pablo, a first of its kind branded entertainment series commissioned by a major network - this kind of format is likely to form a major component of the future advertising landscape.
Mixed media - the volume of commercial projects and films utilising a range of media and animation styles within the same campaign execution seems to have propelled. Droga5 commissioned no less than 17 creatives to provide visuals for Amazon Books by director Tom Noakes.
Purpose - as we continue to wade the apocalypse, there is social and fiscal responsibility to create opportunities to develop craft.
LBB> At the 2021 UKMVAs you won an Outstanding Achievement Award in recognition of your prolific 30 year contribution to music videos (huge congrats!). What are some of the biggest creative lessons you have learned in that time?
Juliette> It was truly an insane experience and I am so utterly grateful for the support of David Knight at Promo News who started UKMVAs. Promo News was the first music video magazine, the early issues printed like a zine, black and white photocopied and stapled together, it was such a proud moment when I first got mentioned in there… and every time since… So grateful to the artists, labels and filmmakers that I have had the honour to work with.
The lessons I learn and continue to thrive by include that persistence is key, considered risk taking is a must, and being keen goes a very long way in this industry.
I’m such a music lover - it’s the perfect renegade industry to cut your teeth, especially if like me, you didn't have the opportunity to go to film school/uni and didn't know anyone in film. Music videos gave me access, took a little while to get there but when I did, I just loved being on set, and was up for anything.
LBB> As the line between ads, art, and entertainment blurs, do you think creatives need to approach projects with a multidisciplinary perspective?
Juliette> For some of us this has been a part of our dogma since day one and the lines in the sand have continued to blur more widely. It's fascinating and fantastic seeing a relatively new company, Uncommon Creative Studio take the industry by storm with their interdisciplinary approach so successfully. We can’t rely on TVCs to do all the work! Nor should we regurgitate the same content across a range of channels and expect a steep incline in engagement. Taking a multidisciplinary approach opens up the creative boundaries, and offers greater opportunities to deliver messaging through a range of compelling mediums.
LBB> When looking for makers - production, editing, VFX, music and sound etc - how important is it that these partners have transferable skills / experience in both longform and commercial work?
Juliette> This often has to be approached sensitively since not every cross-disciplinary experienced person will be suitable for every project, but it definitely is attractive when there has been transferable skills between the mediums. However our craft industry has capitalised and built on the ‘considered risk’, the stepping up or stepping across in roles, taking a chance and making critical judgements based on sound knowledge of a variety of contexts. I find those who are more confident in their own capabilities are more often happier to take risks, think outside the box and give chances to the new ‘makers’ and that is how we stay inspired and connected to the creativity of this industry therefore providing more job satisfaction.
LBB> PRETTYBIRD is known for its distinct visionary work across an ever-evolving entertainment and branding landscape. With a holistic view across different disciplines, what do you think that advertising can learn from other creative crafts when it comes to elevating its cinematic quality?
Juliette> From every discipline there is an opportunity to learn and bring this holistically into our work. By exploring other creative crafts it enables alternative ways of thinking, it unblocks old patterns and allows for non linear thinking, enables empathy and connects us to ourselves which in turn allows recognition of uniqueness and identity. It can connect reflection with action, build intercultural relations, connect us to different cultures and sub cultures, encourages questions and broadens our perspective and can help overcome prejudice, it enables different people to universally engage.
Cultivating meaningful work from creative methods enables engagement allowing exploration and communication beyond the limitation of words. We can harness happiness through elevating creativity, which in turn helps wellbeing and there is evidence pointing to creative rest as equally as important as creative craft.
So part of the creative economy, which lets not forget is 3% of our global gross GDP, the nature of creative work is always under scrutiny. We should be holistically looking over different disciplines and see where we can elevate cinematic quality with purpose. It's a long game strategy that has been at the heart of our manifesto to boost competitiveness, productivity, sustainable growth and employment by inviting in, looking to and at other creative crafts for cross pollination, leaving no stone unturned.