Motion Sickness creative director Sam Stuchbury on the seven rules of great content
Creative agency Motion Sickness is shaking up the industry with more than just pretty pictures. Thriving at the intersection of production and creative strategy, its showreel from the past year includes the likes of Les Mills, Icebreaker, Scapegrace (previously known as Rogue Society) and NZ Avocado. Sam Stuchbury, founder and creative director at Motion Sickness and 2018 Forbes Asia 30 under 30 list-maker, shares his thoughts on producing quality content in today’s digital landscape.
These days it feels like we are completely immersed in video. From TV screens to Netflix, digital billboards to Instagram stories (nevermind Youtube and the Facebook feed) the ubiquitous video ‘content’ is all around us (I can feel my eyeballs burning just writing about it). I think there’s a reason this is the case. No other tool available to advertisers allows us to tell stories, stir emotion, communicate information, and connect on a human level in quite the same way. And with all this video, the line has never been more blurred between advertising and entertainment. With brands publishing short films, films flogging products, and every man and his dog able to shoot video from their smart phone, how do you stand out from the rest?
At Motion Sickness, we’ve been producing content for this ‘new age’ for over five years now. Not only do we produce video and photography, we have the unique pleasure of being a part of the process, from start to finish. From conceptualisation and strategy, through to execution and delivery of campaigns, we get to see what comes before and what comes after production.
We’ve learnt a few things along the way, so we thought we’d share them with you. Whether you’re a marketer, small business owner, designer, or budding videographer, we hope that it might get you thinking. We’ve also put it in a list, because just like videos, people like lists.
Seven things I've learnt about producing content
1. It’s all about the idea
Number one on the list for a reason. A top spec camera and a 30 person production crew aren’t going to save a mediocre concept. The fact of the matter is, a flawed idea is going to leave you with a less-than-perfect result. It’s like when you forget to cut the tag off a new pair of undies – something’s just not going to feel quite right at the end of the day, and you’ll be left pulling a 40 percent off sticker out your crack. Before you do anything else, make sure your idea is solid.
2. No one cares as much as you do
Let’s get this one out of the way too. No one cares as much about your brand as you do. If you’re like most marketing managers or business owners I know, you live and breathe your brand and product. If you’re lucky, you’ll have some serious brand loyalists who watch your every move. But more than likely, you are speaking to an audience who care more about what they’re going to have for lunch than they do about what you’re trying to sell them. When conceptualising your content, consider the natural skepticism and divided attention of your future audience.
3. Your opinion isn’t the only one that counts
With video production, a lot of the finer details come down to subjectivity and opinion. A film can win best picture at the Oscars and someone’s uncle is still going to say it was rubbish. Stand your ground on opinions you feel strongly about, but if you’re unsure, ask a bunch of people what they think. Also, don’t forget that you’ve hired your production company for a reason. If they’ve made a creative call chances are they’ve done it with purpose – ask them what that is. And again, the most important thing is to put yourself in your intended audience’s shoes.
4. Don’t overcook it
We’ve been in many a meeting where a chat about a brand video descends into two dozen strategic points to hit. Yes, it’s important that what you’re producing ticks the boxes, but don’t lose sight of the wood for the trees. It’s like Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares, their first problem is they have about 100 things on the menu. Is it better for someone to know your product does x, y, and z as well as a, b and c, or is it better that your content actually makes them want to find out more of their own volition? That it represents what you stand for, gets them thinking, or changes how they feel? If you fill your content with too many strategic points and don’t leave room to breathe, it can start to feel a little too much like propaganda – which can make what you say next seem disingenuous.
5. Make the most of it
Let’s be honest, creating good content isn’t cheap. There are a lot of hard costs and then there’s the production team’s time – and there’s also the time committed by your own team to get it right. For this reason it’s always worth putting equal thought into how you’re actually going to get what you make in front of people, which will then lead to ROI. This often means money. Yip, cold hard cash (some people believe there’s a set formula for how much you should spend on production vs media, but I think it all depends on who you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to achieve). Also, think about how you can you make what you produce stretch a bit further, or speak to more than one audience (for example, consumers and trade). You’d be surprised at how useful your content can be if you just tweak the concept slightly.
6. Don’t let your brand get in the way
Whilst a brand identity is important, sometimes it can be restricting. If you keep presenting everything in exactly the same way even the coolest brand will start to feel…vanilla. Don’t get me wrong, your brand should remain front of mind. But brands should live in the real world. A brand can have facets, different sides to a singular personality. Don’t let the ‘cookie-cutter’ of brand guidelines smother you creatively (especially if they were created without video in mind). Instead, ask “will the people who love my brand love this?”. There’s something to be said for adapting to the language and style of the platform, or of what you’re trying to create (for example, a documentary piece vs an instagram clip). Being able to move and fit stylistically within these spaces will help your content land. There’s no point in creating content that’s 100 percent ‘on-brand’ if no one’s going to watch it. But that’s just mytwo cents, take it or leave it.
7. Don’t forget the magic
This is the secret sauce, the je ne sais quoi, the x-factor – and sorry folks, it’s pretty hard to put a finger on. Good video work connects with the person on the other end of it, whether it’s a tug of the heart strings, a good old fashioned laugh, or a changed perspective. Everything else aside, if a viewer thinks “well fuck me, that was cool”, or the hairs on the back of their neck are standing up (or watches it, laughs, and a little bit of wee comes out) you’re onto a winner. It’s what makes someone come back to watch it again, and what inspires Tuesday morning watercooler chat. It’s the reason a music video can change the fate of a record. If you have a good idea, and good strategy, creating something visually beautiful or interesting will be the cherry on top. For production to get to the magic, it’s about focussing more on the art than the science. It’s that magic that will see you right in the long run.