Tandem Studios expands into Auckland, aims to offer cost-effective content to more businesses

According to Google’s statistics, more than a million advertisers are using Google platforms to advertise. And with the proliferation of video over the last few years, YouTube is increasingly becoming a vehicle that brands use to spread their messages. The problem, however, is most of these one million advertisers are small businesses, which simply don’t have the budget to invest in production companies or advertising agencies to produce content for the channel. Quite often this sees businesses with little other option but to develop amateur videos that do not belong in the public domain.

One company that has identified this gap in the market and is now offering brands with cheaper video alternatives is Tandem Studios

Established in Christchurch in 1974, the company was founded as a music and audio studio, often providing voice talent for radio advertisers over the years. However, the advent of digital age forced the company to diversify its offering.

“I bought the business in March of 2005,” says Dave Dunlay, the current general manager and creative director. “In May, YouTube started and then by August we put our first video onto YouTube. And since then we’ve uploaded about 30,000 videos onto YouTube.”

From this point, the business evolved its offering with an emphasis on online content, regardless of what that might entail.

“We built up expertise and experience in creating online content,” explains Dunlay. “That might be podcasting, social media strategy and publishing, online video, live streaming, and any other content that publishers might need for today’s mixed media.”

One of the clearest examples of the company’s services in action lies in its unique niche of live-streaming government proceedings. Tandem Studios currently holds the contract to stream the political debate at the House of Representatives (via www.inthehouse.co.nz), the Christchurch and Wellington City Councils, the Taupo District Council and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

As part of its responsibilities with each of these government organisations, Tandem Studios also archives the video footage via its LaBonTM  (Living and Breathing Online Newsletter) website services, which enables viewers to access the content on all screens. 

“The aim of LaBonTM is to make it easy for people to find, view and share content,” says Dunlay. “It’s a fantastic content platform that solves the issue of how to search through a large amount of video content and easily locate just the clip you’re looking for.”

Asked why the company works across such a range of locations, Dunlay responds with a personal experience that’s familiar to many Christchurch locals.

“One thing I learnt because of the earthquake is that you can’t just rely on business in your own region,” he says. “One of the reasons we survived was because we had clients outside of Christchurch. So when everything came to a grinding halt around the earthquake time, we still had our clients elsewhere around the country … it ensured that we had work still coming through.”

Recently, the company also won the contract to webcast and catalogue the Auckland Council meetings after an RFP process. And off the back of this win, Tandem has now also announced that it will be opening an office in the Super City in order to ensure that all its clients are serviced sufficiently.

“We already have several key clients in Auckland in addition to Auckland Council,” says Dunlay, “and our Auckland-based team will allow us to provide an even more responsive service to both existing and new clients in the Auckland region and beyond.”

Tandem Studios’ Auckland clients include MindFood magazine, the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand, several Auckland schools and the Big Boys Toys event.

Although these aren’t the glamorous accounts coveted by the advertising elite of New Zealand, they form part of a profitable niche for Tandem.

“The worldwide recession forced businesses to look at better ways to spend their money,” says Dunlay. “And the advantage of online marketing is that you can target and communicate with a niche audience, instead of broadcasting to the entire country. And the trick is doing that cost effectively. Because we’ve built up all this experience, we can market for people cost-effectively.”

Dunlay explains that Tandem limits production costs by charging for what they actually do.

“For example, if we need to come out and film someone doing a video blog and it takes an hour, then we just charge for an hour. Whereas traditional video production companies will charge for a half day, which would cost about $800. Traditionally, agencies would put a margin on any production. But the problem is that if you start to put margins on short, sharp content, either the margin becomes minimal or cost-prohibitive for the client.”

Tandem currently has a staff of around 14 people, and Dunlay says that every member of the team is multi-skilled, making the entire set-up reactive to client needs—something very beneficial when it comes to producing online content. 

“Everyone has their own expertise in a particular area, but they all have skills across camera operating, video editing and sound … that again means that when some calls up and says, ‘I’ve got this thing tomorrow’, we can always send someone to do it.”

And this also applies to Dunlay on a personal level. As someone who has over 30 years of radio industry experience and who still does the drive time show on The Breeze, Dunlay’s skills also extend beyond the remit of running a very modern iteration of a production company.

“During a four-hour show, you have to have about 12 topics to talk about—some longer form and some shorter form. So, you’ve got to come up with those topics every day and if you times that by five it’s about 72 every week. So, you get used to creating content on an ongoing basis, and that certainly helps when you’re working with a client that wants you to develop their content.”  

Dunlay’s interest in radio also led Tandem Studios into another sub-genre of the digital era in podcasts, and the company now also develops audio-only online clips for a variety of brands.   

Dunlay has adopted a strictly channel-agnostic approach to his business, explaining that the point of content isn’t to gain clicks but rather to establish an audience.

“They’re not clicks, they’re not page impressions, they’re not page views, they’re not these numbers you see in your weekly report. They’re people. So if you treat them as people, then you have to find out what they want and where they are. And then you deliver engaging content to them through that media channel.”                

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