Producing At The Speed Of Culture

speedFast, good, or cheap: pick two. This adage resonates with PR professionals; as we compete for attention, we are forced to sacrifice quality for quickness to catch the eye of the overwhelmed consumer.

But as I listened to Ken Kraemer, head of the Moment Studio, the real-time content newsroom at digital agency Deep Focus, I heard an exciting possibility: real-time content creation may be the mythical marketing unicorn that finally combines fast, good AND cheap.

During his session at New York’s Creative Week, Kraemer laid out lessons from producing content for brands that include Pepsi and Purina. Here are three from the session that convinced me that real-time content may make a fast, good, cheap trifecta possible:

1.     There is no “later”

The creative process is imagined as a long journey in which a creative director sits brooding until she finally happens upon an ‘A-ha!’ moment. Real-time content creation shatters this notion by forcing creators to abandon a lengthy contemplation period and spring into action. Kraemer calls the phrase “let me think about it” the death knell for real-time content, asserting that each piece of content should be born, blown out and finalized in the span of one meeting in order to maintain relevance and timeliness. One big check in the “fast” column, please.

2.     Published is better than perfect

This is where I add “good enough” to my “fast, good, cheap” thesis. To explain why “good enough” is sometimes as good as it gets, Kraemer talked about a video created by the Moment Studio for Pepsi. In it cans of the soft drink gyrate to the so-hot-for-about-two-weeks-in-February “Harlem Shake.” After watching 30 seconds of carbonated drinks shake to the beat, YouTube patrons around the world began to leave comments asking why Pepsi didn’t show the cans being popped open. People wanted to see the spray-filled aftermath they imagined accompanying a soft drink dance party.

The reason for no foam-tastic finale? Creating the graphics to show soda spewing from open cans would have added precious man-hours to the project, delaying the video’s release by a few days and hurting its ratings on the relevance meter. By skipping the spray and putting the video into the content-sphere as quickly as possible, Pepsi earned nearly 10,000 YouTube views in just one day and was credited as one of the first big brands to pick up on the “Harlem Shake” meme while it was still hot. In an age where relevance is worth its weight in gold, the trade-off between “perfect” and “published” paid off for Pepsi.

3.     Always be prepared

Acting fast does not mean acting without foresight. Some of the most riveting real-time content comes from re-purposing assets that teams have had tucked under their belts for months, just waiting for the right time to be placed into the social spotlight. Kraemer describes the Moment Studio as “absolute hoarders of assets,” stockpiling everything from unused B-roll footage to props from photo shoots. Saving assets can also be good for your agency’s bottom line: since you already own the outtakes of Spokesperson X telling a bad “Yo’ Mama” joke, why not share it on Mother’s Day across social channels at minimal cost?

It remains to be seen whether real-time content creation is the silver bullet that proves fast, good and cheap are not mutually exclusive. But if the Moment Studio’s early success is any indication, things are looking good – since launching in November 2012, this lean six-person studio has claimed a 335 percent increase in the “virality” of clients’ social content, evidenced by a five-time increase in Facebook engagement for Purina and a community of 20 million users who engage with Pepsi every week on Facebook. At a time when brands are striving to connect authentically with their audiences, real-time serves as a path to relevance. I think it’s time we all start sprinting on that path.

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