Doubt. Create. Repeat.
A playbook for creating in a remote world
I should start by stating the obvious: the creative process is never easy. If it is for you, my contact details are below. Please tell me all of your secrets…
When reviewing our marketing narrative in January, we had no idea how ironic a campaign about “doubt” would be by September. Who knew that doubt would eventually become an unofficial theme for 2020?
While all of us may feel doubt about the world at large right now, creative industries share an even more doubtful future because of their inability to produce work as accustomed to. Production has tapered-off over the past six months as the advertising industry replaces live-action with animation and archived footage. And while I’m impressed by the industry’s ability to adapt to current constraints — creative folks can be quite resourceful — I can’t help but think we’re delaying an inevitable realization. What if the world doesn’t go “back to normal?” What if we’re experiencing the new normal?
How does the way we work have to change? Can we leverage the doubt we’re feeling to find better, smarter, and more creative solutions?
This theory was put to the ultimate test when WeTransfer partnered with the creative minds at Preacher Austin this summer to produce our live-action brand campaign: Doubt. Create. Repeat. (Ironically, I was a little concerned about working with a non-local agency; little did I know we’d never have the opportunity to shake hands —er, bump elbows with the Preacher team).
To be honest, we barely knew where to start. As a remote-friendly company with offices around the world, we’re accustomed to juggling time zones and Google hangouts. But this was something different. The usual playbook for production was out the window. What followed was two months of rewriting it.
There were heatmaps, overnight shoots abroad, remote video villages and endless jokes about clients “showing-up” on a set only inhabited by the production team (sorry Preacher). Then, of course, came the weeks of dead-ends, detours and reroutes. And while I wouldn’t say we got it all right (or even most of it), today we launched a multimedia campaign around the theme of doubt, after months of doubting it could even be done.
So, for those of you feeling the same struggle, here are some take-aways that will make it into our “new normal” playbook for the next time around.
Rule #1 - Find great partners. They have to love the work as much as you do, because they’re going to need to work twice as hard to make it happen.
Rule #2 - Have a central source of truth. Create a home for everything that has to do with your project. And make sure it’s not YOU (unless you want people asking you questions 24/7 from four different time zones). At WeTransfer we use Paste to collaborate, track progress, share work and give feedback. We love it because it’s visual, and its auto-formatting features help to ensure even our messiest ideas still present well.
Rule #3 - Learn to adapt. Our original film concept required ten locations, one of which was Machu Picchu. With borders closing around the world, the team quickly realized this wouldn’t be possible and came up with an alternative—shooting with brilliant sets in a beautiful theater. The video turned out better than I could have imagined, all thanks to the willingness of our creative partners to adapt an idea they loved. There’s a fine line between standing behind your work and being willing to explore ways to improve it. Find it. Toe it.
Rule #4 - Over-communicate. (Yes, you might remember this one from couples therapy.) Although it may seem like a no-brainer, put everything in writing. And not just feedback and decisions—although you need to do that too. The nuances of everything, from tone to body language, are lost on a video call so be sure to over-communicate how you’re feeling. Are you excited? Are you nervous? Don’t forget human emotion is a key ingredient to creativity.
Rule #5 - Remember your values. While shortcuts are few and far between in 2020, don't use it as an excuse to compromise what’s important to you. Parts of the internet are absolutely gross right now, and even though we want everyone to see this thing we struh-uhhhh-gulled to make, we also know we can’t contribute to the problem we’re seeing on social channels. So we worked with our media partners at Noble People to create a media plan sans Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, putting our work in front of creatives in SAFE creative spaces. Did we compromise our efficiency? Maybe. But our beliefs? Never.
Rule #6 - Keep things in perspective. Remember that there are insane things happening in the world right now. Remember that, even if the logo might not be big enough (sorry, bad client joke) you produced a beautiful campaign at a time when we are barely allowed to go outside. Your ability to keep things in perspective is not only what will keep you focused, and sane, it’s what makes you a caring, empathetic brand. And, let’s be honest, we could all use a little empathy right now.
While most people will call 2020 the worst year ever, it’s not lost on me that it’s also the best year in history for making work remotely. Technology allows us to collaborate with teammates from all corners of the world (fairly) seamlessly.
WeTransfer offers a suite of creative tools to ideate, collaborate and create together, even when we’re apart. So in a way, this campaign was the ultimate test of whether those products work the way we say they do. The good news is, they did, and we have a great campaign to prove it.
Did we doubt we could do it? Heck yes. But really, isn’t that the point?