What has lockdown taught us about ‘quality’ content?

Jon Stroud, creative director, Jist Studios, discusses what video content creation will look like in a post-COVID world.


Were not out of the woods yet, but the UK is slowly emerging from lockdown and now feels like a good time to look at the lessons we’ve learnt.

As a team of video content creators, social distancing has provided us with some interesting challenges, especially when we’re so used to bringing together a full crew made up of camera operators, directors, actors, lighting technicians and more. But just because we haven’t been able to operate as ‘normal’, this hasn’t meant marketers and brands have lost out on opportunities to tell their stories. In fact, companies have been busy getting inventive and adopting new techniques to deliver content that’s attuned to the world we’re currently living in.

As we begin to look ahead to how we’ll work in the future, it’ll be interesting to see how much of what we’ve learnt will be carried with us. While it’s been a challenging time for so many, there are definitely positives we can take away from the experience. Here are three of mine:

Confidence to rip up the rule book

There have been numerous examples of innovative storytelling during the pandemic. Over the past few months, we’ve produced one advert by sending GoPros out to 20 contributors and have used a cast made up of people living together in a single household to create another.

We’ll always love filming with big cameras and crews, but it’s been refreshing to rip up the rule book to some extent. What’s important is to balance creativity with the need to meet strategic objectives, and that’s something that’s always been true. The end product, regardless of the technique used, still has to match the narrative and it has to achieve what you want it to.

For example, camera phones are great, but they won’t be the right fit for every campaign. You need to consider your message, your audience and the tone you’re trying to convey so that the technology can match the story. In the panic to get stuff done, it’s easy to lose sight of those original objectives but marketers have to ask themselves: will this content speak to my audience? If the answer’s no, then you need to rethink the approach. Sometimes big camera productions will be the right option – which is where skeleton crews have been so effective during lockdown.

Craving authenticity

One thing we’ve all craved in the midst of this pandemic is human connection. The Zoom calls with roaming children and random glimpses into peoples’ houses means we’ve felt both closer to each other and more far away than ever.

Being able to create something that reflects the way that we’re all living and working is hugely powerful right now. Look at some of the television programming that has been produced, such as Staged and Isolation Stories. Necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s been inspiring to see how creatives have found new ways to express themselves.

For brands looking to speak directly to their customers, GoPro or camera phone footage is a great leveller and is perfect for capturing ‘real life’. Their imperfections mirror our own. The skill, of course, lies in the editing – making something appear simple isn’t as simple as it looks!

One size doesn’t have to fit all

In our industry, smaller teams seem to have fared particularly well during the pandemic. Perhaps it’s because they can be more agile when it comes to decision making, meaning they’ve been able to provide marketers with solutions before they even realised the scale of the problem – although we’ve certainly seen some players react and innovate more quickly than others. In addition to this, having a multi-skilled team means you can achieve the same results as a big team or full crew within the confines of COVID production.

From our personal experience, we’ve really enjoyed the freedom of finding new ways to deliver exceptional results. That’s not to say that we won’t revert to large scale productions ever again. There will always be a place for the level of sophistication they can offer. But I’d like to think that marketers will continue to consider alternative routes and that content creators won’t shy away from suggesting them.

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