Visual Communication

How Authentic Content Can Save Your Brand: Part 2

By Daniel Long - 4 min read

Produced Realism is a visual and creative trend that offers brands a fresh opportunity to have a genuine conversation with their customers that isn't based on gimmicks or influencer manipulation. We take a closer look at what this means for brands today.

In Part 1 of our 2-Part series into authentic brand content creation, we looked at how Produced Realism was quietly transforming the industry from a gimmicky, high-concept advertising model towards one that speaks directly to the customer using the same visual techniques found in documentary-journalism and social realism.

For more detail on the topic, we invite you take a closer look at our Visual Trends Report 2020, where we can provide your brand with independent creative insights from our global community of 25 million members.

Produced Realism Should Surprise You

Simulating reality should never feel forced. When brands genuinely understand their customer’s expectations (including their needs and wants), they begin an open and genuine conversation that is the nucleus required for launching engaging brand narratives. This narrative is what will guide the campaign visually, and ultimately be a large part of why a campaign is successful or not.

Rather than loading your productions with lavish visuals that feel excessively over-produced, step away from visual excess and embrace a campaign style that celebrates realism in the same way a street photographer values captures their subjects: by telling a visual story first and foremost and embracing minimalist aesthetics. To get started, it’s always helpful to evaluate your brand’s style before you set off visually. And if that dosn’t work - it’s time to reset your visual expectations by starting completely fresh.

If you’re aiming to break through on social (and your brand should already be competing in this space), then you may wish to add more spontaneous visual elements to draw out surprise and seed mystery in your campaign visuals. In the industry, we think of this strategy as having constructed visual accidents, where the subject is perceived as raw and intimate and essentially an authentic representative or symbol of your business.

Portrait of senior couple in motor home seen through window

Authenticity Metric: Reveal Truth, But Don’t Force it

If you’re aiming to introduce realistic elements into your campaign, then you should already have a good idea of the types of content your customer’s buyer personas also want: what they post on social media platforms, the videos they like to watch online and the music they’re streaming.

Likewise, the types of visual content that connect with your target audience are often the same images and videos that your customers could imagine themselves taking, or (at the very least) reference visually in their own social media feeds. In other words, a failing campaign visual should consider its own ‘authenticity metric’ if it wants to conquer the produced realism concept without appearing transactional or non-genuine.

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Keep it Simple

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to create relatable productions. The produced realism effect has been attempted by many brands over the years - some with incredible results. Just look at how well Dove executed their authentic brand campaign with the Dove Real Beauty Sketches or Patagonia’s ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ photo campaign or dating app Bumble with its #FindThemOnBumble promotion.


Social Realism Can Yield Unexpected Results

Sometimes known as social realism, this campaign style can be set up like a documentary film shoot that follows the subject around as they interact with the product. It’s a direct move away from ‘gimmicky advertising’ and it signals a belief that brands are more than ready to embrace a movement that talks more and listens more to their customers. Latest industry figures suggest that a traditional reliance on celebrity endorsements and celebrity influencers continues to decline. Furthermore, recent industry industry research found that only 4% of online audiences trusted what influencers had to say online. That’s a very compelling reason to step away from influencers towards real customers having real conversations.

In fact, produced or social realism is so prevalent now, that it’s hard not to find a big brand using these campaign styles today. Customers are interested in hearing from people just like them. This content is ideal for social media brand-engagement and taps into our wider sense of community, helping to ensure that brands stay relevant creatively as more campaigns search for online viewers to stay ahead.

Young woman exercising against blue wall

How to Improve Your Next Ad Campaign With These Simple Steps

Whether your next custom production needs 20 people, multiple stages, lighting technicians and complex art direction or just one photographer outside armed with a simple speed flash - there are some basic production elements to always be aware of:

  • Look at what other competitors are doing in the space. Analyze award winners, check out the campaigns that boasted the strongest engagement and see how you can improve on those.

  • Use real people. Your customers will be able to tell the difference between an actor and a real person. It will make a real difference to the type of performance you will be able to get on-screen.

  • Choose a photographer who understands your creative strategy, and has worked with realistic production elements before.

  • Embrace brand innovation by experimenting with different visual elements. For example, look to street-art for one campaign, while another can use a documentary-style to tell a brand story. At all times, ensure you are talking directly to your customers.

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