The chaotic nature of the past year has seen everyone from large multinationals to three-person startups scrambling to adapt and regain a sense of equilibrium. It has involved a good deal of experimentation, and led to the realisation that nothing is perfect, and neither does it need to be in order to be effective. In short, people have loosened up, because it’s the only way to cope.

This change of mindset is notable in marketers and creatives. Before the pandemic, there was a sense even among amateur creators that their content had to be beautifully polished in order to be acceptable. This has given way to an energising rawness, where being real and building on what’s happening around us, has much more value than flawlessly formed imagery and messaging. It’s true for brands as much as it is for the contributors, whose work makes up our library of over 400 million images, video clips and music tracks: it’s less about projecting idealism and more about presenting people with the material they can readily identify with.

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The move towards content that is more off-the-cuff and editorial in nature is largely out of necessity, enforced by the constraints of remote working. But it is liberating, and also what consumers have come to expect.

Of course, a more free-flowing style does not necessarily mean less stress, and it doesn’t mean lower quality. Brands have for some time been under pressure to pump out an increasing volume of content with less time and lower budgets. But we are seeing people become smarter about it, realising that not everything requires travel and a physical presence. Live shoots still have a role to play, but sometimes, existing images and video can be equally versatile and powerful.

Demand for video is on the rise

At Shutterstock, we are seeing more demand for video content than ever, and this is something we expect to continue even as people are able to interact freely again. As a medium, video has obvious advantages for brands. In a world saturated with messaging, moving images often have a greater ability to stop people from scrolling than still ones. Essentially, people come to us looking for footage that feels like something they would have shot themselves, even if it is historical or at least pre-Covid. It has been rewarding to see our extensive repository of video material used to create compelling, editorially-minded content.

In one example, Singapore’s OCBC Bank needed to produce top quality photography of its Chinese headquarters for marketing purposes, but could not go about the task in the usual way due to travel restrictions. Shutterstock Studios stepped in as a creative partner to complete the task from end to end, enlisting a local photographer and models and orchestrating the shoot according to the brief. As OCBC noted, the assets were uncompromising in their quality and formed the basis of a social media campaign in China and other markets.

We are also seeing an increased appetite for 3D content in parallel to the continued rise of online and social commerce. This is likely to become more prevalent and for time-poor creatives, whether at agencies, production houses or brands, being able to access readily available material has significant implications for efficiency. Again, we don’t see it supplanting original content altogether, but rather supporting it. In simple terms, crafting 3D imagery is an onerous process, and it isn’t always necessary to do it yourself from scratch.

The word ‘efficiency’ doesn’t always sit well with creative people for whom the priority is simply to create the best work they can. Yet it’s never been more important and applied correctly, it should be to the benefit, not the detriment, of the final creative product. One thing we have particularly enjoyed over the past year has been helping customers in the ideation process, reading between the lines of a brief to source material that addresses its nuances.

The business community is catching on to the need for content

It isn’t just global brands and agencies that are thinking differently about content and the creative process. More SMEs are recognising that content has an important role to play in fulfilling their business objectives. They are finding that today’s more flexible way of working makes it possible to create the fast-paced, high-quality content that consumers expect without the need for monster budgets. For many, the process has moved from being extremely daunting to something fun and rewarding. To align with this new way of working, Shutterstock launched Flex Subscriptions — an offering designed to adapt to changing requirements.

None of us knows when the pandemic will finally be behind us, and insecurity can inhibit creative thinking. We cannot afford to let this happen. Being creative, and having fun with the process, is something that will help lift us above these uncertain times, and inspire others around us. Creatives everywhere should pause for a moment to reflect on their remarkable achievements under these circumstances. They should also look to the future with optimism, secure in the knowledge that as demands and processes evolve, so do the tools to support them.

This opinion piece was contributed by Yvonne Januschka, Vice President, Shutterstock APAC

About the author

Yvonne Januschka, Vice President, Shutterstock APAC

Yvonne Januschka is the Vice President of APAC at Shutterstock, a leading global creative platform offering full-service solutions, high-quality content, and tools for brands, businesses and media companies. An entrepreneurial leader, Yvonne has helped many companies, including Group IMD, Hightail and WebEx amongst many others, formulate marketing campaigns, brand management plans and sales strategies to drive revenue growth. Yvonne has more than 20 years of experience in senior executive roles within leading technology organisations, including IBM, SkillSoft, and Aquent.