*Originally published by Little Black Book (lbbonline.com) on August 22, 2023.
Advertising, in one sense, is the art of being seen. If that’s true, however, it’s become an increasingly challenging proposition in recent years.
A fragmentation of media channels has coincided with an explosion in content that keeps users engaged - with the average person clocking in almost seven hours of screen time per day. But the challenge for marketers is cutting through amidst that unprecedentedly competitive landscape, and thumbs which are predisposed to keep scrolling.
In the recent past, the ‘ad break’ normally ensured a set amount of time where audiences’ eyeballs would be reliably available to commercials on linear TV. But in 2023 that feels almost archaic. Instead, “the right to be watched” is no longer a right; it’s a privilege.
So how do you earn it? Gear Seven, the video production company based in Nashville, specialises in creating branded and commercial video content, short films, and music videos which drive audiences to action. A large part of the studio’s success in that regard has been about finding ways to earn the right to be watched, bursting through the wall of media noise to deliver content which stands out and provides memorability.
To find out more about the studio’s approach - and how they balance cutting edge tech with creative quality - LBB caught up with Gear Seven’s founder Kirk Slawek alongside EP Ryan Atenhan.
Although audiences’ viewing habits have changed enormously in recent years, Ryan is quick to question LBB’s suggestion that ‘the ad break’ as a concept is entirely dead.
“It’s changed, no doubt, but the ‘ad break’ still has a meaningful existence. Whilst in the past it might have been during live TV, now it’s appearing in YouTube content and across our social media feeds”, he explains. “But now more than ever, quality conceptual design and production value is needed to cut through in such a saturated market. There’s a new level of importance based on hooking people within the first few seconds of your content to ensure they stay engaged”.
But in addition to effective hooks, content also needs to maintain a high benchmark of creative quality. “Everyone is creating right now, and new media is constantly being pushed out. If you aren’t setting your work apart and elevating it, all that will happen is it will blend in”, says Kirk. “You have to earn the right to be watched by breaking the norm and cutting through the noise, which Gear Seven loves to do through our cutting-edge cinematic technology, and storytelling-led creative ideas from our directors”.
Above: A commitment to creative quality runs all the way through Defy The Odds, a short film based on the true story of NASCAR driver Bill Lester and produced by the team at Gear Seven.
That drive for creative and narrative excellence means that there’s often a balance that needs to be struck. A modern campaign will typically involve a number of deliverables across different channels. It’s a key part of content creation in 2023, but it’s also a potential banana skin - will a hastily put-together TikTok edit dilute the overall quality of a campaign, for example?
“We always think very objectively when it comes to production value”, responds Ryan. “Sometimes we’ll push back, or reframe the thinking where appropriate. Sometimes if you have too many deliverables it can take away from the core messaging of the main deliverable.
“It’s always possible to create more. But the question I often ask is whether we’re making the most of what we already have”.
If content creators can get that level of quality right, then they’re a long way towards earning the right to be watched. However, great ideas are only a part of that equation. As both Kirk and Ryan go on to explain, cutting-edge technology is also a filmmaker’s best friend when it comes to both quality and efficiency.
By itself, cutting-edge technology is not a guarantee of filmmaking excellence. But it certainly helps. After all, there’s a direct correlation between the availability of technology and the amount of options available to content creators.
“In an industry that is changing a million miles a second with new tech everyday, we strive to not only keep up with it all”, he says. “On top of that we’re constantly educating ourselves on when, why, and how this technology is used to help our clients produce work they are proud of and that deserves to be seen”.
Building on that point, Ryan explains how his studio’s access to tech is helping to take ideas beyond reality. “We have a pretty vast toolbox, be it a specific robotics system or the ability to control an environment, which virtual production really lends itself to”, he says. “For example, you can ensure that you’re shooting a sunset scene for 12 hours at a time rather than stressing over getting a shot right before dusk. You can really think outside the box and do things you could never do in real life”.
Diving into the details, Kirk breaks down precisely how Gear Seven’s access to technology is making a difference to the quality of its output. “The ability to have so many in-house resources puts the tools at our fingertips in both an accessible and timely manner. Many of these tools, specifically Arc Studios and the virtual production offerings and the repeatability of our robots at Shift Dynamics, can actually save people time when shooting and give them the ability to create more work in less time”, he says. “Our other camera movement tools at Shift Dynamics, such as the AGITO or our pursuit vehicles, also give clients the opportunity to have their creative elevated in a way that may not have otherwise been achieved without those tools, giving their work a new level of originality”.
Above: The crisp cuts and visual flourishes of Gear Seven's Caraway work were made possible thanks in part to the studio's access to top filmmaking tech.
Ultimately, it’s in the interplay between technology and creativity that the formula for success in the modern media landscape can be found. Thanks to its enviable in-house resources, Gear Seven has found that formula.
And thanks to the alchemy of that industry-leading toolbox of tech and commitment to great creativity, it’s a studio which knows how to earn the right to be watched.