EVCOM Clarion Awards reveal pandemic effect

Image from Black Lives Matter video in EVCOM Clarion Awards

A look at how filmmakers responded to the challenge of Covid-19.

The EVCOM Clarion Awards 2021 offer an early view of some of the best brand films made over the first year after lockdown. EVCOM asked us to view all the entries and find out how brand video professionals responded to the challenge of Covid-19.

The pandemic effect

Covid-19 themes dominated the Clarions entries. There were films about the pandemic, such as Covid recruitment films for the NHS. Others were about something else but the topic was affected by Covid, like Mark by Raw London for British Red Cross. Others still were about something unconnected, but production was affected by restrictions, like Launch film for Coalition Against Gambling Ads by Pukka Films. Creative responses were extremely varied.

Fighting back with creativity

When lockdown was first announced, it took a while to work out what was possible. After a couple of weeks of virtual silence, creativity unfolded in three stages.

In the first Covid wave Zoom, Teams/Skype and UGC content prevailed, such as Unilever's World Mental Health Day by Plastic Pictures or Body Shop's Every Voice Raised by Media Zoo. Often intercut with archive and stock footage, they felt authentic because Zoom calls are the real deal.

In the second stage, brands and producers adapted. Online video events and animation came to the fore as lockdown-proof production methods. Traditional animations included Heehaw's Ninja Phoenix and DJ and the Gloopy Glop for the National Deaf Children's Society, while innovations like motion capture technology drove more experimental films like Isolation (Studio Giggle). Some scripts recreated Zooms in dramas, with mixed results. It's not an easy style to get right because the audience may not feel the authenticity of a real video call.

Image of AMR is Now video
Click to watch AMR is Now

AMR is now by 3angrymen for the FAIRR Initiative was a fine example of how to blend text, stock images and a well-crafted audio mix, all at short notice. It has an urgent, journalistic tone that matches the growing health emergency of antimicrobial resistance.

Stage three was enabled by safe shooting. Social distancing prevented a return to pre-pandemic shooting, but the screen industries had developed working practices to minimise risk. One popular creative solution was to use a spoken word poet, used by Royal British Legion (Coming Home by Tinderflint & Cubaka), Anne Frank Trust (I imagine that... by TMAX Productions) and Unilever (There Is No Finish Line by Plastic Pictures).

Beyond Covid

Clarions entries covered a huge range of themes, consistent with recent years' entries. The pandemic often made issues less distinct, so mental health blended with child safety and women's rights.

Black Lives Matter was the standout theme moving to the mainstream. HSBC (with Media Zoo) and Deloitte (The Edge Picture Company) were among many big brands putting BLM at the centre of their narrative. Other well-established themes remained essentials, including sustainability (Unilever/Plastic Pictures, Estee Lauder), gender equality (National Galleries of Scotland/Heehaw), mental health (Jewish Care/Inspired Films), disability inclusion (Volvo/Tinderflint, Media Blaze & CAA) and safety (Standard Chartered/The Edge Picture Company).

Good brand videos engage audiences for longer

Brand film makers were not afraid to let a film breathe. The average duration in the Clarions was 2m 31s, ranging from 5 seconds to 19 minutes - longer than popular videos on LinkedIn (1m 01s) and Instagram (41s). Creative freedom is one of the hallmarks that distinguishes the brand film industry from advertising, and one of the reasons it attracts talented film-makers.

It seems right to finish on a positive note with Sistas in Strength, made by Studio Giggle and women graduating from Account3's BAME Dare to Lead course. It's a film that doesn't just talk about empowerment, it puts it into practice by giving abuse survivors the tools to create the animation. It's well worth a watch.

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