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From High Gloss to Grassroots

Last updated: 7th May 2024
Author: Borden Li

From High Gloss to Grassroots

The New Dress Code for Social Media Authenticity

If you scroll through today's social media, you'll certainly get a feel that content which feels grass-roots and user-generated videos is taking over. This kind of everyday material is easily captured on your phone, marking a shift in user preference towards "authentic and real" content that viewers find more relatable and trustworthy compared to polished, high-budget productions. This change reflects a new norm where professionally crafted visuals, once the pride of the TV era, often feel "out of place.

The Shift to Low-Fi Production in 2024

In 2024, we're witnessing a pivotal shift as brands on social media increasingly abandon glossy TV-era commercials in favour of low-fi production. This movement isn't just about cutting budgets—it's a strategic pivot towards authenticity. On platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, where short-form content dominates, low-end productions thrive while high-end, glossy ad like content struggles to gain traction. This trend underscores a broader shift in marketing strategies, where relatability trumps sleek production values, mostly on short-form video platforms.

Trademe's TikTok Ad (Source: TikTok May 2024)
Trademe's New Campaign Launch in April 2023 - Trade Me In With The New

Understanding the Consumer Psyche Behind Authenticity

  1. Genuine Connection: Today's viewers crave content that mirrors their daily lives. The glossy treatment of high end commercials are nowhere as "real" as the raw content mostly seen on short-form video platforms.
  2. Savvy Consumers: They know when they're being sold to and prefer a down-to-earth approach. People can spot an ad in a split second.
  3. Strategy Over Costs: The focus isn’t just on reducing costs, but on crafting stories that resonate personally.

Authenticity vs. Polish in Influencer Marketing

The authenticity of content has become increasingly valuable to consumers, often surpassing the appeal of traditional, polished advertisements. This shift is particularly evident in the realm of influencer marketing, where content that mirrors everyday reality tends to resonate more deeply with audiences.

Key Factors Driving the Shift to Authenticity:

  1. Consumer Fatigue: Over-saturation of polished, ad-like content has made traditional advertisements feel insincere.
  2. Perceived Genuineness: Influencer content that includes personal, less curated posts appears more genuine and relatable.
  3. Trust and Loyalty: This authenticity fosters trust and loyalty among followers, enhancing the effectiveness of endorsements.

The Double-Edged Sword of Low-Fi Production

Just because every other brand is playing “dressing down,” it doesn’t mean you should too. The side effects of dressing down your brand look could potentially downgrade your brand value. Here’s a look at both sides:

The Good of Low-Fi Productions

  • Brand Alignment: If the brand value matches the particular influencer or style of the platform, it can leverage this and blend in better, reducing the likelihood of ad skipping.
  • Engagement: People are less likely to skip ads that camouflage into their environment, which is easier for some to digest.

The Bad of Low-Fi Production

  • Brand Devaluation: Dressing down too much can dilute a brand’s prestige, especially if associated with luxury.
  • Quality Fatigue: High frequency of low-quality content cannot sustain viewer interest in the long run.

The Balanced Approach

Finding where your brand sits is crucial. Whether you're marketing economical vehicles or luxury goods, understanding your audience and maintaining a level of production quality that reflects your brand’s image is key.

Consider blending high-tech editing, VFX, and scripting to enhance low-fi content and retain a polished feel where appropriate. Introducing a sudden change of style can create a visual twist in the story, which has proven to be very popular in short-form content. This approach not only captivates the audience but also aligns with the evolving expectations of viewers who appreciate both authenticity and creativity in their media consumption.

This strategic blend allows brands to navigate the fine line between authenticity and professionalism, ensuring that their content resonates with the desired audience while maintaining the integrity of their brand image. By adapting to these nuanced demands, brands can successfully engage with their market across various platforms, creating impactful and memorable content that stands out in a crowded digital landscape.

Ford NZ Tik Tok Ad 2024
Ford NZ Tik Tok Ad 2024
Ford NZ YouTube 2024
Ford NZ YouTube 2024

The Trend

We found brands are experimenting with their approach on different platforms. Many are opting to play down on TikTok to meet the low-value expectations of the audience there, while placing their higher production ads on platforms where such quality is more appreciated and effective. This tailored strategy ensures that each piece of content is optimally positioned to engage its intended audience, leveraging the unique characteristics and user behaviours of each platform.

By carefully selecting where to invest in high-quality production versus where to adopt a more grassroots approach, brands can maximise their reach and impact, ensuring that they meet their marketing objectives while resonating with diverse consumer preferences.

The strategy of combining high-quality productions with regular, low-fi social videos is a creative way to enhance engagement on platforms where mixed content performs well. The New World (NZ) ad you mentioned illustrates how reframing agency-level work from TV (16x9) to vertical can be a clever move. Incorporating dual-screen inserts into the composition effectively uses the vertical space, creating a tailored, visually appealing ad that fits the platform’s aesthetic while maintaining the professional quality.

This balanced approach helps brands maintain a high production value while adapting their content for different audience expectations across platforms. It provides an opportunity to creatively repurpose existing high-end assets in a way that aligns with current digital trends, enhancing the reach and impact of marketing campaigns.

New World Ad on TikTok 2024 Campaign Parallel Parking (6.3M views)
New World Ad on YouTube 2024 Campaign Parallel Parking (232K views)

The Persistent Value of Professional Content

While the market shifts towards a "low-end" style, the professional value of content production is not obsolete. High-quality production skills in traditional media like TV series, movies, and high-end commercials fast-track production efficiency and appeal to an audience that values professionalism. Sleek ads still have their place, especially in formats that respect your brand’s heritage and values.

Conclusion: Embracing Authentic Connections

The trend towards authenticity in digital content is a profound shift in how brands and consumers interact online. By allowing influencers to share genuine experiences, brands can create more meaningful connections with their audience. This approach enhances consumer engagement and fosters a sense of community and trust that polished advertisements cannot achieve. In the age of digital authenticity, real connections are the currency of choice.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the messy world of low-fi productions requires a robust strategy, not just for generating traffic and exposure but also for maintaining the value of your brand through a quality appearance.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach in this dynamic environment. Brands may find themselves making trade-off decisions between reach and quality, or they may choose to invest more to adopt multiple styles, catering to different segments of the market.

One fundamental rule remains unchanged: you must get close to your customers. Just as you would dress appropriately for an occasion, your content must align with the expectations and preferences of your audience. By strategically choosing when and where to simplify your content versus when to enhance its quality, you can effectively engage with diverse consumer bases across various platforms. This tailored approach ensures that your brand not only maintains its integrity but also resonates deeply and authentically with your target audiences, fostering lasting connections and driving meaningful engagement.

Author: Borden Li
Last updated: 7th May 2024

About the Author

Borden is an Auckland-based, tech-savvy digital producer/director specialising in narrative video storytelling for brands and businesses. With a personality of ENFJ, he is a lover of productivity and a fast video consumer who does not skip any interesting ads.

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