Publicis Groupe's Team One embraces lean productions, including iPhone recordings

The premium brand agency has produced work for most of its clients in the last month.

Companies and agencies are suffering the effects of COVID-19’s second front, economic paralysis. Team One, an agency that handles a range of luxury brands, including more than a few in the hard-hit travel sector, is keeping the production pipeline busy, without lavish shoots.

The Publicis Groupe premium brand agency handles both Lexus brand and Lexus dealers, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts and Cathay Pacific. While typically it serves the luxury market with bespoke research and careful methodologies, the agency quickly adapted to the current environment, going from a flawless-perfection ideal to more of a seat-of-your-pants model. 

"We are moving more quickly, and instead of thinking so much, everyone is in the mindset of, 'You give it a try,'" said Julie Michael, CEO of Team One, which is headquartered in Los Angeles. 

In the last month, Team One has produced work for most of its clients, including Lexus dealers, Jacuzzi, and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

"Clients are all refocusing on their customers and their people and the rest of it is dropping by the wayside," said Michael. "Reasons why not to do something used to get a pretty loud voice in the room."

Like so many agencies, Team One teams are connecting on Zoom, which not only equalizes everyone’s screen space but is democratizing voices and ideas. Team One’s production departments, which include VFX, CG and AR specialists, moved portable equipment to their homes in the days leading up to the sheltering mandates, while incorporating other cloud-based programs.

"Now that we can’t shoot, virtualizing production is the way forward," said Bryan Cook, Team One’s director of post production and VFX/executive producer. 

New spots for the Lexus Dealers Association went from concept to air in one week. Cook and colleagues repurposed existing Lexus footage because they could not shoot anything new. 

"We got all the dealers to record the voiceovers on their iPhones," said Cook. "We told them to go into a closet, shut the door and make sure there was no background noise." 

Work for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, which encompasses around 30 labels, has put more focus on supermarket retail and direct-to-consumer businesses, as the online-delivery part of their business is growing quickly. The company is also scaling back from programs that target out-of-home consumption venues, such as hotels and cruise ships. 

Jacuzzi is all about showing people the tubs in person at dealer showrooms. Marketing has migrated from dealer programs to creating new online assets, like the Jacuzzi AR app, where consumers can virtually explore the water flow, lights and the use of colored salts in the brand’s Arga luxury bathtub. 

Team One has invested a decade in defining the "Global Affluent Tribe" in research reports. The agency, which is relying on its existing insights database to form strategies and ideas, is doing a "ton of social listening" to keep up with affluents’ state of mind, noted Michael.

Michael believes that some of the changes instigated to keep business moving during coronavirus will be permanent. 

"We are open to wherever this goes in terms of the future of working," said Michael. "You can have accountability and engagement from a lot of different locations."

As far as output, she added: "People are making decisions quicker than before. I also think this use of mixed mediums is the future. Shoots will still be important but so are CG and VFX."

Cook acknowledged there is another benefit to working apart under these circumstances. "In a weird way, because everyone is in it together, there is not the guesswork about anyone’s emotional space because we are all in the same space," he explained. 

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