Innovation SABRE Awards — North America 2022
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Ben Forder revamped That Lot’s video operation when Covid hit — which increased the importance of video communications but shut down production shoots as well. A seasoned video producer, Forder quickly provided the training and technology his 39-person team (which he grew from two over his five years with the Weber Shandwick-owned agency) to be remote video experts; shoots from individuals’ homes, animation, and quality live streams for social became department focuses. The shift reaped an HSBC UK three-part educational series to help parents with children at home and Drag Streams for Amazon Prime UK, an unscripted show aimed at increasing LGBTQ+ content and celebrating Pride. The strategy worked, with video revenue up during the lockdown.
How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
Do you think the global pandemic has made the industry more innovative?
Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Who most influences how innovative a brand's engagement is?
How do you define innovation?
Introducing something new and unexpected and working outside traditional comfort zones.
What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” really stood out for me. It was a superb, touching campaign, completely necessary and relevant for right now. In addition to the hero videos, it existed across a number of different platforms, used hashtags brilliantly to keep the conversation going and led by example with donations to non-profits.
Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
The massive and sudden pivot that we had to make in the face of the pandemic. At a moment’s notice we re-tooled our equipment and workflows, re-trained our team in the art of remote production, maintaining quality and creativity levels throughout. I’m also really proud of creating and building our in-house filming studio, innovative in that it’s designed very differently from a traditional facility, with social media and online video the core focus. High-tech and versatile, it has enabled us to produce some incredible content for a broad range of clients that a couple of years ago we couldn’t have even imagined.
Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
I admire Lana Wachowski, director of The Matrix series, Cloud Atlas and Sense8, amongst others. As well as creating amazing new techniques in filmmaking, new rigs, new effects, new hardware and software, she also has a completely unique and original approach to narrative and storytelling. Every film she makes, either alone or together with her sister, Lilly Wachowski, feels groundbreaking and exciting and makes me think differently about the entire medium. Trends tend to filter down from feature films to social/communications video, providing a constant source of inspiration.
How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I change the lighting in my office or room − I am a big lighting nerd and believe that the colour of light has the power to affect mood and creativity. In addition, watching content on different screens in different rooms helps it feel new or different.
What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Don’t be afraid to take risks! Move faster and be more agile – working together with in-house teams enables constant upskilling and inspiration.
What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Definitely performing on stage – working in front of the camera, rather than behind it!
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
Binge re-watching older television shows has helped me to relax. Plus, everything Russell T Davies has ever made, including Doctor Who, It’s a Sin and Years and Years. I also loved all the livestreams, from Sophie Ellis-Bexter’s kitchen performances, Oti Mabuse’s dance classes, Myra DuBois’ drag nights through to live classes on meditation. This content delivered a real sense of connection, showcased the power and relevance of live streaming and provided inspiration for my work.
What's your favourite time of day and why?
I’ve always been a night person – but if I had to pick an exact time then definitely 6:55pm, five minutes before we often go live on a broadcast and the moment you can feel the adrenaline and excitement sizzling off the entire crew. It’s akin to that first dip on a rollercoaster – you have to trust yourself that you have everything thoroughly planned and prepped, and from there just hang on for the ride! It’s exhilarating for everyone involved.
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