Shutterstock’s creative director Flo Lau predicts the future for creatives in a post-pandemic world

Shutterstock’s creative director Flo Lau predicts the future for creatives in a post-pandemic world

We’ve been in this ‘new world’ for some time now.

For brands, there has been an added pressure to be bold in their marketing communications whilst remaining sensitive to the current climate.

For the creatives tasked with producing this material, they’ve been forced to become more innovative, flexible and resourceful, exploring new methods of content creation and audience engagement in a world where we’ve been confined to our homes.

While the pandemic will pass, and lockdowns will lift, I believe that many of these emerging trends are here to stay.

Creatives always need to be on top of what is happening because things are always changing.

Things we work on this week might not be relevant the next – never has that been more apparent. Moving forward, we must build resilience and flexibility within our creative processes to bounce back and move quickly to change plans and strategies.

Furthermore, we must keep in mind that brands are now expected to be a voice for society, to go beyond sympathy and take actionable leaps, creating change.

A recent survey of UK Twitter users found that an overwhelming majority do not want brands to return to their normal tone of voice—another sign that these industry shifts are not going away.


Rewind to the beginning of lockdown: At Shutterstock, we experienced significant shifts in what our customers were searching for on our platform.

Creatives began shifting away from high-quality, professionally shot content and towards more user-generated content in the name of authenticity.

Brands have been privy to the importance of achieving the right tone during these uncertain and confusing times, wanting external communications to be consumed and connected with on a human level.

Therefore, early on there were a lot of searches for COVID-19 related content on our website, with customers downloading imagery to help visualise the invisible enemy. A week later we saw a spike of WFH images, empty spaces, cities, and streets to reflect the ‘new normal’.

Our editorial content of healthcare workers has also been in huge demand as brands and production have looked to reflect what’s happening now in society authentically.


In an effort to appear authentic and timely, brands are also realising that, in most cases, it’s more important to get your message out there quickly, rather than waiting for something to be as pixel-perfect and polished as you may have done previously. 

We’ve witnessed this in the production of video content for marketing, TV, and film—which has proven already-existing stock content to be critical.

A big trend we’ve experienced is user-generated content captured through mobile phones during lockdown—the emphasis is far more prominently on effective messaging over studio standards.

Social media has increased this demand for speed of content and therefore the need to produce branded short-form videos and visual assets for platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok has meant brands have relied on content that is raw, and often more readily available.


Content creators have been forced to adapt amidst the pandemic as lockdowns limited their ability to shoot new content. 

Creatives across the industry have embraced pre-existing imagery, as well as audio and visual content, to navigate current social distancing barriers. In addition to being cost-effective, they’ve also found this content to be of high quality.

For example, London-based production company Cut+Run realised the benefits of using stock to create client campaigns that were at a standstill due to the current environment. 

Beyond the marketing industry, Luke Halls Studio leveraged stock content for the background footage for a performance by Dua Lipa from her London flat as part of Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show: At Home Edition. 

Queen and Adam Lambert took a similar approach when they used content from Shutterstock’s library to reinvent “We Are The Champions” as “You Are The Champions” to celebrate the UK’s frontline workers. 

This kind of content will prove worthwhile to creatives across the board in the future, helping to quicken and improve creative projects.


It is important for creative storytelling to target the right audience. Luckily, with the data and analytic capabilities that are available, this can be easy to achieve.

What brands need is a good combination of creative backed by data.

The pandemic has meant individuals’ screen time has increased, along with the use of devices like virtual assistants and smart speakers. This is giving brands a plethora of data on our shopping behaviours, interests and more to use when producing campaigns and ensuring the tone of voice is accurate for the audience.

Listening to and responding to what consumers want is key in the world we live in—now and for years to come.


The pandemic has dispersed our workforce, spreading our team out across the globe. But, like many organisations, we’ve actually become closer and more collaborative as a result. From our internal teams to our vendors, virtual conferencing tools have allowed us to meet with others in the comfort of our own homes.

We’re talking with others in their kitchen or living room, surrounded by pictures of their families and friends.

We’ve been able to bond on a more human level because of this, and better relate to and work with one another to create better content. Remote work has also provided us the flexibility to hop on a quick call with our colleagues in different time zones, and actually diversify our talent in the process. This has led to varied and unique teams that bring creative and innovative ideas to the table—a change leaders should plan to maintain for years to come.

We are undergoing a tremendous transformation as the pandemic forces brands and creatives to push the envelope when it comes to developing new content.

Many have found these new methods and techniques to not only be more creative and inventive, but also more efficient. 

As we begin to recover and move towards a more ‘normal’ society, creatives can expect to see many of these changes—from workflow to strategy and more—remain.

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