In-house agency Kernel reimagines brand messaging with video at scale

Discover how Kernel leveraged the power of Adobe to turn 1 TV spot into 1000+ and reimagined the workflow for localized video campaigns at scale.

Digital image of cut out houses and trees surrounded by. blue sky.

Kernel has a bona fide track record of producing remarkable work under extraordinary circumstances. As the full-service internal creative agency for Spectrum Reach, the advertising sales business of Charter Communications, Inc., Kernel produces tens of thousands of commercials annually for Spectrum Reach and its clients. With a highly scalable infrastructure and a matrix of creative professionals, Kernel has the unique opportunity to be efficient and create local, customized creative. This is a critical part of how Spectrum Reach is able to help small businesses show their strength or big businesses show their localism.

When tasked with developing the creative for Spectrum Reach’s brand relaunch in the middle of 2020, Kernel was faced with several unique challenges. There was a need to reintroduce who Spectrum Reach is and what the company does, while reinforcing its commitment to helping local businesses and their communities grow stronger together. Kernel signed up to create a hyperlocal campaign that would involve scaling the production of an on-air spot into 36 core versions of 30-second spots, each needing to be further localized to reflect the market’s unique audience mix. This revealed a substantial number of needs for how to customize the messaging — not to mention a deliverables list north of 600 elements — all within a turnaround time of about 12 weeks. Always pushing the boundaries of where the art and science of workflow collide, the end result presented an opportunity for infinite versions to be created quickly and efficiently.

Due to social-distancing restrictions, Kernel (spread across 41 states in the U.S.) was not able to conduct full-scale video shoots. Adding to this, there was a need to find a way to customize the creative quickly to allow the Spectrum Reach brand to speak to each of the different markets, demographics, and business categories, such as automotive, food, and retail. There was also a need to incorporate Spectrum Reach’s local clients directly into the creative.

While Kernel always tries to accommodate requests for personalization, the creative agency had not found a solution that made it easy to do this at scale without additional on-location productions. Fortuitously, via Adobe’s toolset, Kernel’s creative leads came up with an After Effects and CCE Library workflow that massively reduced the effort to create localized versions of video content. Thanks to this innovation, the entire production became truly scalable, allowing for thousands of versions of the spot to be created in a record amount of time.

Watch the Spectrum Reach relaunch story, showcasing our new workflow and how we used it to create myriad ways for our creative to be customized at a local level.

From storyboard to prototype to signed-off creative

The efforts on this project started with a script. Once it was approved, Kernel’s design team began to plan out the visuals. After several iterations, the team developed a fine-tuned prototype for the TV spot, which featured illustrations in the background and live action in the foreground. Adobe Stock was used to play with video footage and define the type of shots that would be required, essentially creating a beefed-up storyboard.

Every time a new version of the prototype was needed, more details were added and tweaked to continue refining the animations. By shooting a variety of actors on green screen, Kernel captured different types of customers for each business category. When the creative was signed off, it was time for the next part of the project (which would go a long way to adding value to this campaign): the localization conundrum.

Screenshot of a timeline in after effects.

The After Effects template enabled editors to choose business props and face masks to include in the final spot.

Creating hyperlocal, customized TV commercials in 36 markets

Since localization was critical, Kernel knew the TV creative needed to be easily editable. A plug-and-play was built using After Effects templates that allowed any editor to customize a 30-second spot in minutes, wherever they were.

To effectively localize the spot, each location would require an editor to insert a unique initial map animation, a local ad that was shown on a few different screens, a postcard graphic, voice-over, localized text, and a closing shot. Spots also were customized to represent three different types of businesses, starring three different consumers, both with and without masks.

Pre-compositions and expressions in a single After Effects project ensured that editors could just replace what they needed and choose variables from a drop-down menu to apply them to the entire project. Working with pre-renders and providing guide layers also meant that Kernel saved time and left less room for error in the customizations. Apart from After Effects, Kernel used Adobe Stock and a few pre-produced skyline shots, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Audition, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Adobe InDesign.

Adobe XD was also a big help, as it enabled us to collaborate in real time. Kernel’s team could share cloud files to live edit in groups, and designers scheduled video conferences to work within the same XD file, which emulated the feeling of being in an actual creative workspace. It also improved cross-team collaboration and ensured consistency across multiple platforms with the ability to see mood boards as well as web pages, print, and digital design concepts all on one board.

At the end of production, it was packaged up, along with the main localization project, and sent out to Kernel’s editors across more than 30 markets.

Photo of 3 people carrying props.

The After Effects template enabled editors to choose business props and face masks to include in the final spot.

Customizing content during a pandemic

The rate and volume at which Kernel was able to scale the localization and customization of this creative is something truly unique to how Kernel as an agency is built.

It’s not unusual to use Adobe Creative Cloud for this kind of project, but with most in-person production on pause during the pandemic, Adobe’s unique products, tools, and capabilities enabled Kernel to share the files with team members across the country and achieve results — 36 core versions that can be versioned in infinite ways — in just a matter of weeks. Kernel was making customized spots faster than they could be approved, and a new precedent for how an internal creative agency can scale and think about messaging at a national and local level was set.