How to successfully manage international commercial shoots | Blog

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Planning a foolproof content production strategy is tricky, especially when it comes to producing content for multiple markets. While global marketing campaigns are great tools for global brands to have better control over their comms and budget, creating video or visual content for a global campaign can quickly turn into a production minefield. Coming up with a creative idea that works beyond borders, planning production across multiple regions, finding the right cast and locations… It’s all too easy to get it wrong at different stages of the production process.

Add to that the current global travel and safety restrictions making global commercial shoots even more complex. Thankfully, this short guide will help you navigate the intricacies that come with producing video or visual content for global campaigns.

Global thread

The right creative idea is integral to your brand’s global content production strategy. But the key is to come up with a creative idea that can stretch across your target markets. While you may decide to produce regional variants, or alternative scenes for specific markets, the underpinning creative idea must be based on a global truth that your audience can relate to across all your key markets.

It all comes down to knowing your audience: the commonalities they share, but also the differences that set them apart. You must find that common thread that links humans beyond cultural distinctions. For instance, Intel’s campaign Meet the Makers which has been running since 2015, highlights the stories of inventors and makers, who use technology to change the world. This video series, though stemming from personal stories, has a broad reach as it resonates with the universal notion of progress and innovation. 

Cultural check

Cultural checks are vital if you want your global content production strategy to be successful. Once you’ve come up with a good creative concept, have it thoroughly checked by local experts to ensure it resonates in each market. This will allow you to pick up on any possible cultural issues. There are different ways of getting your creative concept vetted. Most global brands will consult with local members of their team to get their feedback on the global creative idea. This is a first step, but it’s not necessarily enough. Local members of your team often lack objectivity as they are too close to your brand.

A better option is to carry out qualitative research in-market. This will give you a more precise local picture, as you can select local panel participants that are closer to your target audience. At Freedman we go one step further. Our qualitative research is carried out using our network of in-market specialists (strategists, creatives, planners, etc.). They will conduct an analysis of the market’s socio-economic landscape, marketing context, competitive landscape and target audience before providing very detailed feedback on how a creative could perform locally, and raising any potential cultural or commercial red flags.

No matter the process you choose to perform your local cultural check, it’s safer to have several creative routes checked during the process. This will allow local experts to compare the different routes with one another, and if a creative route is not acceptable for cultural or regulatory reasons, have other options to choose from without necessarily going back to the drawing board. If a specific route is liked but doesn’t work in a given market, you don’t necessarily have to scrap it altogether. You may be able to collaborate with your local experts to find ways to make it work – either by creating a local variant of the ad or tweaking the original idea. 

Considering clearance

Another element to consider when checking your idea locally is clearance. In some markets, broadcast content will need to be approved by clearance bodies or local stations prior to going on air. Make sure you’re informed on the rules and procedures in place in-market before going ahead with production. For instance, in France you cannot show footage of a person jogging on the side of the road, as this is deemed too dangerous. A jogger must be shown on a footpath. In Saudi Arabia, it is not suitable for women to show skin, so any footage or imagery featuring women will need to be respectful of this rule.  

In some markets you will be able to carry out pre-clearance, meaning that you can get in touch with the clearance bodies or stations ahead of the clearance procedure to have their feedback on work in progress scripts or storyboards. This allows you to get concepts and scripts approved ahead of production and for local clearance experts to advise you on any red flags.

 For more on clearance, make sure to read our blog on navigating broadcast clearance around the world or download our guide to broadcast clearance here.

Localisation, adaptation or re-creation?

Once your idea is good to go, you have different options as to how to adapt the concept across regions. 


You may decide that you will localise the ad for different target markets. This means that you will keep the same footage or visuals but adapt the copy and dub any voice over. If you go down the localisation route then you need to make sure that the footage works across all your target markets. This means that the setting, cast and decor needs to resonate with each one of your multiple markets.

Pros: this option is cost-efficient and quicker than recreating the ad in different markets.

Cons: Because you want the ad to work across all markets, it often results in a ‘global feel’ that can come across as too generic and lacking in local authenticity.


You can also decide to tweak and adapt the scripts and visual treatment so they’re more in line with local reality. This means that you will shoot a master version of your advert with alternative scenes to use in specific local markets.

Pros: this allows you to get more of a local look and feel.

Cons: the global concept might still feel a little too global, not targeted enough to the local market.


If you want to get even closer to local reality, you can choose to recreate the concept in multiple countries, with different scripts and treatments, but the same original concept. This option is more expensive, of course, but guarantees better performance in target markets, while maintaining consistency in messaging.

Planning the shoot

Once you’ve decided on the creative and localisation route you wish to take, then comes the time to plan your production. (A fundamental part of any global content production strategy!) Again, you are presented with different production options:

  • Single ad shot in one location with possible alternative scenes for specific markets 
  • Multiple ads shot in one location with different casts and scripts
  • Multiple ads shot in different locations

 If you choose the 3rd option, you can have one crew fly from one location to the other for time and cost efficiency, or if you are pressed for time you do have the option to organise the shoots at the same time, using different crews. It is important to note that in the current Covid-19 world, due to travel restrictions you will very likely have to use multiple local crews. So, to make the adverts as brand consistent as possible, you must ensure that all crews are briefed very precisely on the style and creative treatment.

All documentation and processes must be stored centrally:

  • call sheets
  • schedules
  • scripts, storyboards, shot list and references
  • locations and tech scout information
  • local authorisations
  • crew and talent contracts, including usage fees and renewal information
  • clearance communications

Any amends to the scripts or schedule will need to be communicated promptly with local teams so they can adapt their plans accordingly.

Choosing the right cast

When casting local talent ensure you get local experts to approve the casting. If local experts cannot attend the audition, then make sure you share a recording of the audition so they can confirm their choice. They will know best who to choose based on local aesthetics, ethnicities or accents.

The choice of costumes must also be checked by local experts. While fashion is becoming more and more globalised, there are some local nuances. A hipster look might seem cool in New York but scruffy in Tokyo. In some countries you will have a choice between traditional or modern dress; consult your local experts to understand which attire would best fit with your local audience. And when it comes to traditional dress, such as saris or head-wraps, they must be worn a certain way, and different prints and patterns will have distinct significance. Tattoos are a big no-no in many cultures, as they are often associated with prison or criminality.

Ensure that your content production strategy includes local experts with experience of selecting the right cast for global ads.

Location, location, location

Again, local experts can help you choose the right sets, for more authenticity. When scouting for local sets, make sure to include local experts in your decision process. The set decor must also be created with local in mind. Tastes, in terms of decoration and furniture, can differ greatly from one country to another.

If you are using an international crew that doesn’t know the local culture beyond touristic trails, make sure that they provide a real picture of the country they are filming and steer away from postcard clichés. For example, if shooting in Paris, you do not have to show the Eiffel tower – a French audience will recognise Paris without its most famous landmark. Think of what the local audience want to see, and how best to use the local set to tell your story.

Lights, camera, action!

Forward thinking is necessary for any content production strategy, especially when it comes to the specifics of shooting on location. On the days of shooting, ensure that you have a detailed schedule and list of all the scenes you need as well as your local shooting permits. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, if using local parks or public places you’ll also need permission to lock off the zone to stop people coming in and to keep the crew safe. Make sure that you factor in local daylight times in your schedule, so that any outdoor shots are prioritised. Consider the local weather, and, if possible, have a plan in case of bad weather. If using an international crew that does not speak the local language, it is worth hiring a local director that can speak English and help direct local actors or models.

If you have chosen the localisation route, and have decided to shoot one advert which will get dubbed and translated into multiple languages, here are some things to consider:

  • Avoid showing people talking on camera in close-ups, dubbed dialogue doesn’t look very natural.
  • For product shots, make sure you shoot packages in different languages – this will save you money and time on postproduction.
  • If a scene is likely to pose a problem in a specific market (for cultural or regulatory reasons), make sure that you get alternative shots.


If you are carrying out multiple shoots in different countries, it is best to carry out your postproduction at once, to ensure the creative treatment is as consistent as possible. Make sure that you supply clear brand guidelines ahead of the postproduction, with as much detail as possible around fonts, logo placement, grading and retouching. The choice of the music must be vetted by locals. For voice over recordings, it is best to have a local client approve the recording on the session – it is now quite easy to set up remote VO sessions, so the client can easily dial in and sign off the voice over directly. This will avoid having to record the voice over again should there be any changes.

Once the edits are finalised, make sure that you get local experts to check the files as they may spot some typos or small issues that weren’t picked up during the cultural check or pre-clearance stage. After validation by your local team, you can send the files for clearance or directly to the stations or channels.

You’ll have to keep track of usage rights, both for talent and music. Ensure that you keep this information in a central place. Also, set reminders prior to the usage rights running out, so you have the option to renew these should you decide to extend your campaign.

How we can help

We hope you found this short guide to international commercial shoots useful, and that you can use it to help plan your global content production strategy. As global creative production experts, we specialise in producing strong global and local marketing content, from creative ideation all the way through to delivery, across all media, with a wealth of experience in planning and conducting global video and photo shoots. To ensure that we get as close to your local audience as possible, we use our local network of experts to help you validate your creative ideas, casting and sets. Our team manages the entire clearance process for you, liaising directly with local clearance bodies and stations, to make sure you get your creative right first time, every time.

We’re also fully trained to respect coronavirus-related health and safety restrictions, ensuring that local crews and talent stay safe, while constantly communicating with clients remotely.

So, if you’d like to discuss any upcoming video or photo shoots, get in touch today.

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