Human Element: Going Beyond the Role of ‘Vendor’ for Creative Services

For nearly 15 years, Los-Angeles-based Human Element has handled most everything a media production requires, from VFX and motion graphics, to audio mixing and color correction.

Specializing in commercials for TV broadcast and digital campaigns, the company also offers up a full suite of creative services, along with music and sound design, covering a wide swath of media applications. And above all else, the company has learned to adapt to the rapidly changing digital needs of clients.

David Gielan, co-owner and managing director of Human Element, spoke with the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) about how Human Element has evolved over the years, the potential presented by tech like virtual reality and high-dynamic range, and what’s on the horizon in the creative services space.

MESA: Human Element has been a production mainstay since 2003. What are the biggest changes the company has seen in recent years when it comes to the needs of clients?

Gielan: When Human Element began all those years ago, our focus was primarily providing top notch production services with a focus on national television commercials, and although that remains one of our core strengths, visual media has grown to permeate every corner of the marketing landscape.

Just as the industry itself, Human Element has learned to evolve with times and diversified our capabilities to meet any content need, whether that be digital campaigns, animation, social media strategy, influencer marketing, or cross promotional network content. Ultimately, we can offer a more holistic approach to our clients and save them from having a different vendor for every project, especially when we can easily do it all while still providing a less expensive option.

MESA: Human Element is host to five unique studio facilities, two of them recent additions. What do each of these facilities offer, what makes them unique?

Gielan: Human Element’s post production division is a full-service, state-of-the-art visual and audio solution provider encompassing two complete editing suites and six independent post production studios in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, and a top-down facility based in Philadelphia. Each facility offers a wide range of equipment and capabilities to meet any project need. However, when it comes to a unifying thread between them all, Human Element’s post arm provides a clean, comfortable, state of the art experience focused on keeping stress low and ease of use high. With a talented staff who always goes above and beyond, every client experience is always paramount.

MESA: How do digital direct campaigns differ from those for traditional broadcast, and what do brands need to keep in mind when tackling the digital space?

HE MUG Gielan: This question really gets at the core of the evolution we’ve seen in marketing strategies. Today’s brands are smarter than ever and are utilizing new tech to deliver an unprecedented level of information about their customers and their marketing. This pool of data has resulted in better customer targeting, which has in turn resulted in increasingly effective creative and attribution during the media run.

Certain aspects of direct response campaigns fit integrate exceptionally well into this type of process. From an information standpoint, direct marketing techniques offer a level of tracking and accountability that is very appealing. And from a sales perspective, it can elicit a higher level of response compared to a more general, brand focused spot. Human Element specializes in a hybrid approach that employs select techniques from direct marketing, while staying true to our client’s brand.

So while traditional TV campaigns have a wider reach, they also have a much wider demographic spread in their audience. On digital platforms, brands can focus their messaging precisely on their target customer. There has never been a time where consumers engage so directly with brand content, where they are directly inspired to make an immediate purchase.

With digital you know exactly who you are talking to, so you can tailor your messaging to create a more effective ad for every segment of your customer base. If a brand is simply re-deploying their TV creative on digital channels, they are missing an incredible opportunity. Brands task a team like Human Element to craft the most effectively targeted message.

MESA: 4K screens with HDR capabilities, audio solutions that go beyond 7.1 channels … how does Human Element tackle these constant AV advances, keep up to date with what’s in the market?

Gielan: At Human Element, we always pride ourselves on being a team with our finger on the pulse of the latest technology which allows us to meet any project need. Whether you are needing to shoot your project in 8K or your final product needs to be a full VR immersive experience, we have the expertise and staff to push your project to the next level and always ahead of the curve. The industry is at a really exciting point and we always love being part of the latest innovations and cutting edge projects.

MESA: What are some of Human Element’s favorite use case examples, where clients have made especially good use of the company’s services?

Gielan: When thinking about recent success stories, the first that comes to mind was our work for the organic meal kit subscription service Green Chef. With an already crowded market, Green Chef needed creative that would really differentiate them from their competitors, and since it was their first foray in to television and being a relatively unknown company, establishing their brand voice was paramount.

We were able to create a campaign focused around our national spot “I Am” which was then translated to all digital formats for a complete holistic voice while controlling the brand narrative on every medium. Originally projected to have a 2% conversion, our DR campaign for Green Chef proved extremely successful and ultimately exceeded expectation with a full 7%, 5% points over the original estimates. There is no better feeling for us when we are able to walk a client through a critical phase of their evolution and confound expectation.

MESA: What’s next for Human Element, what can we look forward to from the company in the future?

Gielan: It’s a very exciting time for us at Human Element. The industry is always evolving and so are we. We have an amazing opportunity to provide content in so many new avenues and there seems to always be some new technology on the horizon that allows us to create something fresh and different. Immersive experiences, virtual reality, Dolby Atmos sound, etc. The sky is the limit. That being said, our next great endeavor is to create our own original content. We produced “Broadcasting Happiness” for PBS last year and have been in development on several projects this year. We love what we do and are always looking for new ways to reach people, whether that be telling someone else’s story, or our own.