By James McAllister, Head of Production, Videojug Production and Media.
The explosive growth of online video, underpinned by greater broadband access and lower production costs, has created a major opportunity for businesses to communicate with their staff, each other and customers.
Online video is a widely accepted entertainment medium, with the rise and growth of YouTube, IPlayer, and various TV catch up services. Back in Jan 2009 29.6 million people in the UK accessed online video (comScore).
It’s within the grasp of most businesses to promote themselves via short-form video, typically two-three minutes. These are our thoughts, having produced over 50,000 short videos since 2006, and hundreds of brand funded films.
The principal advantage of brand funded video over other forms of digital advertising is the level of engagement, i.e. holding a user’s interest for 3 minutes of engaging content has a greater impact than just watching an ad.
This is becoming increasingly significant as microsites are becoming less effective and more expensive to promote. This is evidenced by the rise of campaigns linking to a social media sites rather than purpose built campaign microsites.
So, how do you get value for money, without compromising your brand?
1. Identify your objectives
What do you want to the film to do, whom do you wish to talk to, where will the film live? Is it better for your brand to speak to fewer users with a targeted clear message or “go viral”?
All these factors will greatly affect the style and tone. For example, users will find overtly branded content interesting on a corporate site but unacceptable on YouTube. Search data will give an excellent insight into what people are actively seeking out on the web. Can your brand help solve these needs?
2. What makes it engaging?
Watchable video is often either entertaining (visually stimulating/amusing/remarkable) or features engaging individuals (real or fictitious) or are made to a production specification that is impressive.
Each of the above generally requires some form of scripting/creative treatment and investment in pre & post production, which costs money. So if your objective is to create something that is “viral” (i.e. driving peer-to-peer distribution) then invest in some professional scripting.
Make a series of films – this tends to drive down the unit cost and give a better ROI.
4. Embrace new technology
Technology has moved on massively in recent years. Where you used to use a £100,000 camera that needed four people to operate – you can now use a £5,000 camera that needs one person to operate it.
5. Spend money where it counts
Do you really need TV production values when the films will be compressed to go online in a smaller window? You won’t get the benefit of an expensive camera with incredible levels of contrast and detail. Better spend what budget you have on bright, impactful animations and a great, interesting location that appropriately conveys your brand attributes.
If you are limited to using company executives talking to camera, remember that most people aren’t cut out to perform on camera! So be careful about casting your own executives in speaking roles. Try and look at your spokespeople objectively. Is he/she articulate, presentable, have good vocal variety? If he/she fails on any one of these counts, then consider doing some coaching before you film. Or find someone else!
Celebrities are expensive! If you are tight on budget, avoid celebrities unless they are doing it pro-bono (some charities manage this).
If you want to create a high quality specification for lower levels of cost, make sure that you use professional lighting. Also, if shooting outdoors, do it in sunshine – this will hugely improve the quality of the finished product. Finally, if it is an interview, shooting the action from two camera angles will allow a TV-quality edit that is far slicker and saves lots of time on the day, allowing you to shoot more footage.
Humour is a prime technique for engaging a viewer. But you must use it only when it is appropriate to the subject matter and the brand. If you do want to use humour, then use a script-writer or speaker that is genuinely funny/amusing. Homespun humour usually doesn’t work.
They are the simplest way to explain complex messaging in a simple and engaging manner. If a simple diagram or chart shows what you do better than a minute’s explanation, then get that diagram animated.
Voice Overs cost money – it is cheaper if you simply get the performers/experts talking to camera. But if you want a Voice-over done, you should ask the production house to provide a selection of examples at a fixed cost for the whole batch. Voice Overs are easier to translate than talking heads, should you have a multi-language strategy.
Good music can be effective, but it is not essential. You can ask the production company to try and license an existing track, but this can be time consuming and expensive. Better to ask them to compose some basic background music for a fixed budget.
13. Get Businesses Involved
People are often happy to contribute to a video for free for the publicity value of being in it – particularly locations/hotels.
14. Intellectual Property Rights
Ensure you have 100% ownership of the films, and no future claims can be made by against actors, locations and music.
15. Delivering ROI and Accountability
Regardless of your objectives, increased sales on a specific page, volume of unique views, % of your film viewed, change in consumer perception, this is all trackable and is vital information in ascertaining the ROI.
Make the most from your content, use it on your own site, in store, on social media and video sites, on trade sites, in your advertising formats, the more discoverable you make your content, the better the ROI. There are specialist networks in this space.
What does success look like? Ultimately, an effective ROI, which depends on cost AND usage, engagement and user action. So make sure you look at all elements of the equation! But above all, try out the medium, because it is capable of outstanding returns.
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