Please Don’t Go All Hollywood On Us

At AHA, we’ve known about the value of video for quite some time. Our AHA Fast Take Fridays are popular and have been successful in opening doors to many new opportunities for us. A great deal of the brand journalism work that we do has video components. And, of course, many of our clients have embraced video and make regular and powerful use of it.

Video allows you to tell a story using words and visuals. It is a highly popular medium and it can be quite budget-friendly. People make a different emotional connection with video than they do with an article or other written information. It can be a straightforward message from the CEO or president or a fun lip dub-style video that showcases the people behind the scenes at your organization.

There is a human quality to video that makes us feel like it is more personal and less corporate. You can see the person and what’s going on with their emotions; you get a feeling from their body language and from their tone and style. It is a very effective medium.

Having said all that, it has to be done well. And I am not just talking about production values – a quick Flip-style video done well can create strong results (in the right context). I am talking about the content.

We had a client many years ago that wanted to try video, but they had real challenges in getting it right. I think one of the first mistakes was that they created a committee to provide input on the video creative. Unfortunately, there were a lot of individuals on the committee who wanted to focus on creating a Hollywood movie rather than an internal video and there was a huge shift from how this video was initially planned to how it ended up.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that being inclusive is a good idea and we have client committees that provide incredibly valuable ideas and input in many cases. In this case, however, the professionally developed video idea morphed into something very different. Several people revised the creative to a point where it was almost unrecognizable and the message was getting lost. Unfortunately, many of the people on the committee didn’t fulfill their role of providing feedback and input. There were strong suggestions for dream sequences, more people in the video than should have been in it (to keep it short and entertaining) and more locations than were reasonable given the budget and timeline. When we put forward the concerns and challenges, it became evident that the now smaller committee was committed to their concept. We had lost them – and they had lost the original objective. They also weren’t willing to listen to the professional video producer and our crew.

This video didn’t get traction. It was too long, there were too many people in it, too many locations and the storyline got skewed because of trying to be too inclusive. With all the people and locations, this should have been a different type of video (a lip dub or a flash mob), not one with a linear storyline. But the committee was… well… committed to their concept and wouldn’t consider a revision to the approach.

At the start of the project, it’s really important to outline what you want to achieve with your video. What message are you trying to get across? What do you want to communicate and how will you do that? Does the creative concept meet the communications strategy? How long is your video? (With few exceptions, if it is longer than three minutes, you will lose a large part of your audience.)

It’s important to listen to the people you hire to work with you on the video. They know what they are doing; they have an in-depth understanding of what works and what doesn’t in the medium. If there is something you want to do, talk to them about the best way to do it. It should be a partnership. I always worry if the client wants control of the entire creative concept and how it could be produced.

Video is a great medium – if it is done right and the client-agency team is truly a partnership.

I came across an interesting piece on Ragan.com with tips on how to produce a good video. It’s worth a read.

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