Video Isn't Working

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Video isn't working. That's what many publishers have come to realize, according to a September article in the Columbia Journalism Review, written by Heidi N. Moore. Ever since first reading the article I wanted to post some of my thoughts here, and am now finally getting around to it. But first, if you're interested in journalism and/or video, please go read the article. It's very well-written and worth your time.

Before diving into my thoughts on the article, I want to point out that I will be approaching this from the perspective of a video producer. I'm a storyteller, but not a journalist. I'll leave it to the journalists to discuss their own experiences (and please do). But speaking as a video production professional, I agree with Moore's observations. Allow me to highlight four of her points, along with my commentary, and some takeaways.

Video is Expensive

Publishers have laid off writers and turned to video, thinking that somehow they'll save money in the process, while driving up their readership and revenue. But it costs a lot of money to produce unique, quality video. Even in 2017 I still have to educate others about the costs of video and why it's so expensive. I don't know what the root cause is for the misconception (perhaps it's the democratization of the equipment and the low barrier to entry), but it's a misconception that has led many people to believe that incredible video can be produced cheaply. Click here to read more about video production misconceptions. 

Consider this quote from the article:

Video is the most expensive and time-consuming of the multimedia disciplines. To cut a 30-second video can take hours of detailed work—which requires a good eye, good physical reflexes to capture the right moments, enormous patience, and the ability to time images, sound, text, and graphics seamlessly.
— Heidi N. Moore

Takeaway: Just like any professional in any industry, an experienced, reputable video production company will charge the going market rate for services. Don't expect quality production work to be done cheaply, or for free. We don't ask that of any other businesses, as the following video points out:

Video is an Investment

Today, more and more brands are taking their work in-house, opting for their own marketing departments and video production teams, instead of working with a traditional agency. And, as Moore points out, media publishers have also. They've decided to get rid of their writing staff in favor of video. But here's the main problem for publishers, and the main lesson for those brands who want to do everything in-house: You have to invest in video and give your team all the resources they need to produce good work. Moore emphasizes "low-quality video production and weak technological support for video content" as two of her four reasons why the pivot to video has failed.

As Moore writes, "Many publishers’ pivots to video are ill-considered, and thus they have deployed minimal investment in resources, studio space, equipment, or salaries. This won’t help video grow."

Takeaway: If you're going to do it, do it right. If you currently have an in-house video production team, or are making that transition, give them the very best tools to do the job. Don't expect them to produce masterful videos with one hand tied behind their backs.

Video Requires Planning

Clients and internal partners like the idea of video, but many times they don't have a clearly defined strategy for video. The notion of "let's just go out and capture it and then figure out what to do with the footage later," is not a well-defined video strategy for reaching your marketing goals. Video is more than grabbing a camera, running out to the location, and pressing Record. Consider Moore's observation, "The biggest problem with the pivot to video is that it’s not well-considered strategy. Instead, it’s been born of desperation." 

Of course Moore is talking specifically about media publishers, but the same can be said for many businesses who are using video. Considerations must be made when diving into video. One size doesn't fit all

Video Should Be Good

If all of the above considerations are made, then your video will be good. But if you rush into video without the right plan, the right tools, or the right investment, you will be left with video that just, frankly, isn't very good, as Moore writes, "Publishers who pivoted to video have forfeited the majority of their hard-won native audiences in only a year of churning out undifferentiated, bland chunks of largely aggregated 'snackable' video. That’s no one’s idea of success." Differentiation comes when the proper value is placed on the process itself.

There's a place for video. People still want video. Moore isn't suggesting that publishers abandon video, but rather incorporate video into a, "balanced multimedia approach...that includes well-written, well-reported stories, strong data and graphics, and good art."

What I Like About the New Taylor Swift NOW Ad

Taylor Swift is currently promoting her new video experience called Taylor Swift NOW, which is on the AT&T network. I watched the promo today and I like what the AT&T creative team produced. Here are a few reasons why I think this spot works. First, watch the video, then scroll down for my impressions. Think about utilizing these techniques in your next marketing video.

  1. It's Taylor Swift - Duh. Let's just get the obvious one out of the way first. The ad works because it features a famous celebrity. So, if you can get Taylor Swift, get Taylor Swift. Okay, I know this isn't a real option for you, so consider this: Taylor Swift has a built-in fanbase that will watch or read anything she's a part of. Think about your own business niche. Is there an influencer within your own industry that already has a built-in following? Can you leverage that following for your own marketing video? Is there a way to cross-promote?
  2. Be Relatable - Part of what makes this ad so fun is that is really humanizes Taylor Swift. The spot makes her seem fun, relatable; like a good friend you like hanging out with. She doesn't seem like an untouchable celebrity. She seems real. In your own marketing video, think about ways you can make your company and your reps relatable to your audience. Ditch the formalities. Loosen the neckties. Try irreverence on for size, if it fits your brand. Try self-deprecation. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. But whatever you do, please be consistent with your brand's voice.
  3. Be Structured - This spot functions very well as an ad, but it's also a very nice short film. There's an overarching story that runs from start to finish. It's very tight and very self-contained, with events unfolding linearly, the preceding one directly affecting what comes after. That makes the spot more interesting, because the viewer is curious about what will happen next. If you stop and think about it, probably some of the videos you've shared recently follow this same pattern, like HP's recent Father/Daughter ad.
  4. Be Random - I know, this seems to contradict everything I just said in point #4. Perhaps a better word than "random" would be "surprising." Yes, the Taylor Swift NOW ad is structured, but it also has its moments of random fun. It surprises us. Unexpected things pop up, and the spot is more entertaining because of it.

What do you think? Does the Taylor Swift NOW ad work for you, or not? What other advice do you have about video marketing? Leave them in the Comments section below.

How To Make Your Social Media Video Marketing Better

There's a bad habit among some video marketers that needs to be addressed. As one who regularly produces video content, I see this trend popping up far too often and it is hurting the effectiveness of your video marketing efforts.

The Problem

Here's the bad habit: Some marketers believe that they can take the long-form promotional video designated for their website and simply "cut it down" for use on their social media channels. Here's how the question is usually asked during client meetings, "After you create the video for our website, can you just go ahead and edit a :60 version for Facebook and a :15 or :30 version for Instagram?"

Now, any video editor can take a long-form video and create multiple versions for social media, but that tactic isn't the most effective strategy for your video campaign. Why? Because each social media platform has its own nuances, audience demographics, and internal "Best Practices" for using video effectively.

You can't communicate the exact same message in the exact same way when you take a 3-minute video and try to cut it down to :30. Something will get lost in the translation and the resulting video will feel like a quickly stitched together patchwork with muddled messaging, rather than a nice, simple, concise story.

The Cause

So, what's at the root of this problem? Based solely on my experiences, I find that this issue is caused by marketers who have not first thoroughly thought out their video strategy. They like video. They want a video. They want the production company to produce that video, but they haven't first decided what exactly they want to say in the video and what they're going to do with the video. But their thought is that it's better just to go ahead and get the video and then figure out what to do with it later.

The Solution 

1. Messaging

As mentioned earlier, clients have asked me to create different versions of a video for use on social media, but then later they wonder why certain messages from the long-form video are missing from the :30 or :60 video. Well, time is a funny thing. You simply cannot communicate everything from the 3-minute video in a :30 video. So, it's important to decide which messaging will be used for each social media platform.

Users for each social network engage with the site for different reasons and in different ways, so it's important to tailor your message to fit the social network. Twitter users, for example, are accustomed to to brevity. Everything they see on the platform is 140 characters or less. So, Twitter is probably a better place to embed a teaser video. Get in and then get out while encouraging the viewer to click through to your website or landing page.

Instagram is a good place for a demonstrative video, or a video that gives the viewer high-level bullet points about your product, service, or organization. Take a look at the BBC, Lowe's, or Staples for inspiration on how to tailor video for Instagram.     

2. Research

Take the time to review each social platform's internal "Best Practices" for using video on their sites. Most users on these platforms will see videos as they quickly scroll through their News Feed, and those videos will be muted. So, how will you decide to open your video as a result? Most likely you will select a compelling visual element that will hook your viewer right from the start. This opening visual might be different from the video on your landing page, but that's okay.

As you look at the other brands who are really nailing this whole "social-media-video-marketing" thing, you will notice that the videos they post on Instagram are different from those posted on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or their websites. And that's important. The message and the "packaging" of your video will vary depending on the social platform. 

As always, if you have something to add to the conversation, please do so in the Comments section below.

The 10 Biggest Misconceptions About Video Production

Video is everywhere. The viewing public is exposed to millions of videos on every platform, and yet as a director and editor, I still find that there are many misconceptions people have about the video production process.

I decided to reach out to others in the industry on Twitter and LinkedIn to find out what misconceptions their clients have about video production and post-production. The topic cultivated a lot of good discussion as other video production professionals shared their experiences.

Many of the same misconceptions kept popping up throughout the thread, so I compiled them into a top 10 list. If you are a marketer and currently looking to hire a video production company, this will hopefully provide some valuable insight to the process, so you know what to expect.

  1. All production companies are the same. This misconception assumes that all you need to do when looking for a production company is to get three quotes and then choose the cheapest one. In reality, all production companies are different and they each bring their own specialities to a project. It's up to you, the client, to do your research. Take a look at the company's showreel to get a sense of their strengths. Is it visual effects and animation? Infographics? Documentary storytelling? Tabletop? Aerial? Fashion? Commercial? Find the production company that will fit best with the type of video you want to make.
  2. Every viral video follows a certain blueprint and, therefore, can be replicated. If your only plan from the outset is to create viral video, I suggest going back and revising your creative brief. Of course there are steps you can take to help meet this goal, but there isn't one magic formula that will launch a video into online stardom. A few years ago, ABC News conducted an experiment to see if one could create a viral video from scratch and they documented the process.
  3. You can shoot the video yourself with that camera you bought. Although the cost of cameras with impressive specs has decreased dramatically over the years, there is still so much more to producing a quality video than just pointing and shooting. Cinematography consists of composition, lighting, lens choices, and camera movement. It takes time and practice to master that craft.
  4. A video can look like a Super Bowl ad with only a $1500 budget. No, it can't. You can draw inspiration from a high-end commercial, but a $1500 video will never look like a Super Bowl ad.
  5. Shooting will only take two or three hours. Production is a time-intensive process, requiring multiple shots, multiple camera angles, and multiple set ups. You won't be able to shoot the footage you need for a quality video in only a couple of hours. Just turning the camera around to shoot another angle will require a change in lighting and blocking, which requires time to set up and rehearse.
  6. All you need is a camera. Whenever I arrive on location with multiple carts full of gear, I usually hear the following comment, "Whoa! You guys sure do have a lot of equipment." Clients are genuinely surprised that so much gear (besides a camera and tripod) is required to capture footage for a video. Capturing quality footage requires necessary supporting gear and crew, which costs time and money. Remember, just because a video doesn't look "lit," doesn't mean lighting and other support gear wasn't used during production.
  7. Editing is quick and easy. If the video production process was illustrated as a pie chart, the slice representing post-production would take up a large portion of that pie. Taking the raw footage and crafting it into a concise, cohesive story takes an incredible amount of time and skill. You can't set unrealistic time expectations on your production company if you want a quality product.
  8. Everything can be fixed in post. Some things can be corrected in post-production, but certainly not everything. Over-modulated audio, bad composition, shots that are out of focus or too shaky, the flicker from fluorescent lighting; these are all errors that can't be totally fixed, even with the best editors or software plug-ins. 
  9. Footage and music found online is free for anyone to use in their own videos. I once had a client hire me to edit a corporate video and some of the video assets on the hard drive were videos she found on YouTube. She ripped them and wanted to use them because she thought those clips would help illustrate certain points for her company's video. Everything posted online is not free for everyone to use. You must have permission from the copyright holder to use any piece of music or footage you find online.
  10. All requested changes to the edit can be completed in a few seconds. If your video contains a lot of graphics and compositing work, even the smallest of changes may require a significant amount of time. This is because an editor must go back into the project and re-composite that section of the video and re-render the entire piece.

Hopefully these 10 items will help you better understand video production. If you currently need to produce a video for your business and have questions not addressed here, please leave those questions in the Comments section and I will do my best to answer them. And if you work as a video producer, director, or editor and want to add something else to this list, please do so.