Brand campaigns had a different meaning 20 years ago. You oversaw the impression you transmitted to the world, and videos were huge (and hugely expensive) initiatives. You could post footage to the web 20 years ago, but most people couldn’t view it. So there was almost no video being developed for web-based viewing.
Fast-forward 20 years, and video is everywhere online, created by companies, their fans, and of course their customers in places like United Flight 3411. In fact, video is becoming the lingua franca of web-based communication.
Why, then, does video content continue to be an afterthought to brands? Many videos that represent, describe, and dramatize what a brand offers are still amateurish, ill-considered, and badly shot – like the filmed equivalent of a 30-page technical white paper translated from the original German. That, or they are so patronizing to their target audience in their “authenticity” that they are super-ripe for parody. Chevy, anyone?
And video works. Recent studies have shown a 31% lift in online transactions by adding video ads into a marketing mix. In fact, if you can extend engagement with an ad from 3 seconds to just 10 seconds, the impact on recall, awareness, and purchase impact is staggering:
No matter which device a spot is shot on, though, the important element is the production team behind it. Ironically, the technology revolution is breaking down the collaborative ties that used to exist among sound designers, directors, editors, and so on. Yes, a teenager can shoot a video on a phone, and once or twice out of a million times that video catches on. But do you want to take on those odds when you’re building your brand? Video is one area where hard work and professional production really pay off in the end.
Close-Reading Two Brand Videos
Let’s look at two examples, one from a global CPG brand (Cheetos) and one from a BtoB client of our agency (Brother Printers).
The Cheetos Museum video introduces its professionalism in the first shot by way of its gorgeous lighting and the orange and white palette. White communicates a curatorial museum tone, part of the humorous effect of the spot, while orange is the dominant brand color.
The first panning shot across the Cheetos ‘collection’ underscores this idea and establishes the humor of the high/low, museum/snack food joke. You can tell right away that this video not only has a director and a lighting crew, but a designer as well. Not a single visual decision in this spot is an accident. It has all been storyboarded out well in advance.
When we meet the humorously odd ‘curator’ of the museum, Jacob Stitzel, three other things become clear:
1. The spot has a very good writer who knows how to play on the irony of the situation (even Stitzel’s name is a play on stilted, which he is)
2. They have cast well for a nerdy leading man (add a casting agent to the crew)
3. There are two distinct camera styles: controlled tracking shots and glamorous close-ups for the hero of the ad (Cheetos), and somewhat shaky handheld documentary-style camerawork for the oddball Stitzel.
As we move further into Stitzel’s story, the lighting flatters him as an object of interest. Look at the way these shots spread nearly two f-stops from the left side of his face to the right. Look, too, at the way the angles get more stylized to communicate that this dude is harmless, but probably a bit unglued.
The cuts, the close-ups, the perfectly silent background (add a sound guy to the crew): that’s why it all looks so smooth and so easy. Cheetos Museum was shot with a very nice camera and a crew we’d guess at close to 20. What has it done for the brand? More than 15,000 people submitted ‘artwork’ for the Cheetos Museum, for a chance to win $150,000 in prize money. Cheetos shaped like familiar objects were auctioned for large sums on eBay. As for sales of the snack food, see for yourself:
Now we come to the Brother Printers spot, “Work More, Wander Less.” Cards on the table, our agency created the spot, and two others in the series, for what a single spot would cost a decade ago. Which meant that we could have our director, our storyboard designer, our sound engineer, our professional voice-over, our actors, our scriptwriter, and our set, but with a budget that meant calling in favors and making the most of every second of shoot time.
As the spot opens, we also made the brand and product the hero: in this case, a multi-function printer. Which is printing something.
And in a foreshadowing of the spot’s message, we also see in the establishing shot that it’s a heck of a long walk to get to the printer. Our protagonist’s full stride hints at this reality. Technically, we used a wide-angle lens to stretch out the distance.
We also used the entire office, including an empty floor, with only 15 minutes left in our scheduling before penalty hours kicked in. Our excellent sound editor added an echo.
As a counterpoint to the wandering knowledge worker annoying the hell out of everyone, we show the same scenario from the client’s perspective, a centralized hub of printing efficiency optimized to the size of the department. Technically, what you don’t realize is that there is nothing beyond the blonde in the top left: the entire office behind her is a skillfully placed piece of stock footage. This saved a small fortune on lighting and extras. But the office appears to hum thanks to Brother.
Even if our protagonist’s well of office small talk seems to be bottomless.
So, could these spots have been made for 10% of the budget? Presumably, yes. But as representative expressions of their companies’ brands, they wouldn’t have been near as memorable or effective. The Brother spot alone has had nearly 60,000 views, which is pretty impressive for a printer brand. More importantly, we are entertaining, informing, and even encouraging further brand interaction in ways that print just can’t do alone anymore.
And customers definitely take notice.
Hugh Kennedy is partner at PJA Advertising & Marketing
Dave Maloney, broadcast producer at PJA Advertising & Marketing, contributed to this piece