All The Gear, No Idea
By Zoipa, Mar 14 2016 07:00AM
What to Look Out For When Commissioning A Marketing Video
By Lou Clarke
As the cost of video equipment has fallen, so sadly, have video production standards and in marketing video production, the situation is dire. I cannot tell you how many times I've looked at online videos and been shocked by what is being delivered in the name of professionally produced video for business. I am sorry to say this, but many website videos are, frankly, pointless and this is the norm. As the client, you might initially be delighted with a great looking video, but if the video fails to deliver on your strategic goals, then it's a waste of your hard earned money.
Although some so-called production companies should not even be in business due to their appallingly sloppy production standards, even well made videos can be utterly useless unless the production company understands how to create a successful marketing video. Last week, in the office, we watched a newly posted video from one of the leading luxury car manufacturers, a mix of drone and ground based filming, some stunning cars, not particularly shown at their best, filmed driving around a location, again not shown at it's best. I asked my team what they thought the point of the video was and they struggled to come up with an answer. When I told them that the video description claimed the video was to show off the company's new facility, they were gobsmacked. Made by a PR / marketing agency that holds quite a few major brand accounts, the video lacked both direction and purpose.
The fact you're reading this implies some sort of interest in business video production, but did you know that done properly, video is actually the best way to spend your marketing budget in terms of ROI and being readily measurable? According to a recent ReelSEO survey, 71% of companies are increasing their marketing spend as they discover the real value of video, particularly when used in conjunction with other marketing activities.
Big companies engage ad agencies where the agency usually oversees all of a brand's marketing strategy and the team comprises of many skills in addition to actual video production. In smaller video production businesses, the creatives often lack the business and marketing experience to understand these additional elements, despite them being essential for a successful marketing video.
I've spent many an hour trying to figure out how I can share my knowledge to help you avoid the pitfalls when engaging a video production company to produce your marketing videos, but, although I can look at a production company's reel and spot the technical and marketing strengths and weaknesses, it seems it's just not that easy to share this all this knowledge, so I thought I'd offer some basic advice about how to perhaps be more successful in your search for the right video production company.
For many years, there's been a saying in broadcast - 'all the gear, no idea' (AGNI). This was usually aimed at the freelancers, who, for want of a better description, had 'bought' their way into broadcast freelancing. The AGNI crowd would have all the latest equipment, but no idea, from a technical perspective, about how to get the best out of their kit or the subtle nuances that made footage look good, or bad. Back then, cameras required skill to set up correctly, so much so that at one time, the BBC required camera operators to have a physics qualification. Until a decade ago, broadcast camera kit was still very expensive, a camera body cost over £30k, plus a further £20k or more for a decent lens, this acted as a barrier to entry and on the whole, ensured that the AGNIs were in the minority so excellent technical standards for video production were mostly maintained. Nowadays though, even entry level video cameras record wonderful quality video and this has affected the whole of the video production sector.
We first saw this affect when the broadcast sector took advantage of lower priced kit sending out researchers, or assistant producers, armed with an autofocus HD camcorder, instead of an experienced, more expensive, camera operator, particularly in the reality TV sector although we've even experienced this in quality drama documentary. The result back then was editors and producers spending weeks, instead of days, wading through hours of poorly shot, unlogged footage filmed by untrained people who thought that turning up, pressing record and 'hosepiping' the camera in all directions would result in enough good shots to make a programme. In reality, the result was runaway budgets and poorer quality content as expensive editors in even more expensive edit suites struggled to find something of use in hundreds of hours of video. Broadcasters would have saved considerable sums by using a professional camera operator, but the draw, on paper, of the reduced operating costs was too good an opportunity to turn down. It's much the same in business video production today where a badly filmed and edited video could actually result in severely damaging your brand and reputation. After all, if you visited a website with a badly produced video, you'd judge the brand, not the production company. That's not to say that a business should not use rough and ready DIY video, you just need to use it appropriately and that's not as the main marketing videos on your website.
There's probably an AGNI presence in every business sector to one degree or another, but in video, some of the clues are a little more obvious. Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to spot a potential AGNI through pictures on their website of all their gear carefully laid out, or ultra detailed kit lists, but often it's only when they turn up at your shoot laden down with shiny new kit, by which time, it's too late to back out.
The professional drone operator side of video filming has an element of AGNI too. There are three clear sectors – those who entered commercial drone videography and photography through their passion for flying drones, those with a broadcast video or professional photography background who can see the great potential for elevated photography and aerial video without the costs of a fixed wing aerial photographer or aerial filming from a helicopter and have learnt to fly properly, and those who just fell in love with the concept of the camera mounted drones and decided to take the plunge - the drone AGNI.
This mixed bag of drone professionals has led to a drop in drone flying skills and poorer video production standards, particularly on the post production side. In just a couple of years, the number of drone operators holding the CAA's Permit for Aerial Work, has risen from a few hundred to several thousand operators and this has caused a rapid race to the bottom in terms of pricing (by the inexperienced) and standards generally. Again, what looks to be saving a few pennies on a cheap drone operator deal, can turn out to be more far more costly with reshoots or having to use poorly shot aerial footage or aerial photographs.
It's not just the imagery, the inexperienced producer often fails to consider other aspects such as audio, the edit or even permissions. A producer is kind of like the MD of a company overseeing the entire production process through to delivery. A good producer will know how to guide your production through all the technical processes and the rockiest of terrains to ensure that the final video sticks to the agreed budget, brief and time frame, has been legally filmed, is copyright compliant and essentially, serves it's purpose effectively – that's the bit that is often missing.
Good audio is as important as the imagery, poor audio, such as wind sheer or only using the camera mic means your audience is more likely to lose interest, or switch off completely. The right choice of music is perhaps one of the most important tasks and can really affect a video. A professional video should always have professional quality sound both at the time of filming and in post. Here's a thought - have you ever considered what your brand sounds like? I can't tell you how many websites I've been to professing to offer professional video services, proudly offering up examples of their work, but on viewing their videos, the dramatic music is inappropriate, or the on-camera subject sounds like a frog in a box, or worse still, the video producer has used music from an online library and left the audio watermark on the finished video. Where's the attention to detail people?
Video is not just about an eye for composing a great looking image, good video production is about storytelling through moving imagery and audio resulting in a video that the target audience will enjoy and engage with. It doesn't matter whether it's broadcast production, corporate video production or a marketing video for a small business, great storytelling requires a lot of thought and planning throughout, from pre-production, right through to editing.
Editing is a skill that comes naturally to very few, and is much harder to just 'wing' than even camera operation. It can take many, many months, or even years of work alongside a master to understand how to craft a video using pacing and storytelling. We spent thousands of hours sitting alongside an incredible editor learning about pacing and how to tell stories, editing with just two old video machines. You can tell a good editor, they can bring out a certain emotion in their audience just by the way they cut a video, or use a piece of music and they rarely use transitional effects – that's just sticking plaster for the inexperienced. Editing, sadly, since the advent of multi-tasking in video production and the widespread use of computer based edit systems, is more about cut and paste than story and pace.
I've highlighted just a few of the clues that might help you avoid committing your marketing budget to the wrong video production company, but good marketing videos are not just about excellent production skills, your producer needs to understand video marketing, get to know you and your customer and understand how to create a video that delivers your desired goals.
Like any marketing activity, a business video must have an objective, so once you're happy you've identified the right production company, and before commissioning a marketing video, I'd suggest you think about the following:
What are the goals for the video?
Who is my audience?
How long should the video be?
How much budget do I have?
Then, when talking to potential video production companies, if they fail to ask any of these questions, walk away, because the chances are, at best, you'll end up with a video that is a waste of your money and performs disappointingly. At worst, you might have to rebuild your reputation with your existing customers and accept the permanent loss of potential new customers.
If you have any questions, tips or experiences to share – good or bad, please comment below.