I’ve always enjoyed commercials produced by ESPN over the years. The “This Is SportsCenter” series are full of classic, memorable spots. Viewers can appreciate the commercials, even if they aren’t sports fans; even if they aren’t familiar with the particular athlete or team being represented. In recent years, promos for ESPN’s College Game Day have become just as memorable. But what is it about these commercials that are so effective?
Personality. The people on screen are charismatic. They’re captivating. Forget for a moment that the news anchors, athletes, and coaches are celebrities. Think about how they present themselves on camera. They’re relaxed. They’re having fun. They’re natural. They seem friendly. Whatever video project you’re working on, make sure that the people on camera have personality. Your talent needs to connect personally with your audience.
Juxtaposition. The “This is SportsCenter” campaign is a lesson in contrast, and that’s part of the appeal. They take athletes, coaches, and mascots, pull them out of context, and place them within the confines of an ordinary, corporate office environment. Visually, it doesn’t match up, which lends itself to some great comedic moments. At the same time, it perfectly captures what ESPN is all about – they live sports. How can you communicate the core identity of your business or service by meshing two seemingly contradictory ideas or visuals?
Performance. The ESPN commercials are not centered on complex animation, bold graphics, intense music, or a stylized look. They are based on a solid idea, with strong copy, and excellent performances from the on-camera talent. A good video isn’t built on a lot of sizzle and special effects. Those things can certainly enhance a video, but without a creative idea at its core, your message won’t be communicated effectively. Start with the idea. Lean on a video production company to help you develop it into something unique. And rely on the performance(s) of talented individuals to give the video life and personality.
Here is one of the latest ESPN College GameDay commercials:
I usually fill out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket, even though I don’t watch the regular season very closely. I think there are others who can say the same. So what is it about March Madness that draws so much interest, even from those who don’t consider themselves basketball fanatics?
I believe that the allure lies in the idea of community.The tournament has a knack for bringing people together. We want to compare our bracket with others. We want to compete. We want to cheer for something. We want to brag when our bracket holds up better than the next guy. And we want to share our frustrations with someone else, whose bracket crumbled as quickly as ours. March Madness promotes a singular mindset and singular focus. And AT&T has tapped beautifully into this spirit of camaraderie with their “Brackets By Six Year Olds” campaign. I love this series of videos. In each episode a journalist interviews children to get their insight into each college team. See below:
There are some marketing lessons that can be gleaned from this campaign, and from March Madness in general:
Be Community-Oriented. As stated above, March Madness builds community. Your marketing efforts should do the same. Cultivate an environment that makes it easy for clients and customers to talk to each other and to you. People like to be around others with a similar interest. Everyone knows that March Madness will happen every single year. Perhaps you can create some kind of event, promotion, etc. that happens on a regular basis. Maybe it’s a training class or giveaway. You can also create an online community, in the form of a Google+ hangout, forum, group, or webinar. Whatever it is, create something with a singular focus that clients and customers can look forward to.
Be Timely. AT&T decided to “piggy-back” on an already popular event to create a great marketing campaign. Knowing that people are heavily interested in the NCAA tournament, AT&T capitalized and produced videos centered on that event. You might look at ways that you can take advantage of pre-existing events to boost the conversation around your brand.
Be Imaginative. Nothing will help your brand stand out like a unique perspective. And children have the greatest imaginations. Consider Sony’s recent ad, directed by Wes Anderson (but written by an 8 year old). AT&T tapped into the minds of children to create some wonderfully imaginative perspective on college athletics. And that kind of imagination draws people in, because who doesn’t find the mind of a child cute, funny, and remarkable? Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to utilize a bunch of children into your next marketing campaign, but it is important to communicate an interesting point-of-view to your audience.
In our experience as video production professionals, we’ve learned that one of the biggest factors in budgeting for a particular job is time.
How much time will be required to conceptualize and script a video project?
How much time will we need in-studio or on location?
How many shooting days will be required?
How much time will we need to put the whole video together and deliver a final product?
Of course there are other factors to consider as well, including the cost of on-camera talent, additional crew, equipment, travel, etc. However, a video’s budget will grow exponentially when a client needs additional days for shooting, post-production, etc. The budget for a five-day shoot will look very different from a budget for a half-day shoot.
Most projects we work on require multiple camera set-ups, which require the movement of camera, lights, people, additional gear, etc. All of those set-ups mean that we can only capture a certain amount of footage per day. However, one way to increase the amount that can be shot in one day is to use a 2nd unit camera.
From a budgeting stand point, it may seem like an unnecessary expense to use two camera packages and two camera operators for one job. However, employing the use of a 2nd camera unit may actually reduce the cost of the video, because you are accomplishing more in less time.
This strategy is the most effective when there is a long, complicated shot list with several different locations and a small window of time. Rather than have one camera unit spend four days shooting everything, why not invest in a second camera unit and get all of your shots completed in two days? The first camera unit can spend time at your main location, conducting interviews with your staff and shooting b-roll of your operation, while the 2nd camera unit shoots b-roll of satellite offices, off site installs, and conducts interviews with clients. And if your video calls for an on-camera panel discussion with two or more individuals, you can use both cameras to cross-shoot the scene and omit the need to reset one camera for multiple angles. It can be a very efficient way to tackle your project.
Now, more than ever, consumers want advertisers to speak WITH them, not AT them. A disconnect has formed between advertisers and consumers, because…
consumers feel as though brands aren’t really listening to them
that brands don’t really understand them
that brands aren’t willing to adapt their products/services based on consumer feedback
So, the way in which companies approach commercials and marketing videos has to shift. This is illustrated well in a short video that we posted to this blog last year, entitled The Break Up. Based on this change in attitude and behaviors, marketers and video producers have to be more focused on providing viewers with an experience. Tell them a story. The old marketing strategy (shove your product front-and-center and brag about how awesome it is) isn’t effective in drawing viewers in. Don’t misunderstand: There’s still a place for showcasing all that a product or service can do for a consumer, but companies have to be a bit more creative in how that message is communicated.
Even before YouTube, BMW was already buying into this strategy by creating a series of short films, starring Clive Owen as The Driver. Each episode featured Clive Owen driving a BMW vehicle, but the car wasn’t the focus of the story. The car was simply IN the story. If you had taken the BMW out and put any other car in, each episode still would have worked. There’s a reason why ancient philosophers, prophets, and teachers used parables to instruct; it’s because people learn and retain information best through stories. Think about how you can utilize storytelling techniques in your own videos to market your company, products, and services.
Opinions matter. They help us to make decisions about where to eat, what products to buy, and whose services to use. They help us to see certain issues from various perspectives so we can get a better understanding of cultural, societal, political, and world events. They can also help us to refine and improve our marketing and advertising messages, so that the products and services we offer can gain the most traction among our target audience. But after we gather and sort all of these various opinions, there comes a moment when we must formulate our own ideas and opinions about what direction to take.
When producing a marketing, sales, or promotional video, there are many different approaches one can take in terms of concept, script, tone, and visual style. Some might know instinctively how they want their video to look, while others may need to conduct extensive research and talk to others to uncover what they like. Some don’t need to show their video to anyone during the post-production process. Others may feel the need to pass the rough cuts around to various contacts to get initial feedback and suggestions for revisions.
If you are working with a video production company on a video project, don’t feel bad if you would like to show the rough cut to people you trust in order to get their opinions. After all, video production is a collaborative effort. Talk to your friends/colleagues about the video. Find out what they respond to. What worked for them? What didn’t? How can the video be improved? Also, talk to the video’s producer and director. Find out why he/she made certain aesthetic, or editing choices. Understanding the motivation(s) behind such decisions will help you gain a better understanding of the editing process.*
Take time to listen to the opinions received from friends and colleagues. Weigh those against the insights and professional experiences of the video producer/director. From that information, you can formulate your own opinion about how you want to revise the edit. Remember, when you start showing the video to different people, you will get a wide range of opinions. It won’t be possible to please everyone. You might make one revision to the edit that’s based on one friend’s opinion, only to disappoint another friend who wanted it done a different way. Changing the edit in an attempt to please everyone will only leave you (and the video’s editor) frustrated. Throughout the video production process, remember that this is your video. You hired a video production company because you value their experience and trust their capabilities to create a professional presentation for you. Ultimately, the purpose of the video is to market/advertise/promote you, your company, your people, your services and your products. Opinions do matter, but in the end, it’s your opinion that carries the most weight.
*Remember, I’m talking specifically about post-production; the point at which the final structure of the video is formed. Any changes to the concept, the script, or the way certain scenes were shot will almost certainly require re-writes and re-shoots.