Priceless

Brainstorm: one split second

Write script: 15 minutes

Shoot video: 30 minutes of ghastliness, 20 minutes of hiccups, 15 minutes of giggles, 15 minutes of magic and two stars are born

Edit video: 4 hours

Result: Priceless

Beware Yell.com Video Pitch

I generally don’t seek to put down competition, but this is more a matter of warning consumers and alerting video producers.

A local marketing director recently invited me in to discuss a video for her business. Afterwards she sent me an email received from a Yell.com salesman trying to sell her their video production service for listing on their site. Two videos links were provided as samples along with a list of the benefits of having video content. The information was accurate and up-to-date –the very sort of things I tell business owners.

Yell.com is a UK on-line business directory and is a way to find local businesses as it is organized by business category rather than alphabetically. There are similar services in most countries around the world and they are all, of course, on-line versions of phone books, yellow pages traditionally being for business listings, white pages for non-business listings.

But buyer, beware the video pitch. Following is my response and critique of the Yell.com video service to the Marketing Director. I’ve updated it after some more research:

I looked at the video samples–and they are not bad, but not worth the price. Small print: “from £3750…” yet the brochure lists out added costs including “additional locations”. Both those videos had multiple locations.

But more importantly, (and my internet connection is pretty good), they take a while to load before they play, which is off-putting.

They say they upload them to YouTube, BUT they don’t put any info in the YouTube listing, nor any key words or key word titles. And they don’t link back to your site. They link back to Yell. And people don’t like going in circles trying to get to a site they’re looking for!

Worse yet, those two videos had 2 and 22 views respectively in the last year. And the only way I found them was typing in the company name in YouTube. (If you know the company name, you just go to their site, don’t you).

If you scan down the feed on their YouTube site (yell.com youtube) you will see dozens and dozens of videos that have been uploaded in the last two weeks alone. Most have had no views or one view in that time. One could say it’s too soon to tell, but couple that with the cherry-picked videos sent by the salesman to the marketing director (which got 24 views between them in one year) and I find it a bit heart-breaking.

Further, their YouTube site shows 885,000 views (rounded up) in just over 8 years. That would be about 2100/weeek, 300/day. Yet the salesman told the Marketing Director they’ve done over 10,000 videos. You can do the math.

For a comparison, 3 videos I did for an industrial client in a niche market (industrial conveyors) have gotten 6500 views in the last year on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/CILogistics?feature=watch) without any particular marketing effort (no pay-per-click ads, etc.). And the cost of the videos to the client for each video was far less than the “starting at £3750” Yell videos.

If you then google some questions like “how many people use Yell?” (400,000/day vs google’s 700,000/minute) and then look at reviews of Yell…Well, it’s not very pretty.

I think it’s an old business model trying its best to survive and frankly hard-selling people on expensive video as a way of staying afloat–video that helps them more than it does their clients.

Comment on Corporate and Business Videos

Back in the early days of TV advertising and print media in the last century, it was enough to say

“Acme is the best”. And people would buy because you said so.

Then, when enough people were saying “we’re the best” Madison Avenue (New York) stepped in with the new age of “hype”

And apparently, in the 21st Century, “hype” is still alive and well.

But wasn’t it decades ago that the general public started ignoring it and started to realize when they were hearing “well scripted” advertising dialogue?

Then humor entered into the arena, and that worked well (and is still working well) with well known and established businesses whose products and services are already known. This then, was a matter of keeping the brand in the public’s mind. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But what about small businesses or corporations that aren’t well known or are brand new?

What will make the public listen to you?

Passion.

Sincerity.

For the last year I’ve been advising clients to not bother writing scripts or hiring professional actors or presenters.

I have a different approach.

I learned after doing about 1000 interviews with people all over the world in from all walks of life from the very bottom to the very top that all people are passionate about something. If you get them talking about what they want to talk about, they light up inevitably and invariably. And even with a video camera in their face, suddenly all their inhibitions and introversions disappear.

Conversely, if you try to get them to say some pre-conceived idea you’ve got–or try to coax them to say certain things–or try to get them to read a script, they get all wobbly and introverted and you wind up with hash. And some marketing or video companies will pass that off to you and expect you to applaud it as a professional marketing piece.

I’m sure you’ve seen this sort of result in various business videos you’ve seen. It’s either slick hype, or amateur school play time, and neither are very effective.

My approach in the production of a 3 minute business web video is to interview the person or persons involved. The interview is an informal chat, a conversation about the topic or topics we are meant to be promoting. It doesn’t matter what is said. “Ums” and “ahhs” don’t matter. Dead-end questions are dropped. Questions that raise the interest and emotional tone of the interviewee are expanded upon. I keep mental notes as to what material obtained will be useful in the eventual video and I generally know when I have enough such material. The interviews might be a cumulative 20 minutes or more for each person (if more than one). There might be as much as an hour’s material to distill down to 2 to 4 minutes.

After the interviews, I now know what other footage needs to be shot to cover what the person or persons were talking about and I shoot it.

I then go through all the material and isolate all the “usable bits”.

Next I put it into a logical order (which may not be the order it was obtained in) to give a suitable beginning, middle and end of the video.

Finally I edit it down to the desired length and that gives me the “narrative” for the video…in other words, the SCRIPT.

Part of that process is removing all the “umms” and “ahhs” (as much as possible) and any irrelevant parts. It’s not that saying “umm” or “ahh” is bad. It’s human. But as an example, in one recent 3 minute video I seamlessly cut out 38 “ums”. That wasn’t all of them, but enough to make the person come off very well indeed while still being human.

So finally, when this narrative is all together in a cohesive string, if you were to look at it on the editing timeline, it would look like the person has been “sliced and diced”.

So all those slices and dices are then covered up with the relevant shots of what it is that the person is talking about–which of course forwards the message of what he’s talking about.

The editing job is to keep it on point to forward the marketing message you wanted in the first place.

And you wind up with a piece that is sincere, even passionate, and with no trace of hype.

You wind up with a piece that’s believable.

Like this one:

Web Video–Site Tours

I recently had the opportunity to do a complete series of short, simple web videos for two different companies; one Telecom company and one Furniture-making company. Coincidentally, both companies required 18 different videos. One took a day to shoot, the other (slightly more involved) took two. And since I charge by a day rate, neither were expensive.

In both cases, each company set themselves apart from the competition by introducing a friendly, helpful, personal presence to their respective sites.

Beyond that, the videos, placed on various pages throughout the sites, helped customers understand the various specific unique products and services, and also (in both cases) helped the customers through the shopping cart. Now that last may not be something that everyone needs (and there’s an option to play the video or not), but in certain cases where customers, particularly older generations, may feel skittish about “identity theft” and are not really familiar with how safe purchasing can be on bonafide websites, the support was right there explaining each step and what was going to happen next.

The telecoms company took it a step further. They sent out an email promoting one of their most popular services (“Call Whisper”) with an HTML link in the email that said “Watch Video”. That link took you to the video right on the site page on that particular service.

Result? 40% sales increase in the first 30 days of the email campaign for that service.

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