Stories

News, project launches and thoughts from our team.

#WednesdayWisdom: Behind-the-scenes with Apple & Spike Jonze

One rabbit hole that clients fall into is assuming that video is a snap to make because it’s so simple to watch. You sit down, press play, and an entire world unfolds before you. Savvy marketers, though, will make it a point to understand the amount of work that goes into making a fantastic video so that they can intelligently spend their marketing budgets, and get the most bang for their buck. Knowledge is power, and video marketing is no exception.

Of course, if you’re the world’s richest company, you know that great video marketing takes high-caliber creative and a killer crew. At Apple, their marketing team spends millions of dollars on video – hiring choreographers, Hollywood directors, top-shelf dance talent and a crew of set designers to launch their latest product. Of course, the results are simply amazing.

This behind-the-scenes film of the making of Apple’s Spike Jonze-directed campaign for the HomePod is a great primer on what goes into making truly original, creative piece of video marketing – in this case, a short film. And while you may not have their budgets, knowing the creative (and budgetary) constraints you’re up against is half the battle!

Take a few moments and enjoy this educational look inside a high-budget shoot for this week’s #WednesdayWisdom :)

Double Barrel Podcast: Episode 3 ‘Why Production Value?”

Anyone can film a video these days. So what separates an amateur from a professional? It’s something those of us in the industry like to call “production value.” And if you’re a business looking to establish credibility with your customers, it’s something you can’t do without.

Come along for our third episode of the Double Barrel Podcast, where we explore the topic of production value. What is it? How do you get it? And why do you and your brand need to make sure you have it for your next video project?

Put Your Best Flick Forward

I was so thrilled to be asked to participate in Donna Papacosta’s Digital Communications Strategy class this past weekend at University of Toronto, Mississauga.

The students were enthusiastic, engaged and above-all-else excited to produce video pieces and test out their movie-making mettle.

I gave a presentation that went through the top tips I’ve gleaned over the past 14-or-so years of producing content, sifting down my time in print, radio, broadcast and digital to highlight some of the pitfalls and best practices to follow when determining your digital content strategy. In this case, focusing on video as a delivery medium.

From the Twitter discussions afterward it seems the class enjoyed my chat – so I decided to reprint those tips here for either students who missed marking them down, or for you – dear reader, should you be interested to find out more about how Double Barrel does what we do – and how you can implement some of those strategies in your own communications.

Enjoy!

  1. VOICE attracts AUDIENCE.
    Develop your brand’s unique identity and voice early on – then use that to speak to folks who are interested in what you’re offering.
  2. Controversy is GOOD.
    A little bit of shock value can be a good thing. People are inundated with information and grabbing attention by shaking the tree a little can be  a good thing.
  3. Editorial is EVERYTHING.
    When it comes to video – determine your editorial strategy early. Then use that strategy to ensure your dollars go as far as possible over the course of your year. Video is expensive to produce but it doesn’t always have to be – small pieces done effectively and consistently are just as useful as one $15,000 project a year.
  4. VOICE & ENTHUSIASM trumps EXPERIENCE.
    Getting into a new communication medium can be scary. You may feel unqualified or that you don’t understand enough about the production process to be effective. Stay true and hold fast to your own personal brand voice and enthusiasm will make up for the inexperience.
  5. TALENT is CRITICAL.
    From the outset of your project, reach out to the best talent you can afford. Finding great people to make something sing will pay off in the end, we promise.
  6. Comedy is HARD. But HUMOUR goes a long way.
    The pull to produce comedy is a tough one to ignore – especially since comedic videos do so well online. A badly done comedy segment, however, could harm your brand reputation. If part of your communications strategy includes making people laugh – refer to number 5 when it comes to casting, writing, filming and editing. You’ll thank me later!
  7. DIGITAL is NICHE.
    You know how there’s a million different kinds of toothbrushes at the grocery store? The same applies to content. Remember that the internet is not like broadcast. You can reach out to very specific niches and provide content that speaks JUST TO THEM. Done well, this means that you can target with pinpoint accuracy your ideal viewer. Don’t be afraid to dive deep on subject matter.
  8. KEEP it SHORT.
    Online attention spans are.. well.. fleeting. If you made it this far I’m impressed. Be ruthless in the edit suite.
  9. BUILD on EXISTING AUDIENCE.
    Lastly – when developing content look to people within your organization that already have a social media presence for talent. Are they active on Twitter? Do they blog? Do they have an active Facebook page? These are the things to focus on. Online content is churned more quickly than your stomach on the Tilt-A-Whirl.. you’ll need all the help you can get to reach as many people as possible when it comes to distribution.

 

Jumping Back into the Judges Chair

I was so thrilled to be invited to sit as a judge on the panel of last year’s Economic Developers Council of Ontario Awards. It was a great chance to get an inside look at marketing, branding & advertising campaigns from all across Ontario. In November, I’m headed back again.

Categories that I adjudicated for last year’s competition were mainly advertising and branding related, and consisted of everything from simple awareness raising campaigns to complete brand overhauls for economic development regions.

Of the 20 entries I had the opportunity to look at and judge, some clear themes emerged in terms of what is being done right in the industry, and what needs some major rethink when it comes to marketing/branding your latest initiative.

A few of my do’s and don’t’s from last year’s experience.

DO your research. I was shocked to see how few departments actually conducted research prior to spending tens of thousands of dollars on marketing outreach. Too many organizations are diving into big spends without considering one of the highly critical marketing ‘p’s’ – people. Who is your audience? What are they interested in? What things do they enjoy? Everything from imagery to fonts to colour schemes should be based on what you feel will best relate to your audience. Too often marketing initiatives are based on what a particular committee thinks is great with no real thought to what your potential client or customer needs to see. Demographics should be your very first stop in determining any brand campaign. Be clear about WHO you’re targeting so that you can create the best campaign to reach them.
DO spend money on good graphic design. So many entries were conceptually great but suffered from graphic design that did not evaluate the audience or give it the respect it deserves. Many organizations look at having in house graphic designers create branding elements as a cost cutting measure – this is a big no no. If you’re planning to spend any amount of money on marketing your new initiative make sure it’s rock solid out of the gate – and that means clean, clear, legible design that invites your audience to look closer – doesn’t turn them away.
DO NOT use dated photography or video in your brand-spanking-new campaign. Many initiatives had beautiful new branding elements. Logos, websites, YouTube pages. These suffered due to the incorporation of photography & videography that was done 4 or more years ago. Technology moves fast, nowhere more so than in the world of cameras and online video. Image quality has gotten consistently better year over year. Make sure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot by incorporating photography or videography that was shot more than 3 years ago.
DO NOT blow the bank. Spending large amounts of money on a flashy bus campaign or large advert in a well known paper does not marketing success make. Creativity and talent is what counts.
DO the math. So many initiatives were thwarted by not having the proper analytics in place to gauge metrics on campaign success or failure. How will you ever know you succeeded if you don’t have benchmarks to measure against? Use free technology like Google Analytics to tackle web hits and easy measurements like in-person surveys to clock uptake from your intended demographic. Marketing’s a game – make sure you’re making educated guesses.

This year’s awards will be handed out in Hamilton on February 12th. See you there!

Let’s Cut the Cheese

How to Battle the Cringe in your Communications

One common mistake communicators make is in their overuse of the ‘earnest’ in content. This often comes across as that ‘this is cheesy’ feeling we all know so well when watching a piece of video or reading a story.

My 15-year-old son has a better term for it. He calls them ‘Cringe’ videos. Consisting largely of people being overly earnest and generally just trying too hard, a Cringe video is recognizable by its ability to make the viewer feel uncomfortable.

While in some cases making your viewers squirm can be a good thing, most clients we’ve worked with are aiming to inform and educate rather than shock and awe. If you’re looking to get your message across in 3 minutes or less it’s probably best not to make your audience wish they’d never looked.

What exactly is it about a piece of media that causes this feeling? And how does it cross the line from being authentic to overly earnest?

We spend a lot of time thinking about this type of thing at Double Barrel, because ultimately we want to produce the most effective video we can for your organization. In that spirit we’ve put together a list to take into your next video production process. Voila!

HOW TO CUT the CHEESE in your communications

  1. Hire the best talent you can afford. Nothing makes your viewers cringe more (and ultimately does more damage to your brand) than rough camera work, bad audio, editing, graphics and lighting. When choosing your team for video production make sure they have top-notch talent filling all of these roles – it’s critical to producing a professional end product.
  2. Pre-screen your talking heads. Spend some valuable pre-production time to choose representatives from within your organization that come across relaxed and professional on camera. While any production company worth their salt will be able to get the absolute best out of whomever you provide to speak your company’s message, if you start with the best – you’re guaranteed the best. It’s that simple.
  3. Avoid the urge to over-script. The role of a communications professional is to ensure that company messaging is coming through loud and clear. However, if people are being scripted within an inch of their lives and are not allowed to speak in their own voice, unless your talent are master communicators and VERY comfortable on camera, scripted lines will not come across as natural. This will cause exactly what we’re trying to avoid with your audience – CHEESE. While it’s fine to provide talking points, you’re always better off to do the work in pre-production when it comes to selecting talent, and then trust them to do the rest.
  4. Don’t overstay your welcome. While a picture is worth a thousand words – video is definitely not a medium where a thousand words is necessary. We constantly strive to have our clients let the visuals tell the story – but the knee jerk reaction to video communication is to have as many people on camera talking as possible. This leads to bloated run times in your final piece which allows more opportunity for the cringe-factor to encroach. Be ruthless in the edit suite. Don’t let anyone say one word more than they need to.
  5. Use humour only under supervision. Some of the most cringe-inducing videos are the ones where people head in with the best of intentions – to make their audience laugh. Unfortunately badly written and filmed comedy is akin to a frat house movie – and nothing will alienate your audience faster. At Double Barrel we’ve traipsed into the genre of comedy for a few projects, but only when they’re written and performed by people with the chops. If you feel humour is the best vehicle for your next communications project, get in touch and we’ll help you build a killer comedy team.

 

~ Roz Allen is a Producer & Director at Double Barrel Studios