Are Overproduced Videos an Underperforming Asset?

You know the kind of video I am talking about.

  1. Cue the bland background music loop you know you’ve heard in a dozen other videos!
  2. Look! An animated man and woman are at a [desk, whiteboard, computer]. They are doing something! I wonder how the product will make it better!
  3. An exceptionally well-spoken narrator is reading a script that was clearly edited by a team of people and text had changed until the last minute and beyond.
  4. I’ll bet there are a lot of buzzwords in that video. Maybe so many buzzwords and topics that you pushed the length of the asset over 3 or 4 minutes. Now, was this an explainer video or a trainer video or… Or what? To whom is this video targeted and at what point in the sales cycle is it intended?
  5. And that video cost US$1000 to US$5000 per produced minute or more, depending on animation style, live-action actors and sets, and shooting and editing. And they can take 2 weeks to 4 weeks or more to complete! Not great if you need to react in a few days or a week.

Yet slick videos are, in fact, needed

I get it. Sometimes it is super important to have a slick “explainer” video or other kind of video that looks extremely Hollywood. For corporate-political reasons. For use in places where on-brand colors and on-brand images are required. And sometimes, despite my criticism, they are actually amazingly good. But do they perform?

  • Look at your platform stats to see what percentage of the video was watched. (Did people jump out after the first 10 seconds?)
  • If you’ve got the tools, track how many viewers engage in other content or with your team in other ways after the see the video. This is the perennial “attribution” challenge. No perfect tools yet, and many companies are addressing with new tools, but it is still important to try.

If they are performing, you have just shut me up. (And I bet the best of the best “Hollywood perfect” videos do perform!)

Now here’s the part where if I was selling you something, I’d sell you something

I am not trying to sell you anything other than an idea. My idea is this: Other than the situations in which you are required by your organization to create a Hollywood-style production, go for the “prosumer” level of video first. Because it is cheaper. It is agile. And it could even perform better than slick. Try these approaches:

  • Shoot an executive in an office with a compelling authentic message with no cue cards and them looking straight into the camera. Use some half-decent lighting, edit it to 60 seconds, and put a nice title on it.
  • Create your own whiteboard explanation and speed the video up and lay down an edited audio track.
  • Go on a customer visit and pull out your iPhone or Android phone and get a great 30 second testimonial to use on its own or as a part of a longer piece.

Then, if any of these assets show some great response, you can do one of two things:

  1. Further promote the video asset you just made, and make more like it
  2. Re-produce the asset with some more production values. It would be interesting to do a multi-variant test to see if a more slickly produced piece performed better than a homegrown prosumer version.

Below, see a video I created in an afternoon. Although it didn’t get huge numbers of views, it served its purpose and cost me practically nothing to create. And it clearly isn’t slick. But I got some great feedback and more importantly, engagement with the folks I wanted to engage with. (I know this video is not perfect, believe me! But it worked. Which is the point.)

I posit that in some cases, perhaps most cases, the “homegrown” authenticity of a really cool pro-sumer level video — whether an explainer, a training video, or even an ad — will outperform slick. At this point, I think most people are bored of slick.

Here’s another example I was involved in creating. I think it is actually pretty good at explaining what ransomware is in laymen’s terms. And it is the more formal, slick type of production.

With time to reflect, though the content was at the right level for a neophyte consumer, the human passion necessary wasn’t really present. Perhaps this video needed less formal animation, and just a person in a tight shot who was hit by ransomware telling their story. Or maybe we needed both kinds of assets. Next time around I am definitely going to lobby for multiple approaches and test them.

When do you use homegrown video, and when do you go out to a slick agency? Please share examples we can all learn from! Thanks.