Sometimes you’ve just got to be cruel to be kind!
One of the more compelling aspects of the ongoing media revolution is that companies now have an opportunity to own their own media. Instead of relying on outside channels and platforms to host their marketing communications, because of the Web and decreasing production costs, amongst other things, they can now publish their own brand-influenced content themselves and stand a pretty good chance of reaching large audiences.
So maybe now’s the time to push the envelope a little.
Your usual idea of corporate video advertising – an extension of the marketing message or even a sales demo – may seem outdated now. So rather than producing the classic product commercial viewed at various intervals during the main event, why not be the main event yourself? Think about it. A TV show. Which engages as it’s entertaining and is relevant because its activity is inherently associated with the brand. The big guys are already at it, most notably Fosters who’ve done it most recently with their “re-launch” of Alan Partridge – Mid Morning Matters.
Of course we can’t all hire famous writers and comedians to deliver the goods for our brands – most organisations’ budgets wouldn’t allow it. But maybe it’s good to consider a more televisual approach when it comes to commissioning and producing corporate video.
Start maybe by casting your products, services or brand itself within a story. The most simple application of which perhaps is a documentary. A documentary is not a sales-y or marketing-oriented format at all. Yet it has the capability to engross and engage far more than traditional marketing formats. It often has a compelling narrative, interwoven with compelling characters. And because it’s rooted in reality it’s also authentic. In these days of accountability and engagement via social media, doesn’t this seem a more persuasive way of putting your point across, rather than merely outlining features and benefits?
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
And a documentary doesn’t have to be long, either. That might be asking too much of your audience at this point. It could be as brief as a couple of minutes. Look at these “minidocs” now | house did for singingworks – Launch and Laura-June Barnes.
Of course you might want to go further and consider a mockumentary. Or maybe not. Maybe that wood be taking it a bit far.
I was talking to someone last night about how sound can be used in video. She was saying how part of her job was to find appropriate soundtracks for the videos they produced. What she does, she said, was source from one of these audio resources where you enter the kind of music you’re after, according to mood, colour, shape, title, type of brand etc.
She was getting frustrated, as it happens. Because her company’s tied in to a licensing deal with this agency. Her beef was that she found it a) onerous, having to pick and choose from a whole swathe of different soundtracks and b) uncomfortable in any case because she had to make do with sounds that she was already familiar with as they’d been used before in other organisations’ videos, which didn’t make them exactly stand out.
Of course, there’s the other point that picking something out that’s effectively secondhand doesn’t stand much of a chance of being either on-message or on-brand.
Now of course if you feel you have no other option than to choose from either royalty-free or production music, then these kind of sites can seem very useful. And if your client, peers or bosses are happy with this arrangement and the finished product then of course that’s fine.
But if, like the person I was talking to, you find it rather demeans or otherwise undermines the video you’ve produced then of course there’s the other option. Which is to commission your musical soundtrack.
Which to some sounds a little scary. Once upon a time, when music production was in a different place, it cost an arm and a leg to commission original music. This put a lot of clients off from the start. Thousands of pounds for sound alone? Untenable – just not worth it.
But now all that has changed. At now | house for example we actually find it easier to compose from scratch than choose from a selection of musical soundbites. Technology allows us to do this. You can compose and produce simultaneously these days, thanks to these wonderful Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). And no, it doesn’t sound like a load of tinny Atari game soundtracks. We use real instruments as well as synthetic ones. Sometimes these days in any case it’s hard to tell the difference.
So sourcing original music can be less hassle and not as expensive as you think.
Here are three examples of how we’ve used our own original music in now | house’s videos -
And, if you follow these simple guidelines below (repeated from an earlier blog), you could fast be on your way to your own jingles and soundtracks which help embellish your brand and bring your products and services to life, in exactly the way you want.
- Play a game with your product or service. What does it “sound” like? That’s not as difficult as it, er, sounds.
- Listen out for clues. The world is full of sound, it’s just that a lot of us are not always awake to it. And, by the way, it’s perfectly ok for example to hear a song or sound you like that fits with your brand, then persuade your creatives to create something similar. It may be a motif, a jingle or even something more ambient, something that can be repeated in a loop (don’t worry looped music doesn’t have to be boring, it just needs to fit).
- Try to map out a “sound brief” based on what you get from 1) and 2) above. This might include
- The person / thing / song the brand sounds like
- The intended mood – bright, slow, happy, dark, fun
- A visual element in the video brief you think stands out as a sonic guide
- What you intend the listener to think / feel
- Be honest. Don’t let your creatives lead you down the garden path. All this might be new to you but remember, the wrong sounds (or even no sound at all) will most likely ruin your final creative.
- Think about the “distraction” element. Make sure the chosen music doesn’t overpower the visuals.
And finally, don’t buy in sloppy seconds when you don’t really need to. Your video deserve better.
This post has nothing to do with video.
It has nothing to do with sound.
Well, not directly anyway.
It’s by way of a tribute to someone I knew quite a long time ago. And it’s reminded me that a) life’s too short and b) there are some truly brilliant people who pass relatively unnoticed, except for those who knew them.
Henry was my first boss. A pioneer.
He was a computer programmer. Back in the day when you needed to be pretty sparky to write code. He was the best developer I’ve known. And I’ve known some amazing systems guys.
Henry wrote software for Lloyd’s of London Members Agencies, the companies who look after Lloyd’s investors’ affairs. If it weren’t for him and his colleagues at Whitespace Software, where I worked, that part of the market may not have recovered from the mess it got itself into. Without the code he wrote and systems he developed, very few companies would have accounted for the extraordinary losses that occurred in that market in the late eighties and early nineties. Whitespace’s systems ensured that the majority of Members Agencies could at least sleep reasonably soundly.
He wrote programs in a language called “C”. C is arguably the true language of the Internet. It’s what the UNIX operating system is coded in. Without it, there would be no PHP or Perl, the languages which brought us most of the social media tools we’ve got so used to. No open source. No @jack. No Friend Zuckerberg. There would be no HTML. No online video. No World Wide Web.
Henry wrote programs a long time ago. Before the Web was invented.
That’s because Henry died in a ski-ing accident in St. Anton, Austria in March 1990. He would have been 50 today.
And if he’d lived no doubt he would have written the most amazing back-end web systems, phone apps, aggregation solutions, the full Monty.
Today, October 15th 2010, I’ll be attending a small ceremony in Golden Square, where our offices were all those years ago, to witness the unveiling of a commemorative bench, in honour of Henry.
And my ex-colleagues will be there too. And Henry’s Mum and Dad. And his brothers. All great people too, by the way.
Whitespace Software is still going strong, 25 years after its inception. Not bad for a still-small business software company. I suppose that’s pretty good testimony to Henry’s achievements. As well as providing me with a pretty good start to my career, of course.
I guess life is full of ifs and buts. So I’m afraid I can’t help thinking that he could have achieved so much more.
If you’re ever passing by Golden Square, take a moment on Henry’s Bench and maybe spare a thought for him and for all those brilliant geezers and geezerettes who pioneered the stuff we use every day and take so much for granted now.
So the Big Guys have decided to change the world. Again. This time it’s with a service that will combine online and more traditional broadcast content to form a seamless entertainment experience for all – Google TV. And Google intend to roll out Stateside by end of the year, rest of the world next year.
So it’s the future of popular culture. But will it actually work?
There are precedents. Both Apple and Microsoft have had a go at online TV, to little or no effect. The main point is that world is never quite ready for the newest innovations. It’s the 2nd or 3rd generation who usually crack it. Remember when mobile phones came along? And texting? You could text pretty much from the start but it was only when everyone had a phone that texting seemed the most convenient way of keeping in touch. Same with Internet TV as a mainstream TV option. Uptake of broadband’s an issue for sure but at the heart of the matter is a wider, cultural thing.
The point is that it’s only very recently that any one provider’s been serious about video on demand (VOD). What’s more, those with access to it are used to viewing it on browsers on their PCs or Macs. BBC started their service iPlayer as recently as 2007, with ITV (ITV player) following suit in December 2008. Sky, meantime, actually had a VOD service – Sky Anytime – as early as 2006, which was rebranded in 2006 to Sky Player, though of course this is still only available to paying Sky customers.
So now we have most network broadcasters providing VOD which has meant that it’s now a major part of a fair chunk of the population’s mainstream consumption of entertainment. But it’s still not considered TV as such. That’s the thing you get on your TV set, isn’t it? And it’s a passive thing, something to share with the rest of the room, perhaps, or just to veg out on your own. What’s more, the majority of content that most Internet users know about that’s not broadcast TV is still on major carrier sites such as YouTube or smaller providers like Vimeo.
Google TV aims to change all that. The idea is that it’s not the hardware, the software or even the televisual content that matters. It’s the people who put you in touch with the content. Who help you to find it, then help you to manage it, then help you to experience it. All within the same interface. Have a look at this, the latest promo from Google, which explains how it’s all going to happen.
And it will happen, even though in this country at least there are significant differences in service of high-speed broadband across the UK. And, as ever, it’s unclear from Google’s promotional material how seamless the transition from watching the main 5 channels to online content will be. It’s early days, for sure. And, if the past 20 years is anything to go by, it’s anything but certain whether Google TV will be the major provider of multi-channel multimedia provision.
But one thing’s for certain. Before this decade’s out, most people’s viewing habits will have changed almost unrecognisably from those at the beginning of the 21st century. The hold that the main channels (and particularly the BBC) have will have all but disappeared.
And for those of us who provide content and those who own it, from the smallest business to the largest multinational, that signposts a fantastic opportunity. That’s because, quite simply, there will be no need to go to the major broadcasters for PR or advertising exposure. You will be able to commission your own branded entertainment, at a fraction of the current cost of advertising on television and, thanks to Google and other providers, enable its visibility.
On the 28th September the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, delivered a speech at the Royal Television Society, outlining his vision of Local TV broadcasting for the UK.
The debate on Local TV really seems to centre around the delivery of local news. So Jeremy Hunt and his team, for example, are talking about relaxing the rules around ownership of local media by large organisations and the possible stimulation in the local economy to encourage the production of local media, by sponsorship for example.
There seem to me to be two interesting points that come out of all this.
What the point? Don’t we already have the content?
What’s good about Jeremy Hunt’s ideas is that, on the one hand, they seem to be saying “give local TV back to the people”. Since 2008 local TV stations have ceased to exist since the effective centralisation of ITV (Channel 3). Unlike Sweden, USA and France, where local TV stations flourish.
On the other hand, the Culture Secretary seems to be focusing his attentions (and resources) on good old-fashioned broadcast TV. In other words, he would advocate a system where existing TV companies or media companies benefit directly and could possibly set up monopolistic ventures, whether produced internally or outsourced to smaller independents. Not a good thing. And not appropriate in these days of multi-platform multimedia and multi-source content.
Jeremy Hunt mentions online media but its provision seems to have been marginalised. That would appear to be because he’s publicly concerned about provision of quality broadband in all areas of the UK and doesn’t think that online take-up is as great as it should be. But that has to change in any case, as Jeremy Hunt himself outlined yesterday. More importantly, there is now an increasing amount of untapped talent generating a lot of original creative content. Making sustainable provision for that would surely be better for everyone – local consumers, the providers and the local economy at large.
Is it News? Or Entertainment?
In any case. Should the Culture Secretary’s emphasis be on News? This seems to be slightly presumptuous. Surely there’s room for the whole shebang. Not just news. Informative, entertaining, compelling content – low cost, intimate and directly relevant to the local agenda. Alex Connock from 10 Alps has something to say about all this on The (brand new) Media Briefing website.
My view is that there’s a whole world of non-broadcast media generated content out there. Of varying quality maybe but perhaps that’s all about funding. Once there’s money to ensure that people can live off their creativity at the very least, then the whole picture should change forever. TV journalism will change. Factual content will change. Even drama and lighter entertainment.
So why doesn’t Jeremy Hunt make it easier on himself? Why talk in relatively complex terms of, say, issuing licences for local TV stations, getting bankers and Ofcom involved, not to mention the broader issues of why it’s good to maintain good local commercial as well as public service broadcasting? Why doesn’t he use his (now albeit limited) resources to stimulate growth and encourage, say, commercial grants for all manner of talented independent TV and film producers, so that they can produce the kind of relevant content that local people will undoubtedly want? Then he can deal separately with the matter of getting that content distributed, through local social networks, newspaper publishers and, yes, existing broadcast TV companies.