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For the Best Video Content, Keep It Simple [Stupid]

Look around you. Messages are everywhere, they surround us when we drive, we’re at work, and at home — just about everywhere. Most of them involve some kind of advertising or marketing message. Increasingly, these messages are not in print, but in some form of video or motion graphics. Given that the preferred demographic of many marketing plans is between the ages of 16-35, visual motion is ever more critical and important.

Creating compelling video is critical to gaining the attention of your prospective customers. Do yourself a favor and do some channel surfing. Make sure to hit CNN, MTV, Spike, Discovery and a few of the more traditional outlets such as CBS, NBC or ABC. You will notice a few things: the messages are everywhere, the messages are short, and the messages are slick. This is what you are competing with, whether your video is on-air or online only. So your message must be tight, well-designed, and well-produced.

There is a tendency for clients, both new and old, to want to cram as many messages into a piece — whether a commercial or a promotional video — as possible; to maximize their return on investment. This is usually a gross error. Unless your piece is instructional in nature, the old KISS rule applies: Keep It Simple [choose your appellation]! Check out this 30 second spec video for Duncan Yo-Yo:

 

There are good reasons that companies like Coca-Cola are willing to spend many millions of dollars to produce and air a Super Bowl spot that lasts 15 to 30 seconds and has one basic message: Coke makes you feel good. There may be more to the subtext, but that is essentially it. They could say much more, as could Levi’s jeans, Chevrolet or Kellogg’s. But all these companies know what we all should know: keep the message simple and it will resonate that much more with the customer. Even a ten-minute promotional piece should have only a few concepts, which are gently repeated and possibly even reinforced with text. That way the customer will remember and react, which is what we want.

It’s important to realize that video is not a one-layer medium like print. Video has at least three components. First and most obvious is the visual message, which should be designed to convey not simply the obvious (ie, “see how simple this new diabetes test kit is to use?”), but should create a feeling that reinforces this message (in this case, soothing colors, pleasing setting, warm and gentle lighting, etc.).

Second is the sound or audio. This should interlock with and support the visual message and, at its best, this is done with some subtlety. An example of a more obvious use is an appropriate voice-over that describes the benefits of the product. Of course, casting the voice — male or female, assertive or gentle, etc — is critical. In addition to the VO (if you use one), music and sound effects are often misused or under-utilized. Both are critical and must be done with sensitivity and skill because, as copious research has demonstrated, what we hear is often as, and sometimes more important than, what we see (interestingly, this is a result of our primitive brains trusting our ears more than our eyes!).

By the way, you might wonder why we keep citing research and where this research comes from. As it turns out, advertising agencies and marketing firms are some of the most prolific research buyers on Earth. Their work is better-funded and usually more precise than most university studies. Unlike academic work it is also closely guarded. It’s that valuable.

Finally, the third component is text. On-screen text can be used in conjunction with voiceover or alone. It can be accentuated with music or sound effect cues. Sometimes it is most powerful when used by itself. Again, looking at research on the subject, stand-alone text has a commanding nature that can be more compelling even than an authoritative voice-over or actor. It’s just the way our brains process messages. Other uses of text on-screen include the reinforcing of single or multiple messages delivered in voice, which results in deeper message penetration than voice only.

The bottom line: Effective video is really not about flashy products, huge productions or high budgets- it’s about understanding what your product is, who you are marketing to, and what is the best message (or set of messages) to compel the customer.

Keep it Simple. The best way to get your message to a potential buyer… on-time, on-target and on-budget.

About Marc Honorof

First Person Publishing is a content development company that has been working with writers, editors, researchers, illustrators, animators and Emmy award-winning video production companies for over 2 decades, consistently producing engaging, entertaining and educational content in all formats, for all platforms and on any budget. We have the ability to scale up for large projects with dedicated teams, or become a trusted outsource partner when you’re in a crunch. If you need a subject matter expert, a ghost blogger, articles, newsletters, or a product video or web series, that's what we do. Marc also consults to brands and companies in the areas of content development, strategy and marketing as well as brand publishing infrastructures and is selectively available for speaking engagements.

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