Yesterday I was perusing one of my thrice daily emails from HARO (Help A Reporter Out) which lists all kinds of queries from reporters looking for sources for stories they’re working on. One that I found particularly intriguing was a reporter asking for opinions on what is acceptable when it comes to the production value of online video.
Here was my response:
I’ve been in the advertising/marketing industry for nearly 30 years. For the last 15 of those, I’ve owned a video production and web site design firm that services a wide variety of corporate clients.
Don’t let my resume fool you though — I actually DON’T think all online video has to meet the same levels of production value. For instance, some of the best viral videos have worked partly because their production values were so low. Often low production value adds a level of credibility to a video that purports to be “bystander video” of an actual event caught in the moment. For spoofs, low-brow comedy and even promotional videos and web-ads where it’s hip to be grungy — low production value can be cool.
However, audiences today are more sophisticated than ever about the quality of what they see on screen — regardless of whether that screen is attached to a computer, mobile phone or their home entertainment system. Even kids know good lighting, editing and acting when they see it — or more to the point — when they DON’T see it. They may not have the vocabulary to express it — but they definitely notice and make a judgment call.
To me, the best way to decide how much production value is required for your video is to start by thinking about who your desired audience is. If it’s hipsters and 20-somethings looking for something fun — that requires one kind of approach. If, on the other hand, you’re hoping to sell thousands of dollars of software to medium-size businesses — that’s a completely different message that needs to be presented in a very different way.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example of someone who successfully used low production value video. His goal? Grow business for his parents’ wine store. His target (and this is what made his approach make sense) was younger audiences who knew nothing about wine — and maybe even felt a little intimidated by snobby “wine culture.” Gary’s personal style is irreverent, fun, and “in your face”. Yet, he really does know wine. He’s just not afraid to be enthusiastic, profane, rough edged, etc., in his wine reviews. I’ve heard him tell his audience that a particular wine is so bad its aroma reminds him of the smell of a county fair men’s room. His Wine Library videos were massively popular with exactly the crowd he was aiming for. His parents’ business sky rocketed.
But Gary will also tell you that he knows his style of presentation is a complete turn-off to older, more conservative audiences who have money to spend and are interested in wine. That bothers him, but not enough to compromise his focus on the young, hip market that connects with him.
What plagues me is all the discussion going on in chat rooms and on blog postings about how no business should ever have to worry about production value. Don’t hire that expensive production company — just set up your camera and go for it. Really? It’s one thing for hipsters to be drawn to a hand-held Flip video production about a new brand of jeans. It’s a completely different story for the CIO of a corporation to watch your cheaply produced, rambling video and decide to spend $10,000 on a software license with your company.
The point is, the audience makes the decision. There are just some things that I want to buy from a professional, solid-looking company. No passes for being on-line. On-line is your business’ number one way of connecting with me. That’s where you get to make your first, best and in many cases, ONLY impression. If your video looks amateurish — guess what? That’s now the impression I have of your company.
Think about it. Haven’t you ever seen one of those awful, locally produced TV spots for say, a tire company or furniture store and thought — “I will NEVER shop there. That Mom and Pop operation can’t even make a good commercial.”
The same thing applies to web sites. You know you’ve landed on a site that was so poorly designed that you thought “these people have to be working out of their basement”.
I could go on and on — and maybe I already have. Thanks for exploring this topic — it’s important.