Archive for the ‘advertising’ Tag
The sun was barely over the horizon on a cold Saturday morning when a caravan of vehicles drove across the SAS campus. The vehicles were full of camera equipment, lights, props, and the all-important catering supplies to keep everyone well fed. Work was about to begin on shooting of a series of spots featuring Big Data Guy (BDG). Before the day was done, equipment packed, and food exhausted, a crew from SAS’ Video Communications and New Media (VC&NM) team completed shooing three spots highlighting how SAS can help organizations take advantage of the massive amounts of data they collect.
Long before the last edit was made, before the first scene was shot, before the scripts were even written – there is the back story. The project started as a challenge issued by Bill Marriott to his VC&NM team. The challenge, each quarter come up with a unique idea for a project and drive it through to completion. “We have a lot of highly creative people in our group, but the day-to-day work of the department often demands quick delivery on tight timelines. This project was an opportunity to empower the team to do what they do best, create compelling content that delivers the SAS message.”
A Visit From Big Data
As in most things, nothing happens until someone takes ownership. Taking up Bill’s challenge, Brendan Bailey proposed creating a series of spots using the classic TV formula of Conflict & Resolution. “Many commercials use this formula. It provides an opportunity to pose a problem and offer a solution. The issue of big data fits this model. It’s a challenge, but also a great opportunity; with the answer being SAS.”
A series of brainstorming meetings followed which resulted in a dozen script treatments. At that point the team ran into an impasse. The outlines all treated the BDG character differently. “We lacked a clear understanding of who we wanted this character to be,” explained Todd Johnson. “So we spent some time debating the character and wrote a back story detailing who BDG is and how we want him portrayed.”
With a clearer understanding of the character, the question remained, how well would he work? David Stephenson took the lead and drafted scripts for three initial spots. “The character somewhat wrote himself. As the scripts came together the creative team focused more on content and creating spots that were flexible enough to use in different ways.”
Big Data Knows That’s A Stolen Credit Card
The team continued to debate how long to make each spot and if released to YouTube whether length mattered. At the suggestion of Bill Marriott the team decided to work toward the length of standard broadcast commercials. “Building standard length :15, :30, and :60 second spots added structure to the process. The constraints of a blueprint can often help focus energies on the best way to make something happen.”
Scripts complete – check. Locations secured – check. Talent hired – check. The day of shooting finally arrived. It was time to see how well BDG would work in delivering the SAS message about big data. From dawn to dusk the crew and on-camera talent wandered around the SAS campus collecting footage needed to create the spots. Gary Peterson and Mark Lawrence managed the day-long shoot. “It certainly wasn’t our usual day of shooting,” said Lawrence. “Even though the final spots are short, they require a lot of material. We had only the one day to get all the shots. We knew we weren’t going to have the chance to grab extra shots later. It had to be done right the first time.”
Now complete, the spots are posted to the SAS website and in use at customer events. The response has encouraged the production team to begin work on another round of spots. Given a blank canvas and creative freedom, it’s amazing what a creative team can deliver.
Walk the halls of any marketing department and you’re bound to hear someone planning a whiteboard video project. The success of UPS’ advertising campaign has spurred imitators at every turn. If asked to produce such a project, how do you respond? For me, I gather up all the wooden stakes and silver bullets I can find – it’s time to put these requests in the crosshairs
What appears simple in the UPS television commercials is anything but simple. What made these spots work? They were surprising, the operative word being were, past tense. It’s clear when a technique has peaked, just watch for the growing number of parodies. The UPS spots are short, not a 20 minute marketing promotion. The ads make one simple point rather than a bullet list of complex messages best covered in a written white paper. And finally the talent brings just the right combination of presentation and artistic skills to make the commercials interesting.
When one of these project requests crossed my desk, I met with the client and listened, nodded at the appropriate moments, and made all the motions as if taking detailed notes. The marketing prime was using whiteboards as the centerpiece for a series of interactive, small-group meetings. It’s a wonderful meeting format for those participating in person at one of the events. But creating a “whiteboard video” to promote the event series wasn’t going to work. I promised the client I would use some whiteboard techniques, but the promo spot would employ other techniques as well. The production team at SAS included graphic and animation support from Tim Cherry and post production editing was handled by Kevin Alexander. In the end, the client was happy with the results and is using the program to promote the event series.
There are times when a whiteboard video is a good way to approach a project. Our team at SAS has done many such projects. Most are for internal use rather than external marketing. Here are a few things to keep in mind about such projects.
1) Whiteboard or Smart Board – There is a difference. A whiteboard is just that, a flat drawing surface. A smart board offers the advantage of interactivity and the use of computer-generated content. This is one way to create animation which on-camera talent can interact.
2) Pre-Produced Content – With a smart board, content can be pre-produced. It can be graphic animation as in some of the UPS commercials, PowerPoint charts can be presented, or software can be shown and interacted with. Pre-planning content elements minimizes the need for talent to draw upon their inner artist – they can remain focused on the content.
3) Hire an Artist – When a client insists on creating “one of those clever whiteboard videos,” start looking for a graphics professional. Use the search terms: videoscribing or whiteboard animation. The animation does not need to be done on-camera, a voice over can work just as well. Animation can also be pushed to a smart board for the on-camera talent to interact.
4) All Things in Moderation – If one or two coffees, why not eight or ten? As in the example produced for SAS, a little whiteboard animation goes a long way. It takes a very clever production team to make the technique work over an extended project. A better approach is to use it sparingly and build out a program using other complementary techniques.
5) Bang for the Buck – If you use a professional artist for the project, consider making use of the animation separate from the original project. A shortened form of the animation could be used to promote the full-length program. The graphic sequences could be made into short clips that when pulled into PowerPoint can enhance other presentations while strengthening message continuity.
When asked about producing a whiteboard program, take ownership of the project. As a media professional you’re the one most qualified to make the decisions that will delight your client. You can save the wooden crosses and silver bullets for vampires and werewolves.
The request often brings shivers to any producer assigned the corporate history project. But these projects can be fun to work on and a great opportunity for creative expression. The “SAS Corporate Timeline: A History of the Analytics Leader” covers important company highlights in an entertaining way. Produced by Todd Johnson with animation done by Jeff McFall and the graphic and multimedia team at SAS, the program follows five solid design principles.
1) Keep it Short – In the age of on-line video keep the program short. That means prioritizing the most important information to go into the program. For organizations with a short history that might not be too much of a problem, but for organizations that have been around awhile it can be a challenge. Suggestion: When more information needs to be presented, propose a secondary project and build out a more complete timeline in multimedia format. Create a web deliverable to allow users to dig as deep as they like into the organization’s history. Develop a spin off project in print format that can be offered as a PDF download. Your client will appreciate the suggestions and it demonstrates the added value you bring to the project.
2) Select Interesting Content – This is fraught with as much political posturing and agendas as anything that goes on in the UN General Assembly. This is where having one client is so important. These projects will never please everyone, so be sure to please at least one client. The content should lend itself to development of interesting visuals. Text can be used in interesting ways to deliver specific messages while compelling visuals deliver the backstory. Suggestion: This format is ideal for creating multiple versions (i.e. new clients, additional projects, multiple billings!). For those parts of an organization that feel their content/message did not receive enough attention, sell them their own version!
3) Build New – Organizations with a long history are likely to have a storeroom of old photos, films, documents, awards… the list goes on and on. All of this stuff means something to someone. As the producer, it’s important to maintain creative control of the presentation and use, or not use, these materials. Nothing will drag down a timeline project faster than visual discontinuity. Without explanation they can be confusing or meaningless. You might be able to weave them into a background montage, but primary visuals should be constructed new. Suggestion: Historical assets can help bring to life web-based infographics and publication material where written information can detail their relevance.
4) MOS or Narrated – Why not both? Here is another opportunity to add value and build a stronger client relationship. Most clients requesting these projects will have a narrative in mind. However, in most cases these programs find their greatest value in environments where sound won’t work, such as at a trade show, within a demo center, or on a display wall. Build the program so the visuals can stand alone; accompanied by an optional mix track. Create a separate version with a narrative track for situations that are more presentation than environmental. Suggestion: A narrative track should not just drive text visuals. Allow any narrative to supplement the visual elements and add an additional layer of information.
5) Update/Change Flexibility – If an organization is successful the timeline project will need updates. If additional client departments want a modified version, that’s a change request – same with foreign language translations. A year or two after release there will be new history and most likely changes to the corporate message. The changes might be subtle, but changing any video project requires work. Changes need to be planned for ahead of time. Build the project in layers so selected elements can be more easily changed. And archive, archive, archive. Keep everything, label it well, and file it so future updates can be made simple and seamless. Suggestion: If the organization is global, text and language changes are likely requests resulting from a successful project. (Especially true if you market the program to others within the company.) If properly constructed, changes to these layers can be easily accommodated. Less obvious are changes to background imagery. Build into the original presentation the ethnic, gender, and geographic profile that best represents the company as a global organization.
For the corporate producer or the independent, these projects can provide visibility and showcase your abilities. They can be the springboard to additional projects and future opportunity.
At the DMA 2010 Conference, Chris Brogan, President of New Marketing Labs, spoke about the importance of listening as an enabler of social web marketing. Active listening is a critical skill in both life and business – just ask anyone who has a spouse or a boss. [Fill in own joke here.]
What is active listening? It’s a process that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear. In the context of the social web, active listening is what enables a business to understand, measure, and take action. It’s the foundation upon which are built the four Cs of social media: Connect, Content, Capture, and Capitalize.
During his presentation, Brogan gave a personal example of the social web and the wisdom of crowds. An impulse shopper, he used the collective intelligence of his broad network of followers to research an electronics purchase. His search started on Google, friends offered their suggestions, and a tweet from H&H Photo in New York closed the deal. “The next thing you know, I’m shopping. I’m shopping, when I was just kind of complaining.”
In this short video clip, Brogan offers some very practical advice on how people socialize and interact with each other across the Web. Learn how business can engage in the conversation, better connect with consumers, and nurture relationships.
Social media veteran Chris Brogan is a prolific blogger and co-author of the best-selling book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.
The paradigm shift empowering leading-edge advantage towards world class leadership is building momentum for… cut the bull, plain English please.
We’ve all read endless streams of corporate-speak: jargon-filled, filtered, and antiseptic ‑ rendering real communication all but impossible. For communicators it’s a slippery slope. While every industry has a unique language, accepted acronyms, and technical vocabulary, the trap for communicators is when we yield to company-speak and avoid the battle for clear, concise, communication.
In the wonderful book, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, authors, Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky offer a compelling alternative. For those of us working in the communication trenches, the book is a valuable reminder of the slow brainwashing that over time can influence the way we choose to communicate.
And yes, it’s a choice. If your ambition is to serve as a mid-level bureaucrat using Mad-Libs fill-in-the-blank jargon for your next assignment, you will be well on your way to an all but invisible place on the org. chart. While remaining hidden behind fact-free, mind-numbing bulls*it seems a safe place to remain unseen, in a difficult business environment it’s also a sure way to an unceremonial pink slip. In a tough business climate, organizations need communicators who help strengthen the business, create compelling dialogues, and develop innovative ways to influence people.
The book exposes several common traps that can transform the unwary communicator into a boring business stiff:
1. Businesses focus on themselves over their audience
Too often those creating business communications aim to impress, not to inform. Rather than using plain, simple language everyone understands, business communicators fall back on the use of jargon or insider phrases. The authors describe it as becoming “a kind of intellectual powerhouse, generating concepts that are too lofty to be expressed in something as mundane as English.” We too often fear that straightforward language might make us look dumb.
2. Business people fear concrete language
Avoiding commitment, and thereby liability, has evolved into something of an art form. The problem with this approach is that through “vagary and verbosity,” the credibility of whatever follows is reduced. In short, people recognize B.S. and give up looking for meaning. Remember, for communicators the bottom line is to connect, convince, and help the organization move ahead.
3. Business is boring
How can you not purchase a book with a chapter titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll for Business People”? The authors offer a hilarious look at why business-speak is so ridiculous. They remind everyone in business that connecting with an audience, any audience, is about gaining their attention. “Make it relevant. Make it vivid. Make it compelling. Whether you like it or not, you’re in the entertainment business.” This admonition applies to everyone within an organization, none more so than those responsible for crafting communication messages.
The authors offer this key take away, “bullshit eats away at your personal capital, while straight talk pays dividends.” Make the wise investment, fight the bull and make clear, compelling communication the hallmark of your personal success.
Everyone in marketing and sales wants in to the C-Suite executive. Marketing and selling at the executive level has long been a favored business strategy. But as marketing communicators, how well do we assist sales with messaging that truly resonates at the C-level?
Marketing deliverables must support sales initiatives at multiple stages of the customer buying cycle. That’s why we create ads, glossy brochures, webcasts, white papers, and all the tactical deliverables required to move a prospect over to the sold column. But what about messaging for the C-level?
In the book, Selling to the C-Suite, co-authors Stephen Bistritz and Nicholas Read address the issue from the point of view of sales strategy. For those of us in marketing, the book is a valuable guide on how to support sales in their efforts to sell at the highest levels. The heart of the issue is that C-level executives have different priorities from others in their organization. For any proposed spending, C-level executives have multiple options. They can choose to buy your product or service; they could buy from your competitor; maybe they could achieve similar financial results by hiring more sales people or increasing staff training. The C-level perspective is not about the widget or servicing the widget, it about how for a given investment, the organization can derive most benefit – and often in the shortest amount of time.
People who make a career in sales understand this. As marketers, support for C-level engagements must be less about the widget, and more about return on investment. Next time you are asked to develop marketing support for C-level engagement, stay focused on quantifiable business impact. It’s the “elevator speech.” Hold subject matter experts responsible for laser-like focus on the issue of bottom line business impact. Far too often content-gathering conversations start here, but quickly devolve into performance details, technical specifications, and the standard Features & Benefits information that can be found on any organization’s website.
For a moment, think of yourself as having the big corner office – maybe it’s your favorite chair in a corner of the kitchen. If you receive a profit-sharing bonus, a tax refund, or a Nigerian email scam actually sends you money (OK, the last item may be a stretch), as family CEO what do you do with the available funds? You could pay bills, make some home improvements, put money down on a car, or buy a vacation… you get the idea. Business leaders make similar decisions about projects to fund or activities to support.
Make it Effective:
- Focus less on product/service and more on value
- Don’t use jargon, messages should focus on outcome level
- Enable sales to personalize the assets to individual C-level executives
- Content must be relevant, engaging, and, focused on the industry sector
- Create conversation starters: interesting data about industry trends, success stories, etc.
Such a strategy proved effective for business analytics software leader SAS. Last year, a series of thought leader events was held in about a dozen cities across North America. The events featured analytics consultant, author, and educator Tom Davenport, and focused on how companies can use analytics to drive business results. Tactical marketing support included print, an online presence, advertising, and live event support. All of the tactical deliverables focused on business outcome and value. For the SAS sales staff, the events were a great way to engage prospects and customers while building stronger relationships.
Your marketing support activities may only get one chance to assist sales in making an impact at the C-level. Keep the messaging focused on what your organization offers that can help a senior executive deliver results demanded by the board of directors. This will help establish your sales team as trusted advisors to your customers and open new opportunities for your business.