Archive for the ‘SAS’ Tag

Whiteboard Videos in the Crosshairs

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.


5 Tips for the Dreaded Corporate History Video

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.

Listening and the Art of Social Web Marketing

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.

Enhance Marketing Effectiveness with Actionable Social Media

We’ve all seen the statistics about the incredible rise in use of social media as a marketing tactic.  To be used effectively, social media must not only engage customers in two-way conversations, it must provide actionable information that helps build relationships and drives forward the selling process.

Social media marketing has captured the attention of publishers and an army of business writers.  Read the publication headlines or check your email for any of the dozens of webinars in praise of social media, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that all B2B and B2C marketing efforts are now social.  That’s not entirely true.  For most organizations, the largest percentage of the overall marketing budget is still dedicated to traditional (think outbound) marketing activities.

Today’s marketers are increasingly being asked to manage a growing number of marketing communication activities.  Each should play a specific role in meeting marketing objectives.  When done seamlessly, a marketer develops a number of touch points with both prospects and customers.  This is where social media fits in, as an enabler to enhance marketing engagement.  As a tactic, social media should be thought of along with other technologies that have social elements: wikis, social tagging/bookmarking, web feeds, and blogs.

A recent study from King Fish Media, Hubspot, and Junta 42 reports that nearly three-quarters (72%) of surveyed companies have social media marketing strategies.  As organizations embrace the use of social media, the amount of data available for gaining true marketing insight grows.  According to a Gartner Special Report, “There are millions of terabytes of data on the web (5 petabytes added each day) that reflect the attitudes, intentions and venues within which both business and consumer buyers are expressing their opinions and influencing the actions of their peers.”  It’s this wealth of resource that needs to be harnessed by marketers for social media to transform conversations into market opportunity.

With implementation of social media still in its early stages, organizations are seeking ways to track conversations and better gage their impact on brand perception and sales.  Organizations are measuring page views, the numbers of followers (fans), and the amount of traffic delivered to the corporate website.  It’s a start, but organizations need to do more.  Actionable information from social media channels requires a greater understanding of overall customer brand sentiment and the ability to proactively monitor social conversations on channels like YouTube and Twitter.

The Gartner Special Report points out the need for organizations to harness the power of social media to facilitate engagement with customers, business partners, and employees – to effectively capitalize on their investments in social media marketing.  “Over time, the boundaries between social and collaborative applications (such as, e-mail, instant messaging and “texting”) and business applications (such as, finance or sales) will blur, and transactional activities will be augmented by socially-enabled capabilities.”  This investment is largely one of human capital.  Many social media channels are available free of charge.  Its employees who listen to the voice of the customer that creates opportunity for engagement.

A growing number of software solutions are available to help organizations capture data and glean insights that can grow the business.  Such solutions help organizations monitor online conversations, understand customer sentiment, and react more quickly to customer needs and market opportunities.  As social media takes an increasingly prominent role within an overall marketing program, market leaders will turn increasingly to business analytics to convert social media data into strategic, actionable, information.

Marketing to the C-Suite

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.

Mission to Mars – Part 3 of 3

This is the final post about communication support for the most recent software release from the JMP team at SAS.  Continuing the creative design concept, a third video was developed in the JibJab style.  Done to add humor to the market introduction of a new release, this short video continues the theme of space travel.


The program showcases more of the wonderful edit work done by Robert Reed, senior editor at SAS.  It also shows off the multi-talents of Rowell Gormon from Voices2Go.  For more information about the production aspects, read the second post in this series.


It’s not often that producers are given as much leeway to create and develop off-the-wall ideas.  I am very grateful to the JMP Marketing team for their trust and support.  They took a risk, but it was a risk worth taking.  Since the successful introduction of JMP® 8, several other marketing groups at SAS have asked about doing something similar.  Time will tell if they are equally willing to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Mission to Mars – Part 2 of 3

This chimp is no chump.  Yesterday in part one this post, I shared some background about a recent project just completed for the JMP team at SAS.  One of the communication objectives was to bring a bit of amusement to the launch of their most current software release.  The addition of Dr. Julian M. Peabody (aka Bobo) helps meet that objective.



The short video was done in the JibJab style to match other creative elements of the campaign.  It was developed by Robert Reed, our senior editor on staff.  Robert used After Effects to create the mouth movement for Dr. Peabody and the TV reporter.  The facial expressions, blinking eyes, and arm movements were done in final post using Avid DS.


Rowell Gormon of Voices2Go did a wonderful job with the voice styling for both Bobo as well as the reporter.  He also plays the on-camera role… that of the reporter.


If you check out part three of this post, you can see more of Robert’s great work and hear more from Rowell.

Santa Testimonial on YouTube – A Case Study

It’s the Christmas season and Santa has been hard at work doing in-depth data analysis of his nice list… and no, this is not a commercial for SAS.


Every organization has some form of annual performance review.  SAS is no exception.  Within the Video Communications and New Media team everyone has an objective to initiate and deliver innovative ideas that help the business.  Brendan Bailey, one of our Project Mangers, developed the idea of doing a spoof about how Santa uses SAS software to deliver the right toy, to the right child, all in a single evening.  The idea goes to the very heart of corporate branding – showing an organization has a sense of humor and heart.



The faux testimonial was developed as a skunk works project.  The team developed the project over several months, incorporating existing resources as much as possible to keep expenses to a minimum.  A lot of good ideas never made it past the script phase in an effort to keep expenses low.


To keep the program short, other good ideas hit the cutting room floor.  A segment on green initiatives ended up being cut.  We also lost a funny line where Santa talks about polar bears “loving (to eat) elves,” and the elves not thinking it was funny.  Too bad, it really was a funny line.


We were happy with the final project… but then hit a few roadblocks.


For a variety of reasons we were unable to publish the video on the company’s external website.  An alternate form in print was published, but the video was not included.  However, we took the opportunity to publish the video on YouTube.  The results were impressive.


Within the first 24 hours of posting, the video received well over 1,000 views.  Monitoring viewing stats, a tech writer at the N&O found the video and interviewed some of the people on the production team.  Getting your name in print is seldom a bad thing.  To quote Jane Russell, “Publicity can be terrible.  But only if you don’t have any.”


Now here is the best part.  Within two weeks of its posting on YouTube, video playback topped 10,000.  SAS CEO, Dr. Jim Goodnight, received an email from Michael Dell of Dell Computers saying the video was clever.


A note from John Gordon over at NC State said it best, “Santa, zero dollars. Elves, minimal cost. A note from Michael Dell to your CEO, priceless.”.