Why is video such a powerful communications tool?

Posted by Nick Francis
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 "Of all the arts, the most important for us is the cinema"

- Vladimir Lenin

The leaders of the Russian Revolution were fascinated with the power of film as a propaganda and educational tool for a largely illiterate population. The reason for this was the medium’s ability to inspire emotion among groups of people.

Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein, 1925 – genius filmmaker of the Russian Revolution
One hundred years on, film/video remains the most potent tool available for generating emotion in a dispersed audience. It’s the ability to move us that makes good cinema completely spellbinding, and why, historically, TV advertising has been so lucrative. We are moved because we empathise directly with what happens to the characters on screen.
 
Storytelling is an essential tool in any corporate communicator’s arsenal. It’s when it’s combined with the natural properties of film that it becomes the most powerful communication tool available to humanity. This is because video is most effective when used to portray human emotion.
 

Empathy

ˈɛmpəθi/

noun

“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

Empathy is a key evolutionary skill. It’s fundamental to our ability to form cohesive social groups. It allowed our forebears to benefit from not having to fight sabre-toothed tigers literally alone. It allows us the same benefit, metaphorically speaking. When we see or hear about people experiencing specific emotions, we’ve evolved to feel those same emotions. For example, if we see someone who’s suffering from the cold, we feel a little of that suffering. This makes us more likely to offer a jacket, blanket or space by the fire. These emotions assist the survival of the species, and are part of our intrinsic need to seek out experiences, understanding and companionship. These are fundamental elements in what makes us human.

The mechanics behind empathy have long baffled neuroscientists. To begin with, it was assumed that the emotion was as a result of a logical, mental interpretation in order to predict other people’s actions. Then, in the early 1990s, Italian researchers studying the brains of macaque monkeys made a breakthrough. They discovered that the same area of the brain lights up in monkeys that are just watching their fellow monkeys reaching for food as in those who are doing the reaching.

Casual FIlms BrainThis led to the discovery in the brain of what are called ‘mirror cells’. This profoundly changed our understanding of neurochemistry. These cells allow us to understand other people’s actions, not by thinking through what they are doing but by directly feeling the emotion that they are feeling. When you see someone frown, for example, your frowning mirror neurones fire up too, creating the sensation in your own mind that you associate with frowning. You don’t have to experience what the other person is experiencing to make them frown; you feel the emotion directly and effortlessly.

Professor Talma Hendler, a neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, studied brain scans in order to understand the chemical basis for empathy. She found there are two types of empathy at work, which are illustrated by where they occur in the brain. The first and more advanced type is what she calls ‘mental empathy’. This requires the viewers to think outside themselves – to mentally put themselves in the other person’s shoes – and think about what they may be experiencing. The second is called ‘embodied empathy’. This is a more intuitive and primal empathy, which you might experience when watching someone get hurt.

natalie-portman cropNatalie Portman in Black Swan

As part of her studies, Prof. Hendler showed Aron Aronofsky’s film Black Swan to a number of subjects, while monitoring their brain activity. I watched this intense psychological thriller on a very bumpy flight in what was the most potently dramatic cinema experience of my entire life - but that's another story. As Natalie Portman’s character experiences hallucinations at the depths of her psychosis, the audience develops – temporarily – the same brain chemistry as a genuine schizophrenia sufferer. Watching a film of someone with a psychological illness effectively gives the audience the symptoms of a psychological illness.

This makes film an invaluable tool for marketers. What better way of illustrating the refreshing nature of your beer than by transporting your audience to a hot desert and then showing some bottles sticking out of an ice bucket, complete with condensation? The advertisers are generating the perception of genuine thirst and potential refreshment for the audience. This fact explains the continued value of video as a tool to persuade and influence.

“They may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Carl W. Buehner
 

Breast Cancer Now - Chantelle  

This power is illustrated in full gut-punching style in this film for Breast Cancer Now. Watching this it is impossible not to feel some of the pain and anguish of Chantelle and her family. It is impossible because we are biologically designed to feel these emotions. Through the skilful use of film we can construct an experience for the viewer which pulls their emotions in different ways. Think of the terror of the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, the romance of Lady and the Tramp, the fear of Jaws. All effective video communications rely on this attribute, even information heavy corporate comms should have a dash of emotion. If there isn't room for a bit of human emotion in your comms, you shouldn't be using video as the medium. That said, communications without emotion are not worth communicating as no one will remember them, because emotion is essential to forming memories.
 

Roche: LeanSixSigma - no matter the subject, animation is a great way of communicating information as it allows the addition of character and emotion effortlessly.

Anthropomorphic empathy

A strange quirk of this empathy is that we have a tendency to project emotions, motives and thoughts onto the characters that we’re watching. It doesn’t even need to be a real person in order to elicit this effect. To empathise with a character, we just need to be able to attribute what we perceive as human emotions and objectives to them. Once this has taken place, we immediately and unconsciously decide whether we a) like them, and b) can trust them. It’s this quirk that allows animation to work.

Whether we’re looking at a duck, a ball or a collection of pencil lines on the screen that make up a drawn character, the effect is the same. We do find it easier if the item has a semblance of a face. The more like us the characters are, the easier we find it to empathise with them. The concept and ridiculousness of this is brilliantly illustrated in Spike Jonze’s lamp ad.

Spike Jonze, The Lamp for Ikea

There are other things that a filmmaker can do to increase the amount we empathise with a subject. For example, we’re also programmed to empathise more with children or those with childlike characteristics. Characters that are small, have big eyes or have a cuddliness to them (i.e. that are cute) are more easily relatable. We feel more is at stake in their survival and so care more about their concerns. This is our base programming at work – human genes working to secure their own survival. Music also has the effect of increasing the level of empathy with characters that viewers feel, because it adds to the illusion of their own vitality and personality.


Whatever you are trying to achieve with your video project, it really helps to start off on the right foot. You can make sure you do this by taking a quick look at our handy guide to writing effective briefs. You can download it here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

 

Topics: Being a better commissioner, Production process

Casual Films of 2018

Posted by Nick Francis
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Films of 2018

As is customary for this season, we like to cast our minds back to the year just gone. The people we've met, the places we've been and the adventures we've had. In this spirit, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the films we've made this year. These are not necessarily the best, the biggest, nor most important, but they have left a mark in our Casual memories.

Mitie Behind the ScenesStill from Mitie Behind the Scenes

It's possible to see some of the trends that became part of the wider geo-political discourse of the year. We've got tech, diversity, millennials, interactive, alternative money, and connected workspaces. One thing remains clear - Whatever the purpose of the films or how they are executed, storytelling and narrative remain central to landing creative messages with an audience.

Take your favourite refreshment, put your feet up and enjoy the Casual Films equivalent of Christmas programming. Cheers!

BMW Careers

One of the great things about video is it's ability to capture intangible concepts, like brand and company culture. This is one of the reasons it makes such a great tool for those working in employer comms/recruitment. There were a number of films we could have put here, but we chose this for its fun and character, and the fact that it is still grounded in what it is trying to achieve. You can see more attraction and recruitment videos here.

 

Autodesk 3D Printing

Produced by our new San Francisco office, this mini-doc looks at the wonders of 3D printing. This video was edited from Autodesk's huge video library - with added voiceover, music and sound design to bring it all together. It shows just how effective promotional docs like this can be, despite their cost efficiency.

 

Vodafone Equal in Work

2018 saw diversity move further up the agenda for companies as more businesses sought to underline their credentials as equal opportunities employers. Vodafone chose this interesting treatment to illustrate the challenges faced by LGBT+ people in the workplace. This shows the power of video to bring facts to life through creative treatment.

 

Glint Interview Led Promo

There was also a growing questioning of traditional stores of wealth. It is fitting then that this promotional interview led film for our friends at Glint, promotes gold as a useable form of payment. This film shows how effective a simple interview can be at explaining and promoting a product like Glint. You can see more explanatory promo films here.

 

Amplifier - We the Future

It's been hard to miss the growth in activism - particularly in the US. This film features street art legend Shepard Fairey (of Obama Hope fame) and was produced for activism group, Amplifier. They aim to increase civil awareness among children and young people by getting art into 20,000 classrooms across the US. 

 

Mitie Connected Workplaces - Behind the Scenes

We've shared this before, but it shows just how much fun you can should have on set, so we thought we'd share it again. This was the behind the scenes video of a series of films we produced for Mitie. You can see the rest of them here.

 

Greater Anglia Winter Campaign

We thought we'd end with this delightful animation created by our London team for the Greater Anglia train company. It demonstrates how animation can bring the brand to life and draw together the visual and voiceover narrative to land the story. It's a lovely piece of work and a festive way to finish the look back.


What are some of the trends that we're going to see over the next year? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

10 Video Trends to Watch in 2019

Posted by Nick Francis
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2018 was a rip-roaring ride in the land of video content, as it was pretty much everywhere else. With a new year dawning, we thought we’d take a minute to look at the Top 10 trends we’ve seen developing to help you understand how people will be using video in 2019.

If these gives you a few ideas that's great - we'd love to discuss them with you. Drop us a line or let us know your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

1. Making video go further

Video is the most effective way to get a message across online. Because any video done properly represents an investment of money and time, it is essential that we maximise the mileage on anything produced. This has seen an increase in the amount of ‘atomisation’ of content – splitting projects into a large number of outputs. These can then be optimised and shared on different social/owned platforms. This optimisation includes varying the content, the length and the aspect ratio (using square video for Facebook/Instagram).

Breast Cancer Now Square VideoSquare video works particularly well for Facebook and Instagram

We recently delivered a follow-up series of 10 to 20 second soundbite films edited from material which hadn’t made it into the original project’s outputs. This gave that client a series of cost-effective videos which worked well on Instagram Stories. This added another phase to the campaign without having to pick up a camera.

2. Quality content wins

The last year has seen our clients work with us on some of the best films we have ever made. The importance of pace and brevity has definitely caught on. It is now accepted and understood that shoehorning additional messaging into films does not increase the amount of information that the audience takes from them.

This is an important step towards better, more impactful work. There is so much content pollution out there, it is increasingly important for the material you share to be of a decent standard. This does not necessarily mean spending huge sums, but it does mean that you should take the time to consider what you are trying to achieve.

From here you can assess the best way to get there. The days of poorly produced, shaky user generated content being acceptable for global brands to share are thankfully numbered. That said…

3. We're all filmmakers now

We all have the means to shoot high quality video in our pockets. This makes the format even more accessible than it was before. Whether it’s a company news update or explaining a new advertised recruitment role, it’s never been easier to share video content. Coupled with how much more engaging video is, this is an excellent way to make sure that your message is heard online.

 jakub-gorajek-188614

To keep in step with this, it’s worth helping your staff to use their equipment properly and developing video branding guidelines and packs which can help to standardise the look and feel of your output.

4. Increased personalisation

This increase in the ease and speed of video production means that the next development we should expect to see is better personalisation. Whether you are creating video specifically for an individual or for a small targeted group, your audience want to engage with content which is perfectly aligns with their worldview. The most effective communicators should be looking at ways to tailor their content to the audience in order to do this.

 5. Going live

Live streaming on the various social platforms has really come of age. It’s growth over the last three years has been really significant. It works because it feels personal, immediate and engaging for the viewer. This contributes to the increases in engagement that those sharing live video can enjoy. This is a trend which will run and run.

6. Getting techie

Virtual reality, 360 and Interactive have all continued to come of age, they give communicators an excellent opportunity to excite and interest audiences. This is particularly true at trade shows/conferences, where the spectacle of the equipment being used can add to the buzzy nature of the technology. Beyond this, we have seen uses of new technology used as a tool to enhance the message, moving significantly beyond the gimmickry of some of the early adoption.

Casual Films Vodafone VR HeadsetStill from Vodafone EVP

7. Inherent content value is more important than ever

Your audience are more distracted than they have ever been. With more of them accessing your content through their mobile devices than ever before, they are empowered to choose how they spend their time. This means that communicators have to offer content which carries its own inherent value. As marketing guru Seth Godin says, you should aim to create material which your audience would "miss if it wasn't there."  This is a high bar, but an essential one to clear if we are to stand a chance of standing out and landing our messages with the audience.

8. Brands move closer to operating as media companies

Given its accessibility and the online audience’s preference for video, it’s not surprising that more and more brands are thinking far more like traditional media companies. For some time now, there have been outliers - RedBull, GE, Volvo Trucks - who have used video to communicate and develop significant additional brand value. This is a trend that looks set to continue and accelerate over the coming months and years. To capitalise on the opportunity that this represents, brands should have a coherent content plan, which serves their audience the material they are after in the form that they prefer.

Alfa Romeo No Longer a California DreamBrands as media companies - Alfa Romeo: No Longer Just a California dream (with WSJ Brand Studios)

9. The evolving role of the production company

Given all this change and the requirement to create more content than ever, it’s not surprising that clients expect their supplier relationships to evolve. To help clients get the most from the relationship, production companies are moving into the role of content partners. This means working seamlessly together, supplementing each other’s resources and abilities as necessary, allowing each party to play to their strengths.

Whether that is some communications consultancy or the creation of some animated stings to make some internal user generated content look more professional, the relationship of the future will be based on flexibility and understanding.

10. Storytelling remains the cornerstone of effectiveness

Whatever the purpose of your video or how it is are executed, storytelling and narrative remain central to landing creative messages with any audience. New tech and evolving approaches should be used to enhance storytelling, rather than as a crutch for poorly thought through creative. Used properly though, they make 2019 the most exciting year to be a corporate/brand filmmaker yet.


New call-to-actionWe’d be really keen to hear what you think about this list – please leave a comment below. If the pace of change feels intimidating, you can console yourself with the fact that you don’t need to do it alone. Book a call with one of our producers and we'd be happy to discuss how you can make 2019 your most successful year yet.

Topics: Repurposed content, Atomised content, Being a better commissioner, News

What are the roles in video production?

Posted by Nick Francis
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There are a number of different people/roles involved in the production process. We’ve included this brief list so that you can keep up with whom is responsible for what. Each company may work in a slightly different way, but the responsibilities are more or less the same. Nearlyall of these functions are needed on every production – even if they are all performed by the same person. Larger budgets allow for more time, and more time allows for more people.

Just producingA producer, just y'know producin'

Preproduction

Creative/scriptwriter

The creative comes up with the main idea (or ideas) and then creates the initial proposal document, which will help you understand exactly what you’re getting. This may include the mood board (a collection of images that give an idea of what the project will look like), the storyboard (a shot by shot – usually drawn – illustration of the structure of the video) and any additional references that might be necessary.

He/she also writes and refines the script.

Producer

The producer is the organiser. He/she is responsible for bringing together all of the elements required for the production. He/she is the lynchpin 

in that they are responsible for making sure that the film is delivered on brief, on budget and on time. As part of this, he/she will pull together the project costing and schedule, which will be added into the initial proposal document at the outset of the project. He/she will also be responsible for all the bookings for the project, from crew, equipment and onscreen talent to travel. He/she is usually the main point of contact for the client throughout the process.

Production

Director

The director is responsible for the artistic vision of the project. He/she works with the script and the producer to plan the execution of the shoot. On set, he/she will have a clear idea of what he/she wants the finished film to look like, and will coral the rest of the team to achieve this. The days of the ‘auteur’ film director – one who will happily trample over anyone to achieve, with a distinctive, unshakeable vision – are happily behind us. Most good directors now – in particular, those in the fast-moving world of brand films – are able to think on their feet, lead a team and use an in-depth understanding of their craft to adapt to the world around them.

A director directingA director, watching a live-feed from the camera to make sure all is in order. Well, that or Netflix.

Director of photography (DoP) / cinematographer

The DoP is responsible for the camera / camera team and the way each shot looks. This means that he/she will often operate the camera (shoot the film) and do the lighting on set. Usually, having a separate DoP is reserved for larger productions.

Self-shooting director

Casual Films self-shooting director

As technology has become easier to use and budgets have shrunk, it has become more common for a director to play the role of the DoP at the same time. This leads to them being referred to as a self-shooting director. Self shooting directors now tend to shoot the majority of online videos.

Camera assistant / focus puller

The camera assistant is responsible for looking after the camera and lenses. He/she is also responsible for marking distances and keeping the shot in focus. (Only used with more high-end or DSLR cameras.)

Focus puller, DoP, Dolly GripA panoply of roles! In L-R order - camera assistant/focus puller, DoP and dolly grip who is responsible for operating the dolly, which is what the trolley the car sits on is called.

Sound recordist

Erm, they record the sound. They can make all the difference to a production that has been shot in a noisy location. He/she is most likely to say, “Can someone turn that air conditioning off?”, and is least likely to say, “Don’t worry, we can get rid of that police siren in post.”

First assistant director (AD)

The first AD is responsible for helping the director to achieve his/her vision. He/she is the one who keeps the production running to time and makes sure that everything is in the right place at the right time. When used, he/ she is the director’s mouthpiece on set. (Only used on larger productions.)

Gaffer

He/she is responsible for the crew who set and move all of the lighting. If there isn't additional crew present, they will roll their sleeves up and move the lighting themselves. (Only used on larger productions.)

Grip

He/she is responsible for mounting, positioning and moving the camera the camera (if equipment is being used). (Only used on larger productions.)

Grip workSome classic grip work

Spark

The electrician. Lots of production lighting requires huge amounts of power. To keep things working/safe, it’s necessary to have a professional spark.

Postproduction

Editor

The editor is responsible for ‘finding the film’. They watch all of the shots, and then select the ones that he/she feels best tell the story that was outlined and agreed on in the preproduction stage. He/she will also have a significant hand in the impact of the finished film. It’s amazing how important the editor is to the quality of the final film. Often, a poorly edited film can terrify on first viewing, only to be completely turned around once someone who knows what they are doing has taken the reins. 

36520007Dan, an editor in his natural environment

Animator / motion graphic artist

Animators bring 2D illustrations, 3D models and inanimate objects to life. He/she is skilled at imbuing inanimate objects with the movement required to generate emotional connections with the audience. He/she may also be responsible for creating the design and storyboards for the animations.

 

Paper animatingRaych doing a little table top animation

Dubbing mixer / sound engineer

The dubbing mixer / soundie sorts out all of the audio levels in the final video, and adds any sound effects and audio flourishes. These play the important role of tying the audio and video together. The sound engineer will also make sure that the music that has been chosen fits to the edit/ animation perfectly.

Colourist / colour grader

The colourist is responsible for the look of the finished film. Sometimes different shots might look different because of different lighting/colouring during the production – he/she can iron this out. He/she may also stylise the film, which is changing the way the video looks by increasing the contrast between colours or changing the colour saturation (a bit like adding filters on Instagram). While colourists used to work only on larger productions, consumer-accessible grading programs are making this step integral to nearly every production.


We hope that helps. Whatever you are working with all these fine people, it's worth starting out right. You can make sure that you do this, by downloading our guide to writing a briefing document right here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

Topics: Being a better commissioner, How-to, Production process

Using Interactive Video for Attraction and Recruitment

Posted by Nick Francis
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What is Interactive Video?

Interactive video allows the viewer to choose their own path through the content. It uses a similar methodology to traditional 'choose your own adventure' books. These would allow the reader to read a page and then ask them to choose what should happen next in the story. They were able to do this by flicking to a different page, depending on the desired choice. Interactive video platforms do the same thing, but they automate it, so that all the viewer has to do is click the button they desire and it will lead them through to the next step in the story. This allows the viewer to control their experience.

Why is it useful for recruitment and onboarding?

Interactive video is an extremely useful tool for recruiting and training because it gives the audience more opportunity to find out information on their own terms. It also allows the recruiter to working in tests and gamification which can make for a more valuable, enjoyable and socially sharable experience. Another benefit of interactive, is that it encourages the audience to engage more closely with the content. It is a far more involving experience, which leads to a more proactive response when it is finished.

 Experience a role, company, position

Then there is the benefit of allowing a potential candidate to ‘poke around’ and learn more about your business, the role and what they can expect from the job. This is illustrated by the ‘Investment Factor’ which Casual UK produced for Allianz Global Investors. Allianz GI wanted to help graduates to understand what investment bankers actually do. They also wanted to combat the negative perceptions in the market. 

We made a similar film for ABinBev with recruitment marketing agency, Havas People:

This case study video demonstrates the power of interactive to illustrate company culture and what is expected of new joiners early on in their career. Brewer ABinBev commissioned the project in part to combat the number of people who applied for roles with the company and then were shocked to find that every day wasn't spent tasting or drinking beer. 

Both of these videos won Best Interactive at the Recruitment Advertising and Design Awards in London.

Interactive and Virtual Reality (VR) 

One interesting way to use VR is in showing off different areas that your potential employees might end up working. You can see how this might work in this example, which while not strictly recruitment, does a good job of introducing the viewer to the space at the Old Vic Theatre: 

Forgive the fact that this has the same music as the Allianz GI film - we're so cost-effective, we seem to have reused it!

Casual's Top Three Tips for Interactive

1. Have a reason for it being interactive.

Too often commissioners/producers use different production/distribution methods as a crutch for poor storytelling. It is essential that the fact that it is interactive serves what you are trying to communicate. Build it and they will come doesn’t work here. Look at the examples above if you need a little inspiration.

2. Plan, plan, plan. 

Looking at a decision tree, it can be scary how complicated they can be. There are a number of specialist providers who can help you bring the whole thing to life. All you need to do is have a clear plan with a scene list and then shoot each scene as you would if you were making a normal film with a linear narrative. The key is working it all out logically on paper and then, when you’re happy, get going.

3Get to the interactive early. 

It’s useful to establish for the viewer that the video they are watching is actually interactive. Too many interactive videos fall into the trap of having too much establishing material before the viewer gets to make a decision on anything. They know that they are supposed to be making decisions and so get bored quite quickly if they have to wait. It can be something really simple, but get them to engage early and establish the mechanic for the rest of the video.

If you are thinking about creating some interactive video, and we would recommend it, because we love it. Drop us a note on: hello@casualfilms.com and we'd be happy to discuss how to approach it, no strings attached.

 

Topics: Attract and retain the best candidates, How-to, Being a better commissioner, Interactive Video

The Casual Academy

Posted by Nick Francis
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You may have noticed that a couple of weeks ago we ran our first ever Academy from our new office in the San Francisco Bay. As it's Thanksgiving and the holiday season is a great time for being charitable, we thought we'd share a bit more information on what the Casual Films Academy is...

 

What is the Casual Academy?

We set the Academy up back in 2012. We wanted to do something which had a benefit to the world. We saw the potential of a win:win in video production, as both the process of production and the final output can be beneficial.

The main aim of the Casual Academy is to broaden access to the media industry. It provides 16 to 25 year olds with hands-on film training while making films for charities. This training is provided by filmmakers who mentor them through the production of a film for a small local charity. The charity gets a promotional film and the young people a piece for their showreel, and the experience of working to a brief from a real client.

Casual Films Academy Back On My Feet

Back On My Feet - New York, 2016

The course is designed to give the young people experience of the four main roles in the production process. Namely: creative/scriptwriter, producer, director, editor. This helps them to understand the different skills involved in each role, so that they can understand where to focus their energies to effectively enter the industry. The finished film is then presented to the charity at a premiere, which is attended by the young people’s friends and family. There is then a further career advice session to help them understand where to go next.

Casual Films Academy Beating Bowel Cancer

Beating Bowel Cancer - London, 2016

Why is this necessary?

For most people the way into the creative industries is via a three or six month unpaid internship. This limits access to all but the significantly privileged - particularly given the living costs in our home cities. This theme is reflected by the relatively limited variation in socio-economic backgrounds among those working in production, creative and media companies.

If our industry is the mouthpiece for business and culture, how can it be representative if it fails to properly reflect the views, ideas and backgrounds of all people?

Casual Films Academy Manor Gardens

Manor Gardens - London, 2015

What’s the plan?

We've run the Academy 10 times over the past six years. It has potentially global appeal, with young people, charities and professional filmmakers who are willing to give some of their time to help. If you fall into one of those groups, do please drop us a line. We're always looking for new people to work with.

Topics: Purpose driven video, Casual Academy

How can corporates use video?

Posted by Nick Francis
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One of the major challenges we had when we started Casual was that video can be used for such a wide range of things. Before we realised the importance of focus, we would answer the question “So, what can you make films about?” with the pretty useless “Almost anything”. Over time, we learned to be a bit more specific, and, in the last 12 years, we have made films that bring the whole of the employee lifestyle to life, from initial awareness, through recruitment, and on to ongoing engagement, and learning and development. We’ve even made films that retain and build a network of alumni for those who’ve moved on. We’ve made product promotions, adverts, discount films, branded content and conference openers. Some of these with actors and others with online influencers, with helicopters, drones and bodycams.

Casual Films Different ways of using video

Casual has made over 8,000 different films for almost everything a company could want a film for. It’s really important to understand that film or moving images can enhance any message you might have to share. Video is a great way of weaving emotion into selected facts. This increases their impact, memorability and the chance that people will act on them. Let’s look at some of the ways that video has been used by corporate communicators.

We use the following classifications at Casual to separate all the different things that our clients have used our work for in the past. This is not exhaustive, but it does give a picture of the breadth of uses. Some of these are quite similar – or even overlap – and rely on similar attributes of video for their effectiveness.

Boost sales 

“Shoppers who view video are 1.81X more likely to purchase than non-viewers.”

– Adobe

The most common films made by companies, which we see in our day-to-day lives, are those designed to sell things. From the dawn of TV, advertisers have been promoting their wares, using every trick in the filmmaker’s book to introduce, promote and explain their products. Films that are able to do this remain the kings of corporate films. From the time in the 1940s and 1950s in which advertisers were able to show that there is a direct line of correlation between the amount spent and sales increases; the budgets for these short films have grown, in some cases to become eye-watering. The annual colosseum of televisual advertising – the US Super Bowl – boasts vast audiences, and hence has a cost of around US$2 million for a 30-second advertising spot. Each year, companies compete to outdo one another and be recognised as having the best commercials of the night.

 

 

Promoting sales with animation: Greater Anglia Railways

At the other end of the spectrum, the prevalence of regional TV and now the spread of the Internet have made this type of marketing accessible to any business that wants to use it. There are a wide range of approaches available, from the relatively indirect to the focused sales activation described previously.

Encourage donations/funding

The emotive power of video makes it an excellent tool for pulling on the audience’s heartstrings, and getting them to part with their money or time. I’m sure you are aware of the way that charities have used videos since the 1980s. These can also extend to Kickstarter and crowdfunding campaigns. Video’s ability to simplify a message into a really compelling minute or so makes it excellent for this.

Introduce a business

As with encouraging funding, the ability to compress time and turn a ‘who we are’ PowerPoint presentation into a punchy 60-second promotion with music and branded graphics/colours makes video a useful tool to clarify exactly what your business does. The majority of websites that we have audited – over 1,000 thus far – are not using video on their homepage.11 They rely on the visitor being able to grasp what the business does in the few brief seconds before they click elsewhere. It is a truism that people/businesses tend to market to themselves. As such, there is always far too much assumed knowledge, which makes websites impenetrable.

A video is a great way of capturing attention and explaining, in an accessible format, what the visitor should be looking for. This is why having a video on your homepage can improve click-through rates by up to 80%. This video can also be used in presentations, pitches, reception areas and for new joiners/potential recruits – anywhere you might want people to quickly understand, through compelling media, who you are and what you do.

Promote a product or service through explanation 

“4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.”

– Animoto

Explaining succinctly what a product or service is or does is another effective use of video. Once again, most businesses communicating anything assume too much background knowledge. In this instance, video can break down exactly what the product is and does, and build trust and understanding in an accessible package. This may be through an animation, which is effective when used to illustrate complex messaging, because of the ability to ‘show and tell’ at the same time as using accessible metaphors.

Another effective way to promote a service is through interview-led videos with experts, clients or users. These increase the audience’s trust in the product by borrowing from the featured subject’s standing: their expertise or experience. Interview-led films or ‘talking heads’ are useful because they are pretty much the cheapest videos to produce, and we find human faces innately intriguing.

Get people excited

The moving nature of video makes it a great tool for exciting an audience about something. Admittedly, this could be an extension of promoting a product or service. However, it is distinct in that the method is less based on relaying information and explaining, and more focused on generating a positive emotion in the audience. One way of looking at it might be to say that explainer films engage the logical left side of the brain, while a film to get people excited targets the feeling, creative right side. These usually employ a stirring script and a voiceover with powerful music to do this. Both of these types of film, explainer and exciter, aim for the same outcome, though – getting the audience more engaged.

Increase brand awareness / tell a story

In reality, all the video content that companies share has the effect of building (or, unfortunately, sometimes damaging) their brand. Some videos are made specifically for this purpose, though. They may aim to align the business with a cause that matters to their target audience, or reflect on someone or something that they’re interested in. It may extend to them wanting to share a story related to the company – the history or something that has inspired them.

 

 

Increasing brand awareness: Glenmorangie - the Evolution of Craft

Attract the best candidates

Video is an excellent way to illustrate relatively intangible things, such as a company’s culture. Most people looking for a role at a new company will research what the job is about, beyond what is included in the job description. Video is a great way of sharing some of the things that make your company special.

Casual Films SGOSS Recruit and Engage

Illustrating your culture: SGOSS - Become a Governor

In the hypercompetitive job market one of the best areas for businesses to compete in is through an engaging, motivating and, crucially, well-communicated culture. Video can be invaluable in helping to build that culture, through communicating what the concept of the brand means. This is where video can be invaluable – it allows you to communicate with your potential (and current) staff on an emotional level. One point to note is that, in the age of resources such as Glassdoor (which allows employees to rate employers for all to see), it is important that the offer and reality align. Recruitment videos are split into two categories: employer/employee value-proposition brand films and profile/day-in-the-life films.  

Videos to promote and clarify a company’s diversity and inclusion policies should be included here too.

Train my colleagues

Another type of internal communication that uses video is learning and development. The zero cost of distribution, and the ability to make changes and amendments to videos on an ongoing basis makes them useful for sharing information and training across a large organisation. Animation works well for information, and interactive video is good for training, because it allows viewers to choose responses and outcomes. The functionality of interactive video also allows for scorekeeping and sharing, which is a useful way of injecting a little competition into the learning process. Beyond that, simply being able to show videos and then have people discuss them helps to increase the effectiveness of the learning.

Change behaviour

The external equivalent of internal training, making films to inform and change behaviour, is nearly as old as film itself; for example, the public information films that were used to keep the population up to speed in the first half of the 20th century. The modern equivalents are usually produced by governments or charities.

Start a discussion/conversation 

Video removes any unnecessary information and pauses. This condenses the amount of time it takes to share different viewpoints in an argument, which makes it useful for setting up a discussion. Such videos are usually played at the beginning of an online/offline discussion, or to change to another subject.

Recording an event

The quality of an event film is, understandably, usually tied to the quality of the event itself. It is a useful way of encapsulating what happened, what was discussed or featured, and who was there. With some appropriate music and a dynamic edit, the video becomes a useful tool for promoting forthcoming events too.

But not everything – emotion vs information

All this having been said, there are some things that video is not great at. Emotion and information exist in a balance in all films. Too much focus on emotion – with practically no information – and the film can feel superficial and lacking in substance (think of most fashion ads). Too much information and not enough emotion, and the film will be dry, difficult to follow and impenetrable (some corporate reports embody this pitfall).

They should be like yin and yang. In every informative film you should have a bit of emotion, and in every emotive film you should have a bit of information (even if that is a basic narrative structure). Because of this, if you have lots and lots of information to get across, video might not be the best way to do it. You will probably find it more effective to create a PDF document, use video to outline a few salient points and promote reading the PDF through a shorter, more engaging film.


Whatever you're making a film to do, it really helps to be clear on what you are trying to achieve from the outset. We pulled together some top tips on how to get your thoughts aligned before you pick up the phone. Following the ideas in this document is the most significant step that you can take to maximise the effectiveness of your project spend. Check it out here:

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Topics: Being a better commissioner, Boost sales and encourage donations, Explain or promote products and services, Train and develop staff, Attract and retain the best candidates, Increase brand awareness and appeal, Production process

The value of purpose in recruitment and engagement video

Posted by Nick Francis
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In our blog on Building Trust in the Era of Fake News, we discussed the increasing importance of purpose in all of your communications. Here we take a moment to look at why purpose is important, particularly in the realm of recruitment and internal engagement.

Casual Films Vodafone Belonging Purpose Film

Your business' purpose or 'why' is an extremely useful resource when looking for content to broadcast or campaigns to run. This doesn’t mean that all the content you create should suddenly be about charitable causes or that it should be about ‘do-gooding’. It also doesn’t mean that all your content needs to be about your corporate purpose. It means that all the content that you create should have a tangential relevance to your ‘Why?’ as a business. This will provide an underlying coherence to your content at the same time as reinforcing your brand identity. It is a step towards your purpose being about actions, rather than just words.

While purpose is extremely valuable to corporate communicators, it must be ingrained in your way of doing business. It is not enough to simply talk about it: it must become part of your DNA. Your customers and employees will thank you for it, as will your shareholders in due course, so everyone ends up happy.

Purpose and the Zuckerberg generation

Purpose has become particularly important, given the evolutions in employment patterns in the current century. Speak to most employers, and they will complain that today’s youthful workforce has become less loyal and more flighty, but the facts don’t entirely bear this out. According to LinkedIn, millennials – those born between 1982 and 2000 (and among the 500 million who use the platform) – change job four times on average in their first ten years in the workplace. There is disagreement over whether this represents a significant departure from previous generations. A US Bureau of Labor Statistics study of the baby-boomer generation found that they had held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. This is certainly more than the baby boomers’ grandparents would have had at the turn of the 20th century.

What has happened, without question, is a shift in what the workforce want from a job. Millennials have seen their contemporaries overturn convention and earn billions as the creators of global technology brands. From Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber to Malala Yousafzai, they have seen how a compelling story can pluck anyone from obscurity and plaster them across the global stage. They mainline videos that show them what is happening in the world – their world – and how they can and must play a role in shaping it. ‘Shape the world’ is what they plan to do.

Young people naturally find it easier to pick up new things (which is just as well). This has meant that they have been disproportionately empowered by the Technological Revolution. This is upending traditional power structures. They know they have this power, and want to know what the brands they interact with – as their suppliers, employers and broadcasters – will do for them. Young people no longer live to work, they work to live. Work is something that the modern employee does as a part of their life. They expect to live the life of their choosing, which means that all employment is viewed through a ‘What’s in it for me?’ prism. Each job has to be a stepping stone or stamp to their career passport, enhancing their skills and experience to enable the next leap onwards.

Millennials have never known a world not negatively affected by human impact. Climate change, the ‘plastification’ of the oceans, mass extinction and social inequality all play on their minds. They want the businesses that they have a relationship with to be part of the solution to these problems. This explains why business purpose is so specifically important to them, particularly when choosing an employer.

They believe that business can be a genuine force for good in the world. Of the 7,900 young people surveyed as part of the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2017, 76% view ‘business’ positively and believe that it has a positive influence on society. This rose to 89% among those considered ‘hyperconnected millennials’; i.e. those identified as being highly digitally connected compared to the average in their own countries. Nine out of ten of the most influential millennials believe that business has a positive influence on society. As the guardians of big business, you should seize this opportunity and build on it.

Why should this matter to you?

This matters because the millennials are becoming the most powerful generation in history. They are the largest generation (92 million in the US), surpassing the baby boomers (77 million US), and are entering the workplace and their prime earning/spending years. By 2025 they will make up 75% of the global workforce. They already control US$2.7 trillion in annual expenditure. In the West, over time, they will inherit the wealth of their baby-boomer parents, much of which has been protected and built by final-salary pensions and significant real-estate-asset inflation. They are the future of business and our planet.

Young people want purpose, belonging and ownership of the brands they interact with – your brand. They want to take part. They have grown up surrounded by social media and technology in the post- 9/11 world. Having a purpose to work towards makes them more-engaged employees, more-loyal customers and more-active advocates for your brand. They want you to be part of the solution, and they want you to be the enabler.

For employees, the ability to take part in charitable causes at work leads to an increase in loyalty. Deloittes’ aforementioned survey found that of the 54% of millennials who were provided with the opportunity to contribute to good causes or charities, 35% stayed in their job for 5 years or more (vs 24% without the opportunity). They were also more positive about the role of business in the world and optimistic about the social situation generally.

It’s not just employee engagement that makes this a good area for your business to get involved in. There’s also the direct-profit motive. Around 89% of millennial consumers have said there is a strong likelihood they would buy from companies that support solutions to particular social issues, and 91% said that this fact would increase their trust in the business. This would explain why market-research firm Nielsen identified that, in the financial year 2015, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%.

How can this work for you?

As we saw in the Building Trust blog, it is essential that you don't just talk the talk. It is essential that you walk the walk. Take the work that Vodafone have been doing on promoting themselves as the number one employer for women and LGBT+ people. First they have to take the steps in that direction and then tell the world about it - in that order. Of course there will always be a degree the marketing driving the reality, but tangible steps towards the new reality have to come first. The great thing about this type of film is that it makes for really powerful, engaging outputs. Ideal for recruitment and staff engagement:

 

We'd love to hear what you think of our blogs. Whether there is a certain subject you'd like to cover, or if you'd like to discuss the topics in more depth, please leave a comment below or email us on: hello@casualfilms.com

Topics: Purpose driven video, Attract and retain the best candidates, How-to, Being a better commissioner

The Casual Films Academy charity comes to Oakland!

Posted by Nick Francis
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We have recently completed the first outing of the Casual Films Academy Charity in our new spot in California. We worked with a number of young people from Guardian Gyms to make a series of films to help the non-profit to expand into a second larger space.

Back in 2012, we realised that the process of producing films gives the opportunity for a double win. On the one hand, the film itself can be used as a valuable promotional tool for a local charity that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford one. On the other the process of making the film gives the opportunity to give access to young people to experience the many benefits of working in a creative team and making something. Since then we have worked with well over 100 young people. This year, with the help of our excellent staff, we brought the idea to Oakland, San Francisco Bay, CA.

Casual Academy Oakland

The Cause

The local cause we decided to work with was Guardian Gym - a non-profit martial arts gym based. They offer free classes to kids in the community, where they practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxing and are mentored, gain self-confidence. This helps them to develop important life skills like discipline. It works in a similar way to Tom's Shoes - one paying adult membership also pays for a young person’s membership. 

Guardian Gym’s model has been so successful that they have outgrown their space. They need more funding to help them to open a second, larger facility to accommodate more members – both adults and kids. The videos we made with our academicians (if we can call them that!) are intended to promote and raise money for this second location. 

15s Instagram teaser of Diego's film

The Films

We created five 30 second videos, each focused on a different young person. They filmed and edited these with minimal direction and guidance from CF resident filmmaker James Fair. That's worth repeating - these films were shot and edited by our Academy students. Each video tells the story of how Guardian Gym has helped them overcome a challenge they faced. You can see the films by clicking here.

The young people seemed to really enjoy the community atmosphere and collaboration of the production. They got proper hands-on experience and were really able to take control of what they were making. Watching them, you wouldn't guess that they were shot and edited by kids between the ages of 10-13 (and 18). They turned out to be amazing, and showcase how committed and dedicated these five kids are to both Guardian Gym and the Academy. 

 

15s Instagram teaser of Kadijah's film

"Capturing some of our kids while they participate in a project to learn how to film, edit, and tell a story with the Casual Academy. Such a great learning experience for them to find a potential passion early in life. We can't tanks James, Lydia and Sanica enough."

- Guardian Gyms 

A massive thank you to everyone involved in the the project. It wouldn’t have been possible without the time, effort and energy that our Oakland team put into it. If you want to make a donation please click here.

If you want to learn more about the Academy - if you have a local cause you think would benefit, or a young person in one of our home cities who is interested in getting involved then do please let us know. If you want to make a donation to the Academy - nothing is too small (or too big!) - to help us to help more special cause please contact us on hello@casualfilms.com

Topics: Purpose driven video, News, Casual Academy

Attracting and recruiting tech savvy grads with video

Posted by Nick Francis
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It’s a common challenge. All businesses now are tech businesses and so need the best tech savvy talent to survive and thrive. The big problem is that the best talent wants to work for the FAANG companies: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google. Not only do these companies seem glamorous to a young grad from Birmingham – Alabama or the West Midlands – they have impossibly deep pockets. They put forward a compelling offer – so what should you do?

Casual Films Attracting Tech Grads-1

Avis in the early 1960s was perennially second place in the market. Try as they might, they just couldn’t dislodge Hertz from number one. They turned to advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, who decided that rather than a weakness, their No 2 status was a strength. It meant that they couldn’t afford to be anything other than the best. The ‘We Try Harder’ slogan was born. In the end is ran for 50 years and became the arguably the best challenger marketing campaign ever. It was so successful that for a time, worried Hertz execs joked that Avis would soon have to stop running it, because it would cease to be true. 


 Casual Films Avis Manifesto     Casual Films Avis No 2

At the time, the idea that a company would admit that it was anything other than the best in their market was anathema. It opened the door for a whole new way of thinking about and marketing challengers in the market place – think DDB’s ‘Think Small’ ad for the VW Beetle. If we jump forward to the modern world, the ability of companies to be open about their shortcomings is a valuable part of building trust with your employees. We’re living in the 'Age of Transparency'. They know you’re not perfect, so don’t jeopardise your relationship with them by pretending you are. Fess up to the reality. Through this you can capitalise on the opportunity that is open to you.

 

Your Greatest Weakness is your Greatest Strength 

 

“Every adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage”

- Napoleon Hill

 

In his classic book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells the story of his deaf-mute son, Blair. He was examined by a wide range of doctors and hearing specialists, all of whom told him that he would never be able to hear. This was the early 20th century, so hearing aids, support, even normal life was beyond most people in a similar condition. Despite this, throughout his early life, Hill told him that the deafness that he was born with was in fact his greatest strength. Blair put complete faith in his father that it was.

He persevered through schooling with very little in the way of external help. This made him extremely driven to succeed. When he wanted something, he would work to achieve it. His elder brother on the other hand did not have the same disability and so lacked this hunger.

Blair was completely deaf until he received a hearing aid, while at college. He was completely blown away by being able to hear for the first time in his life. He contacted the hearing aid company and worked with them to improve their marketing so that they could reach hundreds of thousands of deaf-mute people all around the world. He created a school to teach similar people to hear and speak for the first time in their lives and helped many thousands. Has he not had the belief in the opportunity that his weakness offered him he would never had been able to change the lives of so many people.

Great. What does that mean though?

The point is that you are in the position of a challenger. The fact that you are not a FAANG company is your greatest strength. These companies are great in many ways, but they are not as young and fast moving as they once were and tech is the heart and soul of their businesses. If you are a financial, automotive or drinks brand you can offer the whole tech experience, but you also have a whole other level on top of that. This represents an exciting challenge for those who want to grasp it. The point is, you can’t beat them at being them, you need to beat them by being you. You need to be bold, be different and be real. What do we mean by that though? 

 

Being Different: Vodafone

One of the challenges that Vodafone has is that most grads think of them as a company which operates mobile phone shops. In reality, they are a hi-tech communications company with opportunities for staff members to travel and work all over the world. One thing which makes them particularly special is that they have an extremely accepting and inclusive culture. Because of this, they have set out to be the No.1 employer for women and LGBT+.

This means that they can share really engaging and thought provoking and content like the video above. It is an extremely clear illustration of their purpose as a business. Through sharing this in a wide variety of their content they allow potential employees to decide to align themselves with the brand. This leads to better recruits and far more engaged employees. We will share another post on the value of purpose in recruitment and engagement soon. Watch this space.

 

Being Bold: BMW

Few clients are willing to be really be bold when it comes to it. We start many projects with high aims, but the reality is that it takes guts to go for take the breaks off. BMW are a company interested in how they can attract the best tech-grads to help them become a transportation provider of the future. In order to deliver on this goal, they need to attract top software engineers who can build and integrate the technological complexities that make a modern car a driving computer. This is a challenge for a company that is over 100 years old and is not necessarily the first example that a possible recruit would think of when listing tech focused companies to apply to. 

The BMW Facebook page benefits from lots of views, but too many of them were bouncing off. There was also a disconnect between the consumer (outward facing) brand and the employer (inward facing) brand. The brand Facebook page is a delicious (if you like that kind of thing) collection of glossy car shots, while the recruitment page left a little more to be desired. Luckily, they had lots of material from the main brand which could be repurposed into something very different to the traditional employer brand. They wanted to use that to sell the excitement and energy of a job at the company. With the addition of a some specially shot narrative footage and sound design, the Facebook page was transformed. Leading to significantly better visitor retention - differentiating the page for visitors. This was only possible because they we willing to push it and do something different.

 

Being Real: Capital One

These profile films for Capital One, are designed to show the personality of each interviewee without getting in the way with any overt brand messaging Your audience are extremely adept at spotting 'spin' - this is particularly true for ultra savvy techies. It's important to remember also that if you are featuring your employees from the same target group, you need to let them 'talk their language' to their contemporaries. You need to make sure that they sound the same, but are effectively subject matter experts. It's too easy for brands to want to control the precise messaging featured in their films, but this is almost certain to alienate the audience and damage the content's effectiveness.
 

So...

In reality there are a wide range of ways that video can help you to target these hard to reach grads. Each of these three approaches work for their audience, but there is no reason why they shouldn't work for you. There is nothing from stopping you from combining one or more of them. The most important thing for you to do with any project is to be really clear at the outset what you are trying to achieve.  We pulled together a worksheet to help you to start off any project on the right foot. You can download it right here:

 

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Topics: Attract and retain the best candidates, How-to, Being a better commissioner

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