Nick Francis

Nick Francis
Nick is Chairman of Casual Films. He co-founded the company in 2006 following a stint at the BBC. As a director/producer he won lots of awards for his work internationally, including the prestigious IVCA Best Director Gold. Nick spends his (working) time thinking about how to make Casual the best production company our clients could possibly imagine. He is a keen snowboarder, photographer and cyclist. He lives in California with his family and usually doesn’t talk about himself in the third person. Usually.
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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:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

 

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?

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. 
 Avis No 2 Manifesto     

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:

 

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

You may also be interested in the Attract and Recruit the Best Candidates with Video page. 

 

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

Cause marketing - actions matter more than words...

Posted by Nick Francis
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Cause marketing - marketing with the dual aim of bettering society and driving profit is more important than ever. Important because frankly, society and world need all the help they can get, and because it’s a really effective way of improving the way your audience think about your brand.

Casual Films Cause Marketing

Cone Communications has been running an annual study on the efficacy of cause-related marketing. It found that this is no longer a differentiator, unless it is also accompanied by a genuine effort by the companies to demonstrate they are achieving an actual impact.

 “[Cause marketing] is no longer a competitive differentiator unless it is also accompanied by a genuine effort on the part of companies to demonstrate how their efforts were making a real impact on achieving results.”

– Cone Communications

Unfortunately, this shows it’s not enough to simply talk about the great projects that you are putting money into. Audiences are far more likely to talk about what a brand did than what they said. This means that, in order to make taking a more conscientious approach work for you, you actually need to get your hands dirty. You must ‘live your purpose’. It should shine through in everything that you do. Failure to do this leads to a perceived lack of authenticity in the eyes of your stakeholders, which, thanks to social media, will do disproportionate damage to your brand.

It is also important to get intricately involved in the causes that you wish to benefit in order to avoid the charge of ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, as Pepsi found with their Kendall Jenner protestors spot...

 

Getting it wrong: Pepsi and Kendall Jenner

Whatever cause you decide to get involved in, it’s essential that your brand has an authentic attachment to the cause. This cannot just be lip service. It is also extremely important that you understand the nuances of the issue and don’t trivialise it through superficial understanding. Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner commercial shows her giving cans of Pepsi to police officers, seemingly with a view to reducing tensions at a Black Lives Matter protest. The idea that Jenner, who is white, could turn up and solve the situation with a can of soda was seen as extremely insulting and out of touch. Social media did the rest, culminating in the 18-year-old model sharing a video, with her crying and begging the forgiveness of the masses.

Casual Films Kendall Jenner Pepsi

It might be tempting to move away from cause-related marketing as a result. The key point here is that if you are going to take this route, which you should, you need to get involved at the root, make a difference and then tell that story. It is not acceptable to simply say, from a disconnected position, that you ‘believe’ in good causes. It is necessary to actually become involved in them, to understand them and to benefit them; to use your considerable might to work towards a solution, no matter how small the step you enable might be.

 

Greenwashing

greenwash

/ˈɡriːnwɒʃ/

noun

Greenwashing is marketing that intentionally overemphasises the green credentials of a business activity, while downplaying the actual negative impact. As a term, it was first used by Jay Westervelt in an essay criticising the hotel industry for their habit of leaving cards in their bathrooms asking their guests to reduce the amount of washing that is done by not leaving their towels on the floor, from where they would have to be washed. Westervelt showed that, far from being motivated by the environment, the hoteliers were in fact motivated by the reduced costs it would incur, thereby increasing their profits.

It is not a new thing though; in 1969 alone, public utilities spent more than US$300 million on advertising their green credentials – more than eight times what they spent on the anti-pollution research they were touting in those ads.

Greenwashing became more elaborate through the 1970s and 1980s, to the extent that in 1990, on Earth Day 20, one-quarter of all goods launched in the US were marketed as being “recyclable, ozone friendly and compostable”. In 1985, Chevron launched their People Do series, which was aimed at those who were societally conscious and hostile to the company. The ads featured bears, eagles and animals, and underlined how hard the company’s people were working to protect wildlife during their work. These ran for 15 years and became a textbook case of how successful greenwashing can be, leading to a 10% jump in sales and a 22% jump among the hostile audience target group.

Greenwashing in the current ‘post-truth’ age is alive and well. The bottled-water industry, for example, leans heavily on imagery of the natural world in its marketing, and trumpets the reduction in plastic used in its bottles, while its products continue to have a severely negative ecological impact. Only 31% of plastic bottles consumed in the US are recycled. With so much demand for ‘green’ products (72% of millennials will pay more for environmentally sustainable products), it’s not surprising that businesses are keen to stress their credentials.

 

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Topics: Purpose driven video, Being a better commissioner, How-to

The Video-Production Process / How to Make a Film

Posted by Nick Francis
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Most people have got an idea of the different steps that go into the production of a video. Here, we thought we'd take a moment to outline each of the different steps so that you can see how it all fits together. Of course, the way different companies, producers teams make films might be slightly different. The general principles explained below should ring true though.


We made a film about this many many moons ago. Lots of the Casuallers featured in this video have moved on to new pastures. Those of us who have remained are slightly greyer, slightly wrinklier and less annoyingly youthful (ish), but it still gives a good grounding in the process:


So how does it work?

Simply put, we need to think about what we’re going to produce, organise it, produce/create it and then share it. This means that productions break down into the following four stages:

1. Preproduction

2. Production

3. Postproduction

4. Delivery


Preproduction

This is where we do all the work to understand what the right thing to create is. This pre-creative/brief-writing stage is arguably the most important in the whole process. This is often not given enough time in the desire to get on with the hands-on project. Needless to say, clear insight gained here is far cheaper to put into action than that gained when the film is finished and delivered. It is remarkable how many times I have made films with global brands, only to reach the end of the process and have someone who wasn’t consulted early enough ask, “Why are we making this, anyway?”

Want a little help creating effective briefs? You can download it right here.

Once we have this, we can start to think about how you are going to achieve all those objectives. This is known as creative or scripting. Creative tends to go through a number of iterations, until everyone is happy with it.

Once we have an agreed creative idea, we can start to organise all the things that are required to accomplish it. This will include an outline of the different actors/interviewees, props and locations. Making a film is very similar to organising an event. The event of physically making the film is called production.

Production

The hands-on production of the film is usually relatively short compared to the rest of the project. It is also often the most expensive stage in the project. This is because we can have lots of people in the same place at the same time. As we covered earlier in the book, the cost of the production phase has come down drastically since the days of scores of crew being required to get a decent-looking result. Today, a single self-shooting director/filmmaker can achieve a surprisingly high-quality output. That said, there are still elements that can add to the cost of the project. These include a large number of actors/extras, shooting in locations that require travel/accommodation for the team, and specialist production elements such as drones, underwater cameras and cranes.

Postproduction

Once it’s all been shot – ‘in the can’, if you like – the film then goes into the edit. An editor goes through all the material that was gathered during the production phase and selects the best moments from what could amount to hours of material. Many purists argue that this is true filmmaking, as it’s where the film is actually made.

The first step is to get to an initial assembly cut. This is made up of all the best shots, which are pulled into a basic running order. This is also called a rough cut. The film now goes through a series of back-and-forths between the editor/producer and the various project stakeholders. If the editor is ‘chunking’ (splitting) the video for a number of different edits to be shared on social channels, he/she will tend to work on one main output, to get that right before moving on to the other cuts. This allows the editor to familiarise himself/herself with the footage, and to establish a style that the stakeholders are happy with.

Felicia Producing Casual Films


Three films?

It is said that, in the process of making a film, the creators actually produce three: there is the film that was initially conceived in the creative phase, the film that they believed they shot during production and then the film that is actually there once the editor has finished his/her work. Needless to say, it is the third film that remains to be shared and known by the world beyond the production team. This trope underlines an important aspect of filmmaking: be clear on what you are trying to achieve, but be prepared to incorporate positive additions as they occur. It is almost impossible to plan for every single eventuality that might befall the production. The best work comes from taking the events that occur – a beautiful sunset, a perfectly timed bird flying through the shot or an accidental nudge of an edit that just works – and being ready to integrate them.


Finishing

Once the project sponsor is happy with the edit, it is sent for a few final tweaks. At this stage, the titles, graphics and any final visual flourishes are added to the film. The picture is then considered to be ‘locked’. This means that no one can make any more changes to the project’s visuals.

Then, the edit is colour graded. This step tweaks and stylises the colours to make sure that they are all uniform and stylistically fit the story. For example, adding a blue hue to scenes filmed at night.

Sound design

The film is then sent to have the audio finished off. This includes having any sound effects and composed music added. Then, the sound designer tweaks all the levels of the audio to make sure that the volume is consistent, the dialogue is audible and it all sounds right. With modern content becoming as disposable as it has, this may not happen on every production. In that case, it comes down to the editor to give the film a once-over to make sure it is all good instead.

Delivery

We now have the finished output/outputs, but the whole process has been for nothing if the target audience don’t get to see it/them. This is where the delivery method comes in. There are many, many different ways of getting your content seen, from Facebook banners to bus-mounted video screens. What is really worth doing, though, is including the distribution method in the briefing phase. This allows the production to be tailored to make the most of the displays that the outputs will be shown on or the different ways that people view each platform.

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

Casual picks up UK Board of Trade Award for contributions to transatlantic trade

Posted by Nick Francis
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This week we were thrilled to receive a Board of Trade Award, or ‘BOFTA’, which was given out by the Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox, President of the Board of Trade and UK Minister for International Trade. We were aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in New York Harbour to receive the award “celebrating the best in British innovation and entrepreneurship” for our contributions to Transatlantic trade.

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Barnaby picks up the award from Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox and US Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson

As a production company we tend to pick up awards for our films. It’s therefore rather nice to pick one up for the business side of things. We first set up in New York in 2011. Building the business up in the US has been an amazing adventure and continues to challenge and engage us.

 

The Queen Elizabeth is the UK’s newest aircraft carrier, costing the taxpayer a handsome £3.1 billion. We’re pleased to report that the money has been well spent and it made for a cracking backdrop to an award ceremony.

 All Bofta Winners

Barnaby and Nick with other award winners, the Secretary of State, Ambassador and the Captain

We were ferried to the warship flanked by NYPD helicopters and machine-gun armed patrol boats – which certainly built our anticipation for the event. The ship cut an impressive silhouette against the darkening sky. Having arrived we were saluted and piped aboard by the assembled sailors and marines. It was the first time the Board of Trade’s flag had flown above a warship in New York Harbour since the War of Independence.

 

Inside the hangar, flanked by Merlin helicopters, we were treated to G&Ts (with tonic from fellow award winners Fever Tree), a greeting from the commander of the ship, Captain Kydd - no relation - and a selection of tunes from the band of the Royal Marines. This was followed by a fair bit of photographing and discussing how we had come to end up on the boat, award in hand.

pIyicznQThe Band of HM Royal Marines perform for the assembled guests

The award comes at an excellent time for Casual too, reflecting our ongoing dedication to our relationship with the US. A new fully equipped 5,500 sqft studio in New York, a new office in San Francisco along with some of our best work ever in London, have made 2018 one of our best ever. Thank you to all our amazing clients and staff for sticking with us and making it such a success. A massive thank you to Richard Powell at the Department for International Trade in New York - and everyone from the UK government - who has helped to make our business in the US such a success so far.

 

 

Topics: Awards, News

Building trust in the era of fake news

Posted by Nick Francis
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The ‘Age of Transparency’

The Technological Revolution has changed the nature of communication: it is no longer simply the few with the means broadcasting to the masses without. Communication is now omnidirectional: everyone is broadcasting, commenting on and sharing each other’s messages. This environment presents significant challenges for corporate communicators in particular – consistency of message is key. Out of sight is no longer out of mind. In the globalised world, eyes and cameras are everywhere. Blue-chip megaliths can lose billions in market capitalisation from a single incident, with their reaction magnified to the world by omnipresent smartphones. This ‘all-seeing eye’ has illuminated areas that were closed off before. We have become more familiar with the workings of authority. With this familiarity, contempt has crept in, which has led to a general crisis of trust.

Nick Francis Buidling Trust in the Era of Fake News

Scandals in almost every field – for example, sexual harassment/#MeToo, politics, corporate malpractice, police mistreatment (e.g. Black Lives Matter) and hacked answerphones – have led to historically low trust ratings for the traditional pillars of power. Traditional broadcasters are suffering from an onslaught of new media and a resurgent, divisive political movement intent on dismissing discourse; this increases and aims to capitalise on the trust gap.

Set against this backdrop, it’s not surprising that trust has become a, if not the, watchword of business communications. Every business function – from product launches to temporary-staff induction – has to be performed as if the world is watching, because, frankly, it could be.

There is now a constant check on all of your operations and communications. Would-be citizen journalists armed with camera phones are everywhere, as United Airlines found out in April 2017 when their security staff forcibly removed a passenger from a flight at Chicago O’Hare Airport. What was once an anecdote shared among friends now has the potential to become global news, aided by the power of moving image. Put a foot wrong and whistle-blowers – both internal and external – have the means to call you out in potentially ruinous ways. This phenomenon has made various commentators describe the modern age as the ‘Age of Transparency.’

 

“Trust is built on authenticity.”

– Brian Tracy

Beyond the obvious complexities of operating in this ‘Age of Transparency’, lie the challenges of dealing with ‘fake news’. The ability to broadcast has been used by some to share their own ‘alternative facts’. These are then shared and amplified, undermining the public’s faith in everything they see online. While this has impacted traditional media and governments more significantly, it is still a key concern for those in business communications.

Have faith though. All new technology takes a little time for people to understand and use effectively. Think of the men with red flags running in front of early cars to warn pedestrians, or cell phones ringing all the time before society discovered the vibrate function. We are living through an unprecedented period of technological advancement, so it’s unsurprising that there will be some growing pains. As I write, some of our brightest minds are working on solutions to these challenges.

Credibility is essential. This is particularly true given that, according to PR giant Edelman’s Annual Global Trust Survey, 69% of those questioned believe that the most important role for the CEO is to make sure that their company is trusted. It is essential to build and maximise the trust of your audience – your employees, your customers and your shareholders – but it can feel like you are swimming against the current. So, how can your communications help you to do that?

 

1. Make it about the audience 

The most valuable thing you can do to make your content resonate, is to make sure that it is right for your audience. They know themselves better than anyone, so they instinctively know what rings true and what feels false.

 

2. Be mindful 

Be careful where you allow your brand to feature online. The whole online environment is not as low trust as might appear at first. There are trusted pockets. It is important to seek these out, and to avoid sharing content on large international platforms that are failing their users and advertisers in providing a space free from lies and hatred.

 

3. Act with humility 

Be prepared to share the challenges as well as the successes. The greatest stories, with the greatest heroes, are not defined by unremitting success. They are made great through adversity. Share your adversity; you will enrich your narrative and the audience will come with you.

 

4. Be transparent 

Brands have been forced to deal directly with complaints and criticism of their online profiles for several years now. Those who have taken an ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach have suffered significantly as a result. It is not an option to not engage, and yet very few, if any, companies have actively welcomed that negative feedback at a deep level and used it to improve themselves. There are, of course, huge challenges in operating a global business. The audience understand this. As with the previous point, put your hands up and explain that you don’t have all the answers, but that you’re doing your best. They will love you for it.

“Being transparent is what gives our business its most important asset – trust. At a time when there is a crisis of trust in many institutions across the world, there has never been a more important time for business to play a leading role in restoring it.”

– Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

 

5. Be consistent 

You will gain the trust of your customers through delivering quality and value in both the content you produce and your products/services. Consumers like to know what they’re going to get, and will prefer to go with something that they know will be a 7/10, rather than shooting for a 9/10 and risking ending up with a 3/10. This desire for the ‘known’ explains the success of business chains to a large degree.

 

6. Deliver on what you promise 

Don’t say anything that you can’t back up with action, again and again. 

 

7. Have a higher purpose

For organisations, these are aspirational by their nature, grounded in humanity and go beyond the profit motive. A business’s purpose is often referred to as its ‘North Star’ – an unattainable, guiding light, against which all activities are measured. It provides clarity for all the decision- making in the business, from the significantly strategic to the day-to-day tactical.

“Purpose is a long-term, forward-looking intention to accomplish aims that are both meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond.”

– Bill Damon, Director, Stanford Center on Adolescence

 

Purpose has come to be referred to as the ‘Why?’ for a business, as outlined by Simon Sinek in his excellent book Start with the WhyIt should clearly articulate the stance of the business, allowing everyone who comes into contact with it to identify whether it aligns with their own value structure and aspirations. As this alignment grows, it graduates to a state that stakeholders are able to describe as ‘belonging’.

This desire to belong to a tribe answers a base yearning within us all. Many of the most successful businesses of our time – Zappos, Ben and Jerry’s, and Apple – have grown through the successful propagation of a tribal belonging among their staff and customers. This is only possible through a powerfully articulated, clear purpose.

This success has led to purpose becoming en vogue for much of the business world. It’s no longer enough to exist to ‘maximise shareholder value’. In the post-2007 world, purpose- and cause-driven business is more important than ever.

We'll return to the purpose of purpose to the content of your content very soon. Watch this space.

 

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

Mitie: How can video explain the future of the workspace?

Posted by Nick Francis
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Mitie is the UK's largest facilities management company. They have been putting a fair bit of thought - and action - into what the information revolution means for the workspaces of the future. These ideas have been tied together in a plan called: The Connected Workspace.

Mitie Casual Films Main

Communication is essential to any effective plan so they decided that they needed a short series of films to explain what they mean by The Connected Workspace.

Every commissioner naturally wants to get the maximum 'bang for their buck' from every production they create. Generating a number of different outputs from the minimum amount of production - filming - time is a great way of doing this.

 

The Main Film:

This film captures the essence of the concept. It shows all of the different facets of the brief and is designed to work as a standalone unit:

Mitie Connected Workspace

It has a dynamic soundtrack and is designed to be emotionally engaging and inspiring. This engages more of the brain chemistry, which makes the message significantly more memorable.

 

The 'Talking Head' Intro Film:

In order to share the background and concept behind the concept, we decided to complement the main output with an interview led film. Where the main film focuses on emotion, this Intro Film is informative. These two facets - emotion and information - tend to be mutually exclusive in a production. ie. the more informative something is, generally the less emotionally engaging - and vice versa.

 Mitie Intro Film

The Social Cut:

The main intro film is over 3'00" long, which is fine for viewers who have made a conscious decision to watch it to gain the information. For the audience on social media though, this is way too long. This is why a 30" social media cut is created to encapsulate the idea in a more consumable package.

This is also a good way of increasing the 'bang for your buck'. Once the editor is familiar with the footage, putting out additional edits like this is relatively easy.

 

The Behind the Scenes Film:

This is another great way of getting more content out of the process. Making films/videos should be a rewarding, fun and creative experience (if you're doing it right). Getting everyone involved in the process together and working through the production plan makes this a great time for someone to shoot some back up material. It's a record of the day and gives you more content to share and promote the campaign.

 Mitie Connected Workspaces BTS

The 360 Behind the Scenes Film:

Even easier that getting one of the team to shoot a behind the scenes film is setting up a 360 camera in various spots throughout the production, so your audience can choose where to look. This is a cost-efficient way to be able to add depth to your campaign. You can reuse much of the assets from the central films. For example - as you can hear the music is the same as that used in the other films.

 Mitie Connected Workspaces Casual Films 360

 

You can see the main films in their natural habitat here: www.connectedworkspace.com

We hope this has helped you to understand some of the ways to make the most of your production. This project was made possible through Mitie’s appetite to do something eye-catching and different. This is reflective of one of the most important elements for any commissioner to consider - be bold. There is more high quality content being commissioned than ever before. Your audience spend time watching high-quality boxsets and compare your content to that bar sub-consciously. If you are going to stand out from the noise and be noticed, you have to be prepared to do something a little different.

That is one of our Ten Commandments of Better Video. You can download the full sheet here:

DOWNLOAD COMMANDMENTS

 

Topics: Explain or promote products and services, Being a better commissioner, Repurposed content

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