Using Data to Inform Your Content

Posted by Nick Francis
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“The biggest difference between Don Draper and now is data.”
– Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever


Not long ago, to get any kind of information on a target market, marketers needed to send out surveys or run focus groups. This made the process extremely heavy. For example, the census that the US government runs every 10 years takes several years to compile. This means that all the information it contains is out of date before anyone gets their hands on the latest copy. This has all changed now that the number of smart devices in circulation has exploded. We track how many steps we take, the places we visit and web searches effortlessly. There is also a huge amount of data accessible to video marketers. We can use this to create content that we know your target audience will want to engage with. This makes the understanding and use of data an extremely important tool for video marketers.

Netflix, House of Cards and Big Data

Netflix shows just how far companies can go when using data to inform the types of content it shares. Its flagship series, House of Cards, is a massive hit with its subscribers, with 86% saying that they were less likely to cancel their subscription because of the show, according to a survey by Cowan and Company. Back in 2011, the company took the massive step of commissioning two series of the show in one go, 26 episodes, for over US$100 million – US$3.8 million an episode, without seeing a single one!

  • Is that bravery or foolhardiness? It was actually a careful calculation based on big data. Before making the decision, it knew a number of key relevant facts about its users:
    A significant number of users had watched the whole of the David Fincher directed movie The Social Network.
  • The original British version of House of Cards had been well watched.
  • People who watched the British version of House of Cards also
    watched Kevin Spacey films and/or films directed by David Fincher.

This allowed it to make a judgement call that the new series was worth its investment. Having this information also allows it to target users with other content that they might like. It’s also able to see who is at risk of giving up their subscription by seeing how much they have been using it over the past month.

Why does this matter to you?

Obviously, Netflix is in a strong position as it’s able to directly track how its subscribers access its services on a person-by-person basis. There are ways that you can use data without having quite such an in-depth view, though. For example, A/B testing a number of different creative treatments/video names/thumbnail images before choosing the one that resonates most successfully with our audience is a form of data optimisation we should all be doing.

Beyond this, you can see in greater depth than you might at first glance. You have access to a surprising amount of data if you choose to. Many of the clients I’ve worked with in the past haven’t been able to make the most of the data they could be collecting. This is usually because of concerns around hosting and data security. There are some very powerful platforms that can host video securely, giving access to in-depth information, but it requires the clients making a choice to utilise them. This has been an argument that we’ve lost more often than not.

Given this fact and the natural limitations that you’ll have when you first start using data, it’s important that you don’t give up on the experience and intuition of your team/suppliers. Data can provide a grounding for decisions, but it’s important that you weigh the information up and make a rational choice based on what you have. Data can give you the insight that will help you to optimise your product and improve your value proposition. You just need to look at what you have access to and how this can help you.

Challenges to Data

The quality of the decisions you’re able to make as a result of a piece of data is only ever going to be as good or reliable as the underlying data itself. Because of this, you need make sure that you can trust all of the data that you include. As we’ll see, the seemingly unstoppable rise of data has, to an extent, been checked by a number of setbacks.

There are a few shortcomings of the data-led approach, which mean that those nice luvvies in the creative department shouldn’t be sweating too much just yet. Firstly, while all that data can undoubtedly be used to improve the background understanding that informs a creative idea, the information still needs human creative thought to establish the idea itself. Secondly, by becoming too data-centric, there is a danger that you end up travelling down a creative rabbit hole, only ever producing variations on the same work you’ve done in the past, because that’s where your best/safest dataset is. Finally, you need to be certain that the data is telling you what you think it is. For example, the most commonly tracked video data is views and engagements – shares, likes and comments. While it might be good for your self-esteem to know that your video has had over 1 million views since you shared it, it’s not going to help with your strategy if all of those people are either bots or from the wrong target group. The more trustworthy detail that you can get, the more useful data will be as a tool.

Oath Storytellers and Chevrolet - Case study

As the number of data points available to content commissioners increases, they are able to use the data points to make ever-more-insightful observations about the types of content you should be producing for a given audience. This is particularly true for businesses – such as publishers (The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, CNN, etc.) – that have built up a wealth of data from the past work that they have shared.

Take Oath – formerly Yahoo! – for example. It has over a billion monthly users. Each of those users’ actions is tracked, which builds up a picture of their online habits. Oath suggests that it receives and records 4 trillion data signals per month. This breadth of information allows it to judge what will and won’t be successful for certain demographics.

Going There Anna GasteyerOath for Chrysler - Going There with Anna Gasteyer

For example, Oath’s content studio was commissioned to produce a series to promote family cars for Chrysler. From its data, it was able to tell that, of its users who were in the market for a family car, 51% were female, 73% were married and 70% had children. It also knew that millennial parents/ expecting parents using Oath were 46% more likely to agree that they like the same products that celebrities use. It also knew that comedy was their favourite genre. Through all of this information, it was able to understand the type of content that would work best for the target audience, and create a series of comedy in-car interviews called Going There with Anna Gasteyer. Supporting this, it had a digital site with a variety of supporting content aimed at enticing mums, based on the search terms it knew they used. This led to increases in the click-through rate (+33%), purchase intent (+6%) and brand trust (+5%) among the target audience.


One really useful use of data is in understanding what the best lengths for video are online. We pulled together the best information into a white paper to help you maximise the impact of your work. You can download it right here.

 

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

A chat about The New Fire - Harness the Power of Video for your Business

Posted by Nick Francis
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Co-founder Nick seems to be in a marginally better mood recently, probably because he has finally finished his book: The New Fire - Harness the Power of Video for Your Business. Here we ask him a few questions to give you an idea of what to expect.

If you would like to purchase a copy, please follow this link. Firstly, they're almost certain to sell out (Bezos is rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the launch already). Secondly, as an early registerer you might win a free copy! So, what are you waiting for! 

Anyway...

Why is the book called The New Fire?

Video is the New Fire for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, fire and storytelling have always been closely linked. Using fire enabled us to get the nutrition required from our food to grow our brains, enabling us to have thoughts that focused beyond the immediate – why are sabre-toothed tigers so… bitey?’, rather than simply ‘that sabre-toothed tiger is going to eat me, I need to run away now.’. It also lengthened the day, which gave us the time to use our newly enhanced brains to think abstractly and construct abstract narratives - to tell stories. This is why storytelling is such an effective means of communication. Our brains literally evolved to make sense of information through them.

 

saber-tooth-catSabre-toothed tiger - rather 'bitey'


Secondly, I’ve always liked the metaphor of video as fire. They exhibit many similar qualities. Used effectively, it can be sustaining, providing energy and power for your cause. It can ‘light a fire’ in your audience’s hearts and minds. Get it wrong and it can burn, damage and potentially kill you. In the online space, video spreads rapidly, enlightening or burning as it goes. Often with world changing ferocity. A fire of its time – the shocking LAPD/Rodney King case in the early ‘90s captured global attention because it was recorded for all to see. Now cameras are everywhere and distribution is immediate we all have that capability to create fire in our hands right now. Video has moved from being in the hands of the few, the privileged, who used it to broadcast their message, to being in the hands of the many – more or less everyone – who can use it to narrowcast to the few. This has huge ramifications for all of us, particularly business communicators.

This is why the Technological Revolution has allowed video to fully come of age. After 400 millennia fire was only harnessed with the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the steam and internal combustion engines. These transformed it from being a relatively raw asset – providing heat and light – and channelled it to power rapid advancement. This is the headspace that we need to be in when considering what video can do for us as modern communicators.

 

Why did you write this book?

I wrote the New Fire because this evolution has happened so fast that even for those working in the industry, it can feel pretty overwhelming to get your head around. I wanted to help people to make sense of it by breaking down what video is, how it has evolved and what this means for businesses and brands.

I also read a lot of business books and am yet to find a comprehensive account of brand video. There are ‘how to do it yourself’ books, there are books that look at marketing generally, there are very technical books which breakdown strategy. I haven’t yet found one that focuses specifically on corporate video. This has traditionally been a bit of a back water but this ignores the drastic evolution that has happened over the last decade. The UK government’s Independent Review of the Creative Industries published in 2017 didn’t include brand/corporate video content as a category, it didn’t even mention it. This is an estimated $8 billion global industry!

There are thousands of companies that have grown up over the last decade, producing stunning work for global businesses. As a member of this thriving industry, I wanted to represent the changes that have happened and to help both parties to get more from the relationship. 

 

Who should read this book? 

  1. Senior executives who want to understand more about using video content to engage staff, explain/promote products/launch or build a brand. The New Fire breaks down the assets that make video such a valuable tool so that you can think, speak plan around it from a position of understanding. From conversations with clients, senior execs and others working in the industry, I realised that there is often a bit of a knowledge gap between video practitioners, who tend to be a bit more clued up, and their bosses. This book specifically addresses that gap.
  1. Corporate/brand video commissioners who want to understand how to work more effectively with third party producers. The book breaks down each phase of the commissioning process from writing an effective brief and defining your audience to producing a cohesive content strategy.
  1. Marketers who want more detail on how and why one of the most potent tools in their armoury is just that. This book will help you to use it more effectively, improving returns from your campaigns.
  1. Recruitment/HR/Employer Brand professionals who want to understand how to use video to attract, recruit and motivate staff.
  1. Video producers/production companies/filmmakers working in business video who understand the process but might like a little more context.

 

What is it about?

The last ten years have seen a revolution in the way that video is used. Broadband Internet, DSLRs, camera phones, virals, YouTube, YouTubers, 3G, 4G, drones, consumer editing programmes, virtual reality, 360, augmented reality, interactive, all these things and more have completely changed video from the unidirectional tool for the privileged and put it in the hands of the masses. The most powerful communications tool yet invented can be used effectively. This has drastic implications for all of us, but it significantly changes the communications landscape for business. The pace of change has been such that to work in the way that many companies do, is to under realise the potential of this awesome platform.

The businesses that have realised the potential are creating huge value. Look at Red Bull. Okay, this may seem like an obvious example to use, but bear with me. They have created a whole brand media infrastructure which generates value for the core brand in a way that is indiscernible from the brand value of their core product. Every time someone sees a young lunatic heading off a jump upside down at 60 mph, they are reminded of Red Bull’s brand promise – that it ‘gives you wings.' 

josh-sheehan-red-bull-x-fighters-madrid-double-backflip

Obviously, if you’re an accountancy firm, or a bank, motorbike backflips aren’t necessarily going to chime with your brand. But if you understand who your target audience area and what makes them tick and then see where that intersects with what you stand for as a brand, you can get a huge amount of value from using video. That could be in direct ways – increasing sales by explaining your products or recruiting better staff – or less direct ways – like improving brand perception which ultimately sells more and allows you to charge more. However it’s used, the potential to build brand value is such, that businesses need to think about their content production as an additional product. This means that businesses need to think like broadcasters. They need to have a specific plan to deliver value for the business through content production. Whether they like it or not, they have a content channel and their audience expect them to use it, because if they don’t their competitors already will be. The New Fire breaks down how to do exactly that. 

 

Why is purpose such a valuable resource for content creators?

Using your business purpose as the cornerstone of your content is the best way to create impactful work. Having an anchor point which all of your creative can be linked back to also ensures that the content that you share through your ‘channel’ is coherent and relevant to your brand.

Business purpose has been such a hot topic over the last few years, underlined by Simon Sinek’s excellent book – Start with Why – “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. (Check out his extremely popular TED talk.There are lots of reasons to have a purpose beyond the simple profit motive.  For one, it’s a really effective way of improving engagement among your employees. You should think of your purpose as your company’s ‘North Star’, the idea or principle which can be used to inform every decision that you make. This makes it a powerfully aligning element for any business. It is hugely valuable externally too. Because it is your North Star, all of your content should have your company purpose woven into it. This can happen naturally if you feature members of your staff who are often the manifestation of your values. In other instances, it might be necessary to be more explicit in understanding how a project’s creative concept links back. 

Doesn’t mean that all your content should be about your purpose, but it should fit within the same orbit. To look at the Red Bull example earlier, their purpose can be summarised as: we give people the energy and inspiration to fulfil their dreams. For the MotoXer, that might be to try to kill themselves (sorry – do massive backflips) but it can be equally relevant to helping conceptual artists to create their art. This gives them a huge amount of space to create work which reinforces what they stand for as a brand. ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ 

Once you have clarified this you can create content which allows your audience to decide whether your values align with their own. If they do, then you will be on your way to building them into being fans and ultimately raving fans – the people who do your selling for you. I’ve oversimplified there, but creating content of this nature, which is very light touch on the selling side is one of the best ways of building a resilient and ultimately profitable following online. 

Errr… why have you written a book about video?

Ha – I wrote a book for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s essential to understand your audience and the way that they consume information. This book is for people who come in contact with video within their business and want to know more. According to Inc magazine, most senior execs read 4-5 books per month. I wanted to communicate them in the format that they would be most comfortable.

Secondly, video is an excellent communications medium, but it’s not perfect for everything. There is a huge amount of information in there and I wanted people to be able to take the book, read it, peruse it and refer to it whenever they need to brush up on something. Want to understand the power of purpose? It’s in there. Need to set a budget? It’s in there? Want to know the difference between psychographic and demographic audience segmentation? It’s in there. Whatever it is, I’ve tried to make the information as accessible and as easy to refer to as possible.

I am looking at producing more video around it, but it turns out that writing a book takes up quite a lot of time!


You can read more about the New Fire and purchase your very own copy here: www.newfirebook.com

 

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

Empower your Team to Take Risks to Create Excellent Content

Posted by Nick Francis
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EVERYONE WANTS TO BE APPLE. NO ONE IS WILLING TO BE STEVE JOBS...

Video is more accessible than ever before. This has made the distribution environment a little... convoluted. This turmoil represents a fantastic opportunity for brands to make decisive moves to win fame and brand loyalty among a potentially global audience. To do that, to borrow a phrase, you have to ‘think different’.

Differentiation requires unconventionality

By definition, to differentiate oneself requires a degree of unconventional thinking. Being conventional – producing average content – pretty much guarantees average outcomes. This is particularly true, for example, in the recruitment/talent space, where everyone in a given industry is chasing broadly the same candidates. If everyone goes about it in the same way, then the key differentiating factor becomes money. This makes it very expensive to get the top candidates. You need to try to break free from convention in order to differentiate yourself by what you stand for. The best way to illustrate this is through well-conceived, eye-catching video.

steve-jobs-legacy"All I ask is that today, you do the best work of your entire lives"

- Steve Jobs

That’s easy enough to say, I know. When we’re asked for a treatment (the ideas and approach for a project) by a client, our creative team comes up with three suitable ideas. These are (usually): a ‘conventional but safe’ example, a ‘differentiating and could win awards/really achieve something exciting’ example, and another that falls in between the two.

Even when the client starts the process by saying, “We want to do something really out there this time”, the majority of the time (four times out of five) they go with the safe one. And, once it’s commissioned, the client will tend to push towards safety as it goes. I don’t mean this as criticism at all; it’s more that I understand the pressures that commissioners are under. The people we work with are experienced, talented and creative, and want to create work that is genuinely great, but they often operate in a framework that makes it hard for them to do what they really want to.

Being conventionally wrong is better than risking being unconventionally right

The reason for this is that, in large corporations, it’s nearly always better to be conventionally wrong than to take the risk to be unconventionally right. If you take a risk on the received convention – hiring IBM, as the saying goes – and it goes wrong, you’re probably not going to get fired. If you take the unconventional route and it doesn’t go to plan, you’re out on your ear. This leads to defensive decision-making – the enemy of differentiation, and a factor that is probably costing your business millions in lost or unrealised revenue.

“Boring and safe rarely leads to a connection. Connection happens when humanity asserts itself.”

- Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

There is no reason why any company that chooses to can’t achieve excellent returns from building their brand with video, but it has to come from the top. Red Bull has two shareholders – the original entrepreneurs who set the business up. That means it has the freedom to make the decisions that are in the long-term interest of the brand. It can choose to take the calculated risks that are necessary to make this stuff really work, without having to answer to the drive for short-term returns. Apple is often talked about in lofty terms in creative meetings. Apple brand, the precision of its operations and the adoration of its users (and its profit margin!) – but no one is prepared to be Steve Jobs: risk taking, brave and uncompromising in his pursuit for perfection. To expect one without the other is unrealistic and naïve.

 

Felix Baugartner Red BullFelix Baumgartner steps into the unknown for Red Bull

 

“Fortune favours the bold.”

– Virgil

The fact is that differentiation and, ultimately, success nearly always lie down the unconventional path. This is truer than ever in the content saturated world we’re all operating in now. The way to allow your team or people to find that path is by giving them the space to take calculated risks with the material that they produce. I’m not suggesting that you completely let go of the reins and let the whole operation explode in a blaze of fruitless, but beautiful, creative glory. The key step in creating a winning culture is in how you approach failure. The businesses that really succeed are the ones that treat failure as a valuable chance to learn, and make sure that the lessons are heeded and shared across the organisation.

Black Box Thinking

Matthew Syed talks about this in his excellent book Black Box Thinking. He contrasts the incidence of accidents or failures in the airline and healthcare industries. Airlines carry millions of passengers all over the world in highly complex, heavier-than-air, metal boxes. On the face of it, this seems impossibly dangerous, and yet they manage the astonishing safety record of people having just a 1-in-11-million chance of being killed in a plane crash. Whereas, in the US alone, 250,000 people die as a result of medical negligence every year. That’s the equivalent of three fully loaded jumbos crashing every two days. The key difference between these two industries is their attitude to failure. In the airline industry, there are established systems for sharing even the smallest event from which future travel could be made safer. In hospitals, people treat mistakes with a sad shrug and as ‘one of those things’ that happens when dealing with something so complex, and yet is it that much more complex than air travel?

Encourage a growth mindset among your team

You must cultivate an open culture where your team members feel empowered to try different things. You should encourage them to keep a growth mindset - always looking for ways to be better and improve. To use events that didn’t go exactly to plan as an opportunity to learn. In the Silicon Valley vernacular, ‘fail fast’. To avoid failing is to avoid the opportunity to learn and improve. The online environment gives you the opportunity to continually reiterate. It’s more valuable to have the odd misfire, setting a baseline from which to improve, than it is to cruise along in safe, unremarkable mediocrity. Online, more than before, mediocrity is ignored.

Get your thinking straight before you begin with our guide to writing better briefs. You can download it right here.

Or if you'd prefer, you can download our 10 step process to making better videos, right here.

Topics: Being a better commissioner, Content Strategy

Five Awesome Brand Films to Get You Inspired for 2019

Posted by Nick Francis
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Being an almost limitlessly creative medium makes video an exciting and rewarding tool to work with. One of the things we like about making video for businesses is that we have very clear constraints within which to work. Unconstrained creativity is anarchic. Within constraints creativity flourishes. This is why having a well thought out brief is so central to creating work which is memorable and effective. You can download our guide to writing a good brief here.

Before you start with any project it helps to have an idea of the kind of thing you want to produce. To that end, we thought we’d pull together a few films which nail it - to help you to channel your thinking. Have a watch, have a think, and then maybe get in touch with an exciting production company you might know...

Dramatised Charity Film: 

Oxfam – The Heist No One is Talking About 

This is probably my favourite charity film of all time. By reframing the issue of tax evasion, it makes the subject far more tangible for the audience. It is as illuminating as it is memorable. The cinematic production really adds to the drama and impact.

Inspiration point:

Films with this much gloss and thought require a significant investment. You can get a long way to a result like this with some decent creative thought up front. Once you have an idea as powerful as this, there are almost limitless ways of producing it - Hollywood production values or not.

 

Repurposed Material:

BMW Careers

We love this film because it demonstrates how effective video can be at illustrating company culture. It was produced from the large amount of material that BMW already had. This was combined with some library footage and a punchy soundtrack, to deliver an effect that is eye-catching, memorable and effective.

Inspiration point:

Even if you're not BMW with endless amounts of great footage, have a think about the material you already have. Maybe you can update it, add to it or repurpose it easily to give you great content that you can get more mileage out of.

 

Business Mini-Doc:

AutoDesk – History of 3D Printing 

Most companies are associated with interesting stories if you look beneath the surface. I like this mini documentary because it allows Autodesk to give real depth and context to the work that they do. It builds trust with the company both internally - with employees - and externally - with customers, prospects and potential recruits.

Inspiration point:

Admittedly, 3D printing is kind of cool and looks good on camera – especially the time lapse footage. There are always interesting stories that you can use to build trust with your brand if you look for them. Keep an open mind and ask around. Ask your employees/colleagues/clients. Video is a magnifying glass on issues. You can make a film about an individual or an event and reflect the story of the many.

 

Interactive:

Aloe Black

 Love is the Answer InteractiveThis will link you out to an external site.

This isn’t a brand film, and the interactive is pretty basic, but we still tend to go to this as a great example of the medium, because it’s so satisfying. It doesn’t hurt that the track is ace too. As with any new creative technology, some of the early  interactive has been a little prone to gimmickry. This confidently avoids that because the interactive adds to the narrative of the band coming together. It manages to inspire excitement as we switch from storyline to storyline, seeing what the next band member is up to. This could be used in a corporate context to show almost any process where different threads run concurrently - a recruitment process, a product being assembled or an even being prepared.

Inspiration point:

Interactive video is a great way of increasing engagement with your audience. We have seen engagement rates on some of our interactive films rate at nearly 4x live action video. It may seem a little intimidating, but it just requires an understanding of the mechanics and a little preplanning.  

  

Mixed Media Product Launch

Apple’s Big News 

Sure, it’s Apple, so it’s stylish, glossy and delish. Producing something like this doesn’t need to cost an Apple budget though. This video works because it combines a number of elements effectively: live action video, on screen type, beautifully rendered animation, powerful audio blended with a strong dash of humour. Most of these elements are inexpensive to create, it just requires a good script and some planning. They can come up with the creative idea and then produce it quickly and efficiently. 

Inspiration point:

It's easier to create something like this than it looks. Being clear on what you're trying to achieve before you start is the key. Once you have this, a professional producer can help you to create something memorable and effective.


It helps the production team if you have an idea what you want your video to look like. Whatever you're trying to achieve take a moment to consult our easy to follow guide to writing briefs which will make your video more engaging, memorable and ultimately effective.

Topics: Attract and retain the best candidates, Increase brand awareness and appeal, Boost sales and encourage donations, Being a better commissioner, Repurposed content, Content Strategy

Producer Felicia's Dos and Don'ts of filming in the extreme cold

Posted by Nick Francis
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Time, tide and shooting schedules wait for no man nor woman nor icy blasts. So said no-one. Ever.

With this in mind, this week Felicia and some of the team travelled to an absolutely freezing (-23ºF/-35ºC) Chicago. As every day is a school day at Casual Films - and because you never know when such things might be helpful - here we share some of the dos and don'ts of shooting in the Arctic winter.

Do work with a top notch crew. The more things you can depend on the better. Particularly when the hotel door lets you down too...

9076deee-10c4-45ea-b64b-15c0dfbc0c41-2

Don't trust that your flight will get you to Chicago during a Polar Vortex. Felicia had 2 tickets booked on 2 separate airlines, just in case.

Do have a safety briefing before the crew starts for the day. Crew safety above all else.

Don't panic when the - decidedly not top notch - snow removal guy quits at 5 am on the morning of the shoot.

Do hire a different snow remover guy who was better, friendlier and cheaper than the original guy was any way.

Don't tell your mom where you are or what you're doing because she will worry and ask you to text her every night when you're back at the hotel (true story).

Do make sure you keep hands, ears and batteries warm before use. Cold drastically reduces their operating time, particularly the batteries.

WhatsApp Image 2019-01-31 at 15.40.08Do hire as many powerful lights as possible in an attempt to make it look and feel sunny inside.

Don't touch bare metal without gloves on - you've seen Dumb and Dumber right?

Do check the minimal operational temperature of the equipment you're using, realise you're well below what it's supposed to be able to handle and embrace the fact there is only so much you can do when it comes to outsmarting Mother Nature.

She will always always win. But you might just get what you need from your shoot before she does.


If you're unsure about how to light and film a house in the freezing cold of the Northern Arctic winter, or a street near you, you can book a call with an excellent producer, like our very own Felicia, by clicking right here.

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

Marketers? Your goal: Create genuine value for your audience

Posted by Nick Francis
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The Internet has sped up our lives – email has turned airmail into ‘snail mail’. Mobile Internet connectivity has made our lives faster still. We’re being robbed of the last shreds of time we had to think. The pace of life, and the profusion of different channels and distractions has sharpened our perception of the value of our time.

As marketers, this poses a challenge for getting our communications heard. Along with this heightened awareness, the audience has control of how they invest their time. With the growth in ad-blocking software, marketing messages face a challenge to be noticed. For us to achieve cut-through (landing our message with the audience), our content has to pass over a higher ‘is this a valuable use of my time?’ bar than ever.  It has to provide genuine value to the audience, making their lives better for having interacted with it, even just a tiny bit.

Tom Fishbourne Adding ValueLike so many of Tom Fishbourne's excellent cartoon's this delivers an important truth that is invaluable for marketers 

Being ‘TRUE’

Content marketing is about delivering ‘value’ to the audience. What do we actually mean by that? Marketing guru Seth Godin describes it as follows:

“…something that people would seek out, and that they would miss if it wasn’t there.” 

In terms of thinking about your content, a simple guide to this is that the audience are looking for something that is TRUE; that is, timely, relevant, useful or entertaining. The better you understand your audience, the more effective the content that you create for them will be. Let’s look at what is meant by each of those terms:

Timely

Timing is key to effective content. Think about how successful Oreo was with its “You Can Dunk in the Dark” tweet, when the lights went out during the 2013 Super Bowl. It was picked up by the 23 million Twitter users who were watching the game, and ended up being regarded as the ad of the evening – a title that many companies had spent millions of dollars for a shot at, and failed. It goes without saying that what is timely for one viewer is annoyingly late for another – good advice 30 seconds too late is annoying.

Relevant

As we touched on previously, the content has to be relevant to the audience. This almost goes without saying – we all constantly filter the information that assails us every waking moment. Because of this, your audience are keenly aware of what does and doesn’t apply to them. Think about what is going to be relevant for your viewers – this might now be directly obvious. For example, if you’re trying to market an apprentice scheme to school leavers, they may be interested in advice on renting a home for the first time. This information is obviously not so interesting to those looking to move job as an experienced hire. This underlines the importance of understanding your audience and what is relevant to them.

A word of warning here, according to research by LinkedIn, 44% of their respondents said they would consider ending a relationship with a brand because of irrelevant promotions. An additional 22% said that they would ‘definitely defect’ from that brand. Knowing your audience and making content that is relevant to them is essential.

"44% would consider ending a relationship with a brand because of irrelevant promotions.

22% would definitely defect"

- LinkedIn

Useful

One step on from being relevant is content that is actually useful. Providing how-tos, instructions, discounts and tie-ins with other products that they may be using are all ways of being useful to your audience. Once again, what is useful to your viewers might not be immediately obvious – look at the previous example. Home-renting advice is also useful to the target audience. These different types of value do not exist in isolation – each piece of content can be a combination of one or more things.

Casual Films Provide Value Tyler Milligan

You must create content that your audience will actively seek out, love and share because it's great.

Entertaining

We all need a little entertainment from time to time. If you can get it right, this is a great way of drawing in your audience and winning them over. Tread carefully with this though – you have to make sure that whatever you share ties in with your brand. You need to earn the trust of the audience before making drastic departures in tone of voice.

The content you produce doesn’t need to be all of these things at the same time – any one or two will work, as long as it/they provide enough value in that given area. The more entertaining and relevant your work content is, for example, the more the chance there is that it will be watched, shared and loved.

 

There are different ways of skinning a cat though...

Google defines the different ways of engaging your audience with your content slightly differently:

- Inspire the audience with emotional and relatable stories.

- Educate the audience with useful information.

- Entertain the audience by surprising them, making them laugh or sharing spectacular content.

There is no right or wrong way of looking at these; they are just a different way of looking at the same underlying principles. I hope that seeing them from a slightly different angle will help you to understand them and use them.


If you found this interesting and would you like to learn more about how to make really great content?

We have condensed the last decade and nearly 10,000 films worth of learning into what we consider to be the Ten Commandments of Better Video. You can download them here.

Download ten ways to make better videos Jakub Gorajek

Topics: Increase brand awareness and appeal, Being a better commissioner, Content Strategy

YouTube’s content structure: Hero, Hub and Hygiene/Help

Posted by Nick Francis
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In the same way that traditional broadcast channels have schedules and different types of programming for different audiences/time of day, so can your business. You don’t necessarily need the same breadth of programmes that they have. But it is worth thinking considering how your audience interacts with the different content that you create or curate.

A few years ago now the helpful people at Youtube published their guide for content planning. This defined three different types of video which reflect the different ways audiences access content online. They called this structure: Hero, Hub and Hygiene.

Hero Hub Help-1The hero, hub and hygiene/help content structure

YouTube realised that the user is drawn into an online video channel in one of two separate ways – they either see something that catches their eye, which gets them to click on it and watch it, or they type in a search term to find out about something that they are specifically looking for. Once on the channel, they should be encouraged to subscribe. From then on, they are sent notifications when the channel is updated with new material; this leads to the necessity of regular magazine-type content. These different types of content give rise to what they have termed hero, hub and hygiene/help.

Hero

This is the really eye-catching, click-bait stuff. It is more akin to traditional TV advertising as a type. This is where you ‘go big’ to raise awareness of your brand and the other content you are sharing. It is often ‘chunked’ or divided into shorter clips or images, and used as a promotion for the channel itself in banners on other sites. Because of this, its purpose is to catch the audience’s eye with the concept, image or title as they browse elsewhere. They then click on the link and are drawn into watching the video, before being served the other content hosted on the channel.

Deutsche Bank - Agile Minds-1

Deutsche Bank: Agile Minds - hero content is not necessarily about spending lots of money

Hub

This is the ongoing magazine-type material. This should be updated regularly with the goal of getting the audience to check back in to see what the latest show is. This is designed to be ‘pushed’ out to existing subscribers; this means that they will receive a notification when there is some new material for them to have a look at. They then click on this and revisit your channel.

Marriott - Wandernaut Show 01

The Marriott Wandernaut Show

This animated series was shared internally to allow staff to hear from key leaders and keep up to date with what was going on across the business. These films gave staff members a reason to check back in and be involved in the company channel.

Hygiene/Help 

Tesco - Lighting

Classic help content: How to Light a Room for Tesco

This is the content that people actually search for – how-tos, guides and instructions. This type of content is designed to pull users into your channel through search results. Initially, YouTube called this ‘hygiene’ because it is about things that people need to do. They since changed this to ‘help’, because that better reflects what it is/does.

How they work together

By using the three different types to complement one another, it is possible to draw an ever-increasing number of subscribers into your channel – an initial goal of any channel operator. How this works can be seen in the following diagram:

Hero Hub HygieneHow it works: building an audience with the hero, hub and hygiene/help content structure

Your audience find Help content by searching for key words or phrases. This leads to a gradually increasing number of subscribers. Having subscribed they continue to be able to access the Hub or magazine style content you share. Additionally, tentpole Hero content is pushed out drawing larger numbers of viewers back onto the channel. These videos cause the viewer numbers to spike, with subscriber numbers increasing proportionately. You then continue to build trust with your subscribers by sharing content which they genuinely like and value. We'll look at that in more depth next time.


Whatever you are trying to achieve with your content. Whether you want to create a simple how-to or a multistage campaign, it's essential to set off on the right foot. To help you to do this, we created our guide to help you create briefs which are better thought out, clearer and more likely to get you the result you're after. Click here to download it:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS 

Topics: Increase brand awareness and appeal, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

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

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

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.

IKEA - Lamp (2002, USA)

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: Production process, Being a better commissioner

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: Being a better commissioner, Repurposed content, Atomised content, 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: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to

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