Video Storyboarding: Crowdsourced Research

Brand marketers are increasingly in need of solid information on performance expectations for their next big video ad campaigns. ROI demands by management, coupled with rising production costs and escalating media costs, require solid research before a campaign launches. Three brands (we'll keep them general for purposes of this article) have been party to the creation of a totally new approach to satisfy this need for video research: crowdsourced video storyboards.

To set the stage, crowdsourcing involves taking a typical task that a company does in-house, and outsourcing it to a "crowd" of talented individuals with relevant areas of interest and expertise, ultimately selecting the best work that they, the brand, want to use. The brand shares a creative brief, enables the crowd to take a stab at a given assignment, and generally ends up with dozens of videos to review and select. The company has the luxury of examining a wide variety of work concepts, and can easily identify which work is right for their uses.

As this applies to research, an ecommerce retailer recently had a featured product that faced strong negative sales pressure from new devices that had appeared in their market space. In order to reposition their current product more effectively versus the competition, this retailer wanted to internally research actual video representations of different strategic positioning statements before charging ahead with a full-scale video campaign.

The retailer deployed crowdsourcing to create video storyboards in the form of rough video commercials based on each of ten positioning statements. The resulting work was then brought in-house and shared with the executive management team to help them see how each of the statements might play-out if run on TV campaigns. Through this approach, the execs were able to effectively decide on the final product positioning before initiating the expense of a full-scale video production campaign by their national agency.

A parallel example comes from a company that similarly wanted to see video examples of a new positioning concept before diving into a full campaign. In this instance, the company screened participants from a network of crowdsourced videographers with a research questionnaire, and ultimately invited 25 of these creators to participate.

The project was launched privately, so no external audiences -- including the competition -- could see the work being developed. From the 25 submissions, the brand selected five which they judged as the best original concepts. These video storyboards were then put into online focus group research, to determine through qualitative and quantitative analysis which video execution might have the greatest impact.

The process saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in research and production costs, while providing them with a more thought-out foundation from which to launch their product's video campaign.

A final example is from a restaurant chain that wanted to see how a proposed positioning statement could be portrayed, especially by videographers who were already predisposed to the brand and product line in a competitive space.

The new statement was shared with ten videographers the brand cherry-picked from a crowd, who then proceeded to execute their versions of a commercial based on the provided messaging. The results were varied and unique, giving the restaurant chain a solid sampling of how a video campaign might be presented. The brand will put a handful of these videos into internal review, and then external quantitative analysis.

Once the research is completed, the top-performing video will be reshot, with some minor enhancements to be proposed by the brand based on the research results.

At its best, research enables companies to get the information they need to make intelligent decisions without breaking the bank. It is most fascinating that in the fast-moving world of video today, companies can actually be part of creating new forms of research to meet these needs.

6 comments about "Video Storyboarding: Crowdsourced Research ".
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  1. Lyn Graft from LG Pictures, May 17, 2011 at 5:05 p.m.

    This process is great for the brands because of all the reasons that you said as well as get a wider creative stimulus to the internal folks. Plus, this is a stellar opportunity for up and coming video producers and directors to get noticed and get paid for their work (depending on the process they choose of course).

  2. Deborah Brozina from Making Change, May 17, 2011 at 5:58 p.m.

    This may be great for the brands, but in the long run, it isn't very different from how agencies used to shop for production companies. One difference - a limited subset of production companies bid, and those who are new to the space. In this 'crowdsourced' model, the most experienced production companies will limit the number of times they do this. It's a sure way to bankrupt themselves. So if you want experienced partners, a brand will not go this way.

  3. Eric Day from Microsoft, May 17, 2011 at 8:04 p.m.

    Why anyone would greenlight copy, creative or an entire production without some evaluation (even if they're just using years of experience and gut instinct) or validation is beyond me. However, there's nothing revolutionary in that statement. Until we have a transparent discussion about the economics behind this new model -- on both the brand and production company side -- it's not clear to me where the savings vs. traditional creative development and validation are being realized. Unless, of course, that's the point: Stop paying agencies and creative thinkers to develop ideas AND convince others to fill their shoes for free out of desperation without any model to ensure their intellectual property will return in value back to them (regardless of the value the brand now sees). If all the participants are being paid for their time and/or their IP, that's a different story. What's the true cost?

  4. Pamela Tournier from Focus: Productivity, Inc., May 18, 2011 at 9:14 a.m.

    No one but a con artist makes profit from one-offs; service providers' (videographers, software developers, ad agencies, et al)' business model depends on leveraging experience and considerable sunk costs (production and editing equipment, creative talent, etc) and re-selling it. Sounds like this retail client is "creating new forms of research" by ripping off desperate video producers for creative IP, sunk costs and labor, "picking the best" by using the same-old/same-old gut feel and focus groups -- (since when are focus groups "quantitative research")? If so, it's despicable.

    Can't blame the videographers for lining up for what at first seems to be a lucrative client who actually welcomes creative input. But as Deborah notes, you only need to be burned once to avoid the experience again. Next time around, this retailer may find itself putting out a cattle call and finding no takers, or a sub-standard talent pool. You get what you pay for, and they'll get what they deserve.

  5. Renny Fidlon from Poptent, May 18, 2011 at 1:43 p.m.

    I think that there might be some confusion out there. The positioning statements and creative briefs are developed by the client in conjunction with their agency and the Poptent staff. The videographers are executing videos based on these briefs so that the clients have tangible pieces of video for testing. It is the evolution of ordinary storyboards or RIPs.

    The videographers are incredibly talented small local production studios that would otherwise never get a chance to work with major national brands.

    From the positive feedback we've received from both our clients and our creative community, it truly is a win-win.

  6. Thorsten Rhode from marqueteer, May 18, 2011 at 5:39 p.m.

    So seeing that Renny did not set the record straight regarding payments, the assumption will be that no one gets paid for their input (at least initially). I would therefore have to side with previous posters that this model will veer towards diminishing returns over time.

    Just like agencies are loathe to pitch 'for free' (or next to nothing), jump through hoops and are, more often than not, left holding the bag, this approach just doesn't sound sustainable.
    And apart from all the legalese that probably needs to be agreed to by the submitting creative minds...why run the risk of negative publicity should one of those who don't get picked claim their idea was stolen, ahem...plagiarized.

    Short-term gain. Long-term pain?

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