Commentary

Attention, Advertisers: Is It Film? Or Is It Video?

  • by January 8, 2007
Ask your friendly neighborhood agency creative and he'll tell you, the thought of shooting anything on "video" makes him turn and run in the other direction. After all, the beloved :30 isn't just a commercial. It's a miniature film--artfully written, beautifully shot on "film," screened in a mini-theatre and then carefully edited in a very dark, very plush edit suite, complete with all the calories on wheels one could ever dream of. Then, if you're really lucky, those media planners and buyers whose names you never knew but who always get the best concert tickets might just place your "film" spot on the Super Bowl, where you'll become instantly famous and earn a free trip to Cannes. Sound like a pipe dream?

What's really disturbing is that, for far too many creative executives, this isn't a fantasy--they're still living the dream. That is, until they go online.

In 2007, the user-generated video has come of age. With names like YouTube, ManiaTV, Brightcove, SpotRunner, Visible World and a host of other instantaneous video delivery platforms, suddenly, well... I'm afraid we're not just shooting in L.A. anymore, guys.

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My colleagues who are exec creative directors tend to look at user-generated video in one of two ways: Most turn a blind eye to it all and chalk it all up to the low-fi world of "run and gun" video from a bunch of lame film school students shooting lame production values for their online ego boost. The others are more willing to wash away the film emulsion they've been soaking in for years and recognize that video is here to stay--complete with HD production values, and enough cameras out there in consumers' hands to challenge us at our very own craft. I even received an e-mail recently that read, "Well I kinda liked your commercial on 'Heroes' last night, but hey, check out mine!"

The point is, as a creative community, we need to get over ourselves and recognize that good ideas can and are coming from anywhere and everywhere--yes, even YouTube! All of which makes our jobs as the full sight, sound and motion stewards of our client's brands even tougher... because we simply can't hide behind the production values, the director, the editor, the music or the "shoot" apparatus anymore. It's about our ideas against everybody else's--whether we like it or not.

The tricky part is knowing when to shut out the noise about emerging platforms and just concentrate on the brand idea--not which media platform or show it's going to be placed on. Which means if your idea is really big enough, you shouldn't have to "force fit" it into broadband pre-rolls, video-on-demand, or other emerging video platforms--it should just naturally plug and play based on the universality of the idea and the depth with which you've shot it. We recently delivered more than two hours of usable video stories shot by a reputable director for a national brand that can deploy across five to seven media platforms for roughly the average cost of shooting one :30 film commercial--without ever knowing exactly how many platforms our media partners were going to buy.

This new approach of shooting "wider" creative assets for, in many cases, multiple "narrowcast" distribution platforms, represents a new commercial production model that more innovative agencies and brand marketers are beginning to embrace. Want proof? Check out the Webisodes from Jet Blue to Coke/Mentos to Splenda to the new Audi C30.

What you'll find aren't cheap commercials shot on video that lack an idea and throw good narrative and production values out the window. Rather, these are more-improvisational, multimedia and documentary commercials from agencies placing their client's brands adjacent to user-generated video in a similar visual vernacular--at a far more efficient per-unit production cost.

Still not impressed? Check your agency's creative department. I'm certain they still have plenty of film left in their cameras.

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