There came a point earlier this year when we knew we weren't doing enough to promote the value of StackAdapt. While our platform was distributing video advertising for brands across the web, we struggled to create high quality video content that illustrated our own brand story.
The truth was, we weren't completely sure where to start, so we decided to hire a full time videographer and give him carte blanche to bring video concepts to life. One of his first tasks was to create our first video ad.
Video is now an invaluable part of our content strategy. Our Co-founder and COO, Vitaly Pecherskiy sat down with Sean, our videographer, to walk through his process and provide advice to brands ready to take the leap into video advertising.
Vitaly: Having in-house video content creation resources is rare. What do you think prevents companies from bringing it in-house? Is it even a good idea?
Sean: Yes! It’s always a good idea. Having in-house video capabilities can be a tricky equation and each company will have to weigh their pros and cons. But media is everywhere these days and regardless of what your company does, you should be using video to promote your brand & tell your story. There’s an old belief that video is expensive & difficult, and while that can certainly be the case depending on your individual needs, it has never been cheaper or easier to create digital content and distribute it.
Vitaly: What do you think makes a video ad truly great?
Sean: One of the most fundamental lessons in filmmaking is applicable here: show, don’t tell. If I tell you that my product is great and you should buy it, it tends to have the opposite effect. Rather than being enticed and intrigued, you probably back off and go elsewhere because you’d rather make the decision yourself. We’ve become wary of those who pitch us immediately. We want to discover things for ourselves, do our own research, become empowered. Alternatively, if my ad says something that we believe to be true about human nature while presenting our product as being in line with those values, then suddenly I already have you on my side, agreeing with my brand and listening to me. People don’t like to buy from big companies or brands, they like to buy from other people. If you can make people feel something, you’ve created something great.
Vitaly: Walk me through the thought process of conceptualizing our first video ad.
Sean: Working in the adtech space, the most difficult nut to crack was how to visualize data and illustrate the shift in marketing from blanket statements & stereotypical ads to more personalized & tailor made ads - all while avoiding the shots you see in the news of graphs and boring charts. We wanted something that would show how demographics are becoming much more granular rather than just wide swathes such as age & gender. Something human. That lead us in the direction of looking at stereotypes & typical demographics and attempting to turn them on their heads.
Vitaly: Do you consider how the video will be distributed when you are conceptualizing it. And if yes, what factors go into it?
Sean: Absolutely! How content is going to be consumed is a major part of how it’s created. Copy length, text size & style, colour, sound, story - even down to lens choices! For example, an ad that will play in front of audiences before a film is almost always a big-budget Hollywood level production. Ads extend out to lengths of 2 minutes and more! However, the same resources and the same style of content would not do well on mobile platforms - sound is generally turned off, text must be larger, and visuals in general must fill up more of the frame. Every aspect of the ad must be taken into consideration.
Vitaly: You made our first video ad. Great work! What were your top 3 challenges in making it happen?
Sean: The hardest part for me definitely was conceptualizing it. Being new to marketing in general, I really didn’t know how I was going to go about visualizing data and ultimately, make something that was accessible and worth watching. Once we had a solid idea we were happy with and it was green lit, the shoot day was easy to organize and crew up for. The next hardest part was finding ourselves in the edit suite and feeling that it didn’t impact us in the same way that we had hoped. Visually, we had everything that we had set out to shoot, but it just didn’t hit you the way that we had wanted. Through various redone edits and rewrites on copy, we were able to transform what we had into something that wasn’t identical to what we had planned, but followed through on delivering the feeling of complexity rather than generalized demographics.
Vitaly: I have always been a fan of Swedish House Mafia’s saying “Goosebumps never lie”. If you don’t get those, the stuff you made isn’t good. How do you separate yourself from your work to see if it’s any good?
Sean: There’s this lovely quote from Ira Glass where he talks about “the gap”. Most people in a creative space are only there because they’ve recognized other creative people’s work and identified their work as being “good”. Being able to identify your work as not being good is a key component of getting better. It’s incredibly difficult, but it allows you to compartmentalize which parts of your work went well and which parts can improve. It can be difficult to emerge after editing the same piece for days on end and have any sense of objectivity, but that’s the plight of directing! You’re constantly looking within yourself to see if it does anything for you on a human level, while establishing points of reference by asking those around you.
Vitaly: To our customers who are just getting started with video -- what advice would you give them?
Sean: Lower your expectations! Everyone’s immediate desire when they’re creating video content is to make it go viral. Virality can be a target, but it cannot be guaranteed. Your best bet is to simply make great content. Easier said than done, but ask yourself, “is this something that I would enjoy watching? Even if I didn’t have an interest in the product or service I’m pushing?” Make sure whoever you’ve hired to create your content understands on a basic level what your goals are and how to go about accomplishing them. They may be set on creating fantastic content - but if it doesn’t align with the end goals of the company, the creative is wasted.
Vitaly: Give us some tactical ‘hacks’ that help you make video content so great. Don’t be afraid to get technical.
Sean: It’s shocking how cheap and easy it is these days to produce high-end, well-produced content (keep in mind, I’m speaking relatively!) We’ve seen the DSLR revolution where consumer grade cameras are offering high end picture quality & color profiles, while camera sensors are getting more and more sensitive, allowing tiny camera packages to shoot fantastic looking content without massive lights & power requirements. Personally, I utilize a lot of hacks such as lens whacking for a tilt-shifted isolated look, warp stabilizers for my shaky, coffee-fueled hands, and filmconvert for coloring. Also, pro tip - audio is more important than visuals! Audiences will forgive poor visuals, not poor audio. The only limitation is your creativity and knowledge of how to use the ample tools available.