Monday, August 10, 2009

Online Marketing Video: From Truth to “Truman Show"

I saw two pieces of video in the last few weeks that drew my attention.

The first: J&K’s Wedding Entrance Dance video, a homemade video that went viral on YouTube and helped answer the burning question: “How will YouTube make money?”

The second: the infamous Beer Summit, a video storyboarded (and probably scripted, she said cynically) by politicians and apparently shot by a pool news videographer.

I was drawn to these two pieces of online video for a couple of reasons.

As a consumer, I am increasingly being marketed to with documentary-style Internet video like this – as opposed to traditional television commercials. As a marketer, I am learning how to use this medium effectively for clients – and more importantly, how not to mis-use it.

Comparing these two pieces of video may seem like comparing apples with tiramisu, but they are both essentially marketing videos.

J&K wanted to market their love for each other and their special day to the world – or at least beyond the people who were in the church. (Or maybe I am naïve – perhaps they were plotting all along to become a YouTube monetization star.) The politicians wanted to market the idea that race relations – a huge problem in America that has everybody jumpy – can be solved if we just started talking to each other as individuals and not as symbols.

My understanding of their intentions aside, I picked up some good lessons from these two videos: what worked and what didn’t. Here are my observations as a marketer:

J&K: High engagement level can trump low production quality: I have watched this video at least five times when I could have been doing billable client work, and I don’t even know these people. J&K (and their friends) cared enough to invest some time in making something that other people would enjoy and that would be memorable – there was some serious rehearsal time involved here. They used humor gently and very well: although there was some really comical dancing and some people looked silly, it was endearing, laugh-with-you humor not laugh-at-you humor (compare with the man-bashing that passes for humor in your average TV commercial). The story was real and very human. This silly video was uplifting and it made me feel good. (And, yes, good enough to buy the song from Chris Brown.) My verdict: two thumbs up.

Politicians: Good production quality can’t overcome an awkward storyboard. Although there were some engaging moments – yes! politicians get peanut shells on their trousers too! – I felt distant, disengaged and distrustful. It didn’t help that the video was shot from 50+ feet away, making it essentially a silent movie or the video equivalent of a photo opp. The whole thing had a stagey “Truman Show” feel to it. My verdict: two thumbs down, but a free six-pack of Heineken for giving it a try.

My personal conclusion: good marketing video is video that…

Has the honest ring of truth in its storytelling (for example: if it’s fantasy make it obvious that it’s fantasy)
Cares about and respects the audience
Engages me and makes me honestly care about the subject
Uses humor in a natural vs. cartoonish way
Surprises me, on the upside

What else makes marketing video good video? What do you think, as marketers or consumers? Please comment below.


  1. Janice: I couldn't agree with you more about the J&K wedding dance. I, too, have watched it several times and find myself feeling good each time. I read in People Mag that they only spent 90 minutes improvising and rehearsing, but I think that's part of why it's succeeding. The message here for me as a marketer is that emotion trumps just about every other component of communication -- clever writing, gorgeous art direction, polished production values. Touch an emotion and you're ahead of the pack, regardless of your goal. Great post on your part.

    Peter Cohen
    Scottsdale AZ

  2. Peter:

    Many thanks for reading and commenting on my blog.