Saturday, March 17, 2012

Advertising and Marketing on a Budget

I'm not an advertising guru or marketing person but being a film and commercials director I have a very good understanding of people's emotional responses to what they see and one thing I know for certain is that buying decisions are mostly emotional with that exception of a product that bases it's sales exclusively on price point (and even that in a sense can be thought of as having an underlying emotional reason - the avoidance of suffering through financial savvy).

Recently a new client approached me to quote on doing a promo video and the concept they had (which came from another production company they had spoken to) was along the lines of an infomercial - the hows and why of the service they provided and a bunch of testimonials from their past happy customers. Ok. "Well if you really want to give off that kind of brand impression we could do that", I said cheekily but I then asked if they would entertain the possibility of doing something a little more creative and emotive and so off I went to come up with a concept. More on that later....

One of my friends who runs his own advertising agency recently told me that TV advertising is still the most effective form of advertising and I would argue that video is the medium that is capable of producing the greatest emotional drive of all media. The how's and why's only come afterwards - if I see an iPhone ad I want it first and then ask questions later. I want to be the guy in the commercial who looks cool and suave and that identity is more easily creating with moving pictures accompanied with a soundtrack than any other form of media. Of course today's online media levels the playing field somewhat and allows for smaller businesses to actually get some emotionally driven content out there so we are seeing small to medium businesses doing a lot of promo videos.

So I wrote a rather lengthy and boring 2-part article about coming up with a strong creative and emotive concept and constraining that production to a particularly tight budget which is possible with recent technological advancements and by getting the right creative people involved. You can read that over here if you have the patience: link

The upshot is that I presented the most magnificent concept to the client. We had a personality walking through a colourful marketplace discussing key business concepts to the viewer while surrounded by stalls of exotic merchants and a carnival with fire breathers and all sorts of beautiful imagery and narrative. I even had a high-speed slow-mo shot of an archer firing off an arrow to get a key concept across. Of course I knew they didn't have the budget for something that extravagant but I wanted to get the point across about investing money into strong emotional content. After that, I pulled out  a "low budget" version that embodied the same emotive drive but vastly scaled down (having used the techniques that I suggested in my long and boring article). The client loved the concept and now it was time to deliver.

And so this is what they got for less than the cost of a promo video:

The client is thrilled! Of course things could have be a lot better but considering the tight budget there was no budget for an art director - not even a DOP so I pretty much had to DOP and Direct (which I hate doing as it splits my ability do either of these in half). I also did all the post and even the audio post and I do believe that there are engineers and artists far more skilled than I am in those areas - that's why we specialize - but the point is to showcase what CAN be done on an extremely limited budget. All in all I think it's a damn decent emotive piece of advertising and I even had the client getting goose flesh and my wife in tears on their first viewings!


UPDATE: I've been given talent releases by the actors and have turned some of the shots used in the promo above into microstock which is available through

View on

View on

Check out my iStock portfolio as quite a few of the other shots are available as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Using the new anti-piracy bill to promote yourself as an artist

This morning I tried to share a video of my kids on their skateboards on Facebook for freinds and family to see and got a nasty little notification that my video may contain copyrighted material. Well, truth be told I used ACDC's song Back in Black as background music because, well, it kinda works well for the edit.

In all my commercial work I've always made sure to fill out licensing forms for library music but this kind of usage I've always considered "private" or "fair use" but of course it's probably a bit of a grey area, even though the intended sharing is primarily for family living abroad. While I don't agree with indiscriminate use of another person's artistic work - I certainly think artists should be paid for their work and it's hard enough earning a living as an artist - this kind of enforcing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is going to have interesting consequences and probably not the consequences that big labels and media houses expect.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. 

Anyway, so since I really wanted some background music for this little edit (as the alternative is me shouting "go slower" or "go faster" to my kids so that I could keep up with them on my DIY stedicam) I ended up looking for some creative commons music on a site called I found a decent track by searching for "ACDC" funnily enough - by a band called "Wild Dawn" and it does the job perfectly well. They're actually a pretty cool band and if you like ACDC style old school rock then you might just like their music. Now, had this not happened I would probably never had heard of Wild Dawn. Just think about the implications of that for a moment....

In the past every second video on YouTube or Facebook has used some background music or bits of video from a music video or a film, or text from a book or a famous poem. My wife's book club have been sharing out of free out of copyright books on their kindles for ages now but I hadn't thought about the implications of that until now.

What the folks at the big labels and media houses don't realize is that there is massive and growing library of creative commons artistic work from stock photography, video, film, music, literary work etc and this may well lead to their very downfall in the longer term.

So if you're an author, a musician or a film-maker and want to become a little more well known this is an ideal opportunity to get your work out there. This is of course not without controversy -  you're not going to make money unless you put a commercial restriction on your work so you will probably need to find a balance between giving bits of your work away for free and having licensing options for the rest. After all you're going to have to eat. I have to keep reminding my friends who share movies and music indiscriminately that if they keep doing it those artists won't have the finances some day to produce great works of art for their pleasure. We have to grow up a little and stop expecting things for free but at the same time the media houses that make most of the money off artists are going to suffer and I'm not sure I have a problem with that. The bulk of royalties should go to the artist and that hasn't ever happened in a marketplace dominated by media moguls that feed us what they think we should see as opposed to what we want to see. That of course is going to change....

The biggest problem I see with the Creative Commons approach however is that these various libraries (and perhaps even free radio and TV stations in future?) is that they might suffer from not having the same kind of quality as those libraries dominated by media moguls. In the longer term though, just as Facebook invented the Like button, these libraries will probably be sorted by popularity and that is going to force all of us as artists to produce the best work that we possibly can....and that's not a bad thing except possibly for the rare genius who like Picasso is before his time. Art is subjective anyway and producing a "work of art" or craft that people are going to like is really more of a science than an art.

Here's a link to "Wild Dawn's" album "Old School Machine". Thanks for some great free tracks:

PS: You're welcome to like or "+1" this article or tweet it or whatever the fashion is these days. that would hopefully prove my point. ;o)