If you have a marketing campaign planned, you may be thinking you need to shoot a video. Your instinct is to start reaching out to video production companies, right? Stop! Before you do, let’s talk about the biggest mistake brands are making when they make videos. 

Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with the type of camera you use or how many crew members you had on set. In fact, the mistake happens usually months before the production date. The mistake happens when brands make that first phone call or email because they want a video — and they send it directly to a production company. 

That’s right, we’re telling you to stop going to video makers to make your videos. Listen to the full episode, or read the transcript below, to learn:

• Why going to a production company to make a video is a mistake

• What the results are when brands go direct to a production company

•  And how the process should work to get the best video possible for your company

Key quotes

“So many times brands think they can’t afford step one, the creative. The way I see it, you can’t afford not to do step one. Making video without strategy and creative is to me just the definition of silly.”

Guy Bauer

“When there was no planning before that production day, you’re gonna end up with a video that doesn’t even work. So why are you investing that money in something that nobody’s going to watch? Nobody cares. It’s missing the most important point that you wanted this video to make because you didn’t have that planning in place before you did that.” 

Guy Bauer

Resources, videos, and other stuff we talked about

Videos that prove ideas trump video quality:

The OK Go treadmill video: “Here It Goes Again”

TV coverage of the 1969 moon landing

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode transcript

Hope Morley: Hi, and welcome to So you need a video, the only podcast-

Guy Bauer: That we know of.

Hope Morley: … about simplifying your brand’s sales message with video. I’m Hope Morley.

Guy Bauer: And I’m Guy Bauer. Hope, tell me, why did we do this podcast? Why are we here? There’s a million other podcasts. What is So you need a video going to bring that’s different?

Hope Morley: Well, our agency is dedicated to just making videos for people. And we have been making videos for a long time, and we have seen every mistake, every great success that we’ve had with our clients. And we’ve learned a lot over the years of what you should and shouldn’t do with video for your brand. And we wanted to share some of that knowledge with our clients and our potential clients.

Guy Bauer: And so today’s episode is basically the biggest mistake you’re making with video.

Hope Morley: What we see when we ask our clients, a lot of agencies we’ll ask, “How did you find us?” And the answer that we get is, “Oh, we googled video production in Chicago.” And I always know when we get that answer, and I’m sure that you know, you’re on more sales calls than I am, that this call is maybe not going to go well because they’ve already made a mistake and they didn’t even call us yet. So tell us a little bit about what happens when you call a video production company that you just found on Google.

Guy Bauer: So this is sort of counterintuitive, but the biggest mistake you’re making with video is that you’re going to video production companies to make your video. And, what? What are you talking about? That’s so counterintuitive, but let me kind of dissect that.

Guy Bauer: So the big mistake is that the video production company is the doer, not the thinker. Typically, video production companies, the way it really works in agency land or like for Nike spots is that an agency writes up a script with storyboards, very detailed. Then they bring it to the production company and they give them boards, and they go to a particular production company because they like that production company’s perspective or creative spin. They’re not going to the production company to write the whole thing. They’re going to the production company to bring it to life.

Guy Bauer: So the agency will get the script 95% of the way there, and then they’re hoping the production company and the director kind of add their 5 to 10% spin. So when you, as a brand, without creative, without a script, go direct to a production company, you’re asking a company that is used to giving a 5 to 10% creative spin on something to do the whole 90 to 95% and hope you have an interesting metaphor, right?

Hope Morley: Yeah. When you look at a production company’s website, you’re going to see a lot of beautiful videos, and you’re going to assume that maybe, “Hey, they made all these videos.” And it’s true that they did set up the cameras and actually physically make that video, but they didn’t come up with the idea for it.

Hope Morley: It’s like going straight to a carpenter to build your house without engaging an architect first. You might look at a carpenter’s website and they have all these beautiful homes on their website and you’re like, “Wow, this guy is really great at building houses.” And then you hire him and he puts it all together and builds you just this janky frame house. You’re like, “Why didn’t I get the beautiful stuff that was on your website?” And he’ll say, “Oh well, an architect designed all those. I didn’t actually come up with it.” And you might get lucky and you get a carpenter who can actually make you something nice, but probably you skipped a step, and you need to go to someone first to do the planning and, essentially, the creative on that house before you hire someone to make it.

Guy Bauer: And just a disclaimer, we love all the carpenters out there. And worse yet, I don’t think the carpenter will say, “Oh, the reason why this house isn’t as beautiful is that an architect did it.” Usually, this is all … No one is aware of this dynamic. It’s kind of crazy, but I don’t think the carpenter … The carpenter will just either blame the homeowner that there was not enough guidance given or that the notes were bad. The way I say it is like a lot of our clients have worked with video production companies in the past, and the whole time they’re thinking, “Oh boy, this production company has no idea what they’re doing.” And then the production company, at the same time, on the other side of the coin, is like, “This client has no idea what they’re doing.” Because there’s no creative, both sides are looking at each other and wondering, “Why don’t they know what to do? Why aren’t they guiding it?” And the reason is that, again, you’ve gone to the implementer, to the maker, not the thinker.

Guy Bauer: And this brings up the big idea is that, really, making an amazing video, making a creative video that moves the needle for your brand is a two-step process. Step one, you need the strategy and creative. Step two, you do the production. And it’s a very distinct two-step process. And there’s so many times where brands think they can’t afford step one. And the way I see it is you can’t afford not to do step one. Literally, all the money that you’re going to spend on step two, I can make a better business case to just put that money on black on a roulette table, because making something without strategy and creative is, to me, just the definition of silly.

Guy Bauer: And that’s when we get into the land of what I call default creative, but we could talk about that a little later. So tell me this, Hope. What should companies do?

Hope Morley: Well, the sad truth is that production companies, most production companies, when you call them up, they’re not going to stop you from making this mistake. A, because they want their money. They want your money. And B, because they think that they can do it for you. Especially when you’re coming to them with an idea that they think is very easy to execute.

Hope Morley: So you’re coming to them with something, for example, you need a video that is … Or you think you need a video that is interviewing your CEO talking about a new strategy that you’re implementing with your company. You want to get some shots of people collaborating around the office, they’re writing on a whiteboard, and put it all together, and release it to your team to show this new strategy. Most video production companies are going to say, “Great! I will take your money and I will make you this video.” But as we’ve found, what’s going to happen with that video, Guy?

Guy Bauer: What’ll happen with that video is, because there’s no creative heartbeat, because you have kind of dictated this, let’s just be honest, half-assed creative approach, or what I call default creative, meaning there is no creative. It’s just a video that we’ve seen a million times before. What’s going to end up happening to this video is it’s going to get caught up in video revision purgatory. Again, because there has been no strategy in creative as the guiding light of this production, you’re just experimenting now. So now you’re getting into multiple rounds of revisions, probably getting frustrated with your production company. “Why can’t they figure it out? Why don’t they know that this is not part of our strategy? They’re showing this piece of machinery. That’s proprietary.”

Guy Bauer: It’s because what we’re doing is all the stuff we would have learned in step one, in the strategy and creative phase, is now coming to haunt us in post-production and is going to elongate the whole thing. You have a couple routes. You’ll either get changed ordered to death, meaning every round, now, the production company’s going to send you a new bill. The other thing you’re going to find is, “Well, we don’t have footage of that. No one asked the CEO that one question that we now want to ask.” It’s because, again, there was no pre-thought. We just went into that mode of let’s bring a video camera in and press record. We have a drone of our warehouse, and that’s it.

Guy Bauer: Or, worse yet, what ends up happening in post-production is you run out of money and you give up and you just take their video and it’s fine and it just ends up on YouTube with 35 views and that’s it. And I guess you check the box, but you’ve made no impact. And we’ve seen this time and time and time again and again. That’s one of the big reasons why we started this podcast is I want to just reach through these speakers where you’re listening to us and just say, “It is a two-step process! Do step one first!” And you’ll save yourself so much … It’s penny wise, pound foolish, really, is invest in that strategic and creative phase, and the production becomes more of the just because we have to do it, rather than the full shebang, if that makes any sense.

Hope Morley: Absolutely. And I think the most interesting thing that you said there is that going straight to the production company seems cheaper when you first do it, when you give them that call and they come back with a price. But you’re going to end up spending more money, because there was no planning before that production day, and you’re going to end up with a video that doesn’t even work.

Guy Bauer: Right.

Hope Morley: So why are you investing that money in something that nobody’s going to watch, nobody cares, it’s missing the most important point that you wanted this video to make, because you didn’t have that planning in place before you did that. So instead, take that money that you were going to spend paying for extra editing rounds, paying for that re-shoot day where you have to go back, get the CEO in the same suit that he wore last time, sit him in the exact same spot so you can get that question that you didn’t ask. You can use that money to go to an agency and get the creative down right first. And then everything for the rest of the process is going to be so much more smooth.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. As you were talking, I was just thinking of the OK Go video, the video that made them-

Hope Morley: The treadmill video?

Guy Bauer: … a viral hit, the treadmill video. If you think about that video, it’s executed technically horribly, awfully, terrible. Meaning the video quality is just worse than a cell phone. For some reason, they put up this weird silver background that had … They didn’t even iron it. It had the marks of the folds.

Hope Morley: Yeah.

Guy Bauer: So technically, the video production was god-awful, right? Why did that video blow up as a viral hit? It was the idea. So ideas trump the whole thing. If you have an amazing video idea, the production is inconsequential. And I’ll prove it another way, too, is if you think about it, think about the moon landing. The moon landing has awful video quality. It has terrible audio. You could see the wires they were using in the studio. No, I’m just kidding. Just kidding. No, no, no.

Hope Morley: We believe in science.

Guy Bauer: We landed on the moon. No, but, I mean, the camera is terrible. The audio quality is terrible. It’s all blurry and stuff. It doesn’t matter. The content is so powerful, it trumps the whole-

Hope Morley: You’re going to be glued to watching that video.

Guy Bauer: Correct. So instead of worrying about … Everyone wants to just build the house or make the video, right? The sexiest part of making these videos is the lenses and you see the RED logo or the ARRI Alexa. And those are all the very sexy parts. You get to go up on set and there’s craft service and all these guys walking around with key chains out of their pocket.

Hope Morley: Carabineers hanging off their belts.

Guy Bauer: Yeah.

Hope Morley: Everyone’s in a black t-shirt. You’re like-

Guy Bauer: Right.

Hope Morley: … “These are cool people.”

Guy Bauer: And they’re like, “Copy,” and, “Get up that flag.” And that’s cool. I love it. I mean, literally, I have a shoot tomorrow and my hairs are starting to raise because I love it. I love that part. But, no one is going to remember that feeling when … I always tell my team this is that you can’t put asterisks on videos. You can’t put a little asterisk like, “This video stinks because of this, this, this, this, and we didn’t know this, we didn’t know that. But it was really fun to shoot.” It makes no impact.

Hope Morley: It makes no difference.

Guy Bauer: Correct.

Hope Morley: All the audience sees is that video.

Guy Bauer: Correct.

Hope Morley: They get that 90-second experience with the video. No matter what led up to it, that’s what your clients, that’s what your team is going to see.

Guy Bauer: Okay. So to boil it down so far, because I think there’s a couple more points we want to make about “corporate videos”. Boil it down so far. What we’re saying is that if you need a video and you go to a video production company, you’re making a gigantic mistake. And the other big point is, and the reason for that gigantic mistake is that you’re going to an implementer, not a strategic thinker. They will not stop you because, odds are, they’re unaware of the ecosystem. And then the other idea is the whole idea that it’s a two-step process, and it’s a very distinct two-step process. It’s step one, strategy and creative. Step two, production.

Hope Morley: And you mentioned before that you were going to talk about default creative. So what does that mean to you?

Guy Bauer: Okay. So this default creative is this whole idea that in absence, in an environment devoid of that step one thinking of strategy and creative, what we do is we default to stuff we’ve seen before. So we’ve seen event videos where people pick up their name badge and then they-

Hope Morley: Is there a time-lapse of people-

Guy Bauer: Yeah.

Hope Morley: … walking into the event space?

Guy Bauer: There’s time-lapse of the event space filling up. There’s shots of people eating popcorn shrimp. There’s, then, shots of people collaborating in a conference room. And all of these things that I hope now our audience is cringing. There’s people walking down server racks, pointing at server racks, discussing-

Hope Morley: Sometimes they smile at server racks.

Guy Bauer: Right. This is all default creative. So this is stuff that no one’s going to get fired for, but eventually you will get fired or go out of business for making this, because you are leaving no net impact on your audience or the world in general. It’s default. It’s interviewing the CEO, an animated explainer video that starts with a character and it’s like, “Meet Bob. Bob has a problem. His healthcare management coding is messed up!” And it’s the same video over and over and over and over. And the issue is maybe in 2010 when I started, it worked. It actually did work because none of these videos had ever been seen before. But it’s now 2019, and if you’re listening to this podcast in 100 years, it’s 2119-

Hope Morley: And those videos still don’t work.

Guy Bauer: Yeah.

Hope Morley: And those videos, what we’ve just described, that’s what most people think of as corporate video.

Guy Bauer: Correct.

Hope Morley: And I think that we both have very strong feelings about the word corporate video or the phrase corporate video. But why would you say that corporate videos are bad for a brand? Why shouldn’t we just release those event videos? They’re cheap. They’re easy. We can put them out after we have our conference.

Guy Bauer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, the real answer is why. I mean, so, imagine yourself watching this video like, “Oh my god, this is the best conference ever. You guys have popcorn shrimp there and ID badges? Oh my gosh, I need to go to this conference!” I mean, honestly, just think about it. Why would you ever watch this video? So, I mean, I think what has happened is corporate video is another term for just crap video. And I really take offense any time … People don’t mean it, but they’re like, “Oh, you guys do corporate video,” and I cringe. And, in fact, any time someone does say that, I see that as a fail. Because, again, corporate video is this stamp we stamp on stuff where we’re saying, “Well, this is just kind of lame and corporate.” And again, it’s like when we think about our audience, our audiences down wear their suits to bed. They’re not at home in their suit watching this video wanting to hear all this corporate mumbo-jumbo and, again, people eating popcorn shrimp.

Guy Bauer: The idea is that we do not want to make corporate videos. We want to make just videos. We want to make entertaining videos that actually matter. So Hope, let me ask you, how do you do it?

Hope Morley: Well, first, you have to realize that your clients, your customers, anyone who’s on your YouTube page or on your social media, they are judging you based on the content that you have release. So if your entire YouTube is time-lapse event videos and interviews, you’re not doing anything interesting. And, frankly, they’re going to watch the first 10 seconds of those videos and then bounce off that page.

Guy Bauer: We do these competitive analysis for brands and what’s interesting is when I do them, I go through all their competitors and oh my gosh, it’s literally sometimes so obvious that everybody is just following the format. They all just want to be … They’re following best practices. And-

Hope Morley: What they think are best practices.

Guy Bauer: What they think are best practices, right. And I advise my client, “Oh my gosh, even if this video wasn’t a total viral video success,” which, again, no agency can guarantee that, “But even if it’s just slightly just better, like, oh my gosh, you will just dominate in terms of being different, looking different.” So this idea of corporate video, corporate video is this term where it just means that everything is same and safe and just kind of, again, no one’s going to get fired for this. But your audience will just … It just looks like noise. It just looks like nothing. I don’t think they’re going to be sending you hate mail-

Hope Morley: No.

Guy Bauer: … for your corporate video. But they will just go on to the next company.

Hope Morley: It’s not going to push them to choose you when they’re looking for a provider for whatever service you offer.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. And just to tie it back to our whole the mistake that you’re making with video is corporate video, again, is just another word for crap video. And the way you make crap video is by going direct to a video production company. And my video production brethren are going to be very mad at me for all this. But it’s the truth. We need to be making videos that add value to people’s lives, not just check boxes. And in further episodes, in future episodes, we’re actually going to … Because doing this is really hard inside organizations. Tons of our clients struggle with, “Okay, Guy, we get it. Thank you. This all sounds great. Now how do I do it? How do I sell it internally? Because my whole organization is very risk-averse. They don’t want to do this, or they don’t want to risk being wrong.” So in future episodes, we’re going to talk about, all right, well, how do you sell it? How do you make it? How do you make this awesome video?

Hope Morley: And we’ll talk about how this applies no matter what your company’s size is. Because a lot of our clients either consciously or unconsciously think they’re too small for an agency. Right? They are not going to engage a creative agency to get this process started. But really, no matter what your size is, no matter what your project is, you need to follow this process and you need to go to an agency first, and you need to find an agency that works well with companies of all sizes. Because some aren’t set up for smaller shops.

Guy Bauer: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Cool.

Hope Morley: All right. Thanks, Guy.

Hope Morley: For more information and for links to any videos that we talked about in this episode, please visit our website at umault.com. That’s U-M-A-U-L-T dot com. And if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes.

Guy Bauer: Thanks, Hope.

Hope Morley: Thanks, Guy.