Brands have been hard at work trying to pivot their messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic. While no one has really stuck out as being totally tone-deaf yet, there have been a few brands that have made exceptional work.
- dop – “Stuck at home”
- Toyota – “Here to help”
- Facebook – “We’re never lost if we can find each other”
- Budweiser – “One team”
- United Nations – “Don’t touch your face”
- Bonus: Taco Bell
I’ve attempted to examine why these videos work and more importantly, what you can learn from each one of these fantastic pieces. Enjoy!
dop – “Stuck at home”
This spot for dop is a great example of a brand quickly adapting to the current reality without having to mention Covid-19 or the “uncertain times” we’re living in.
The video features all of the ways people can use their cell phone holder, told through a couple sheltering in place. They even poke fun at the toilet paper shortage.
Dop does a great job tying their product’s features and benefits to what we’re really all doing in our homes right now (this article is being written on April 6, 2020).
The dop is the last product you would think of buying during a pandemic, but this video does such a good job of empathizing with its prospects that a strong case is made that it’s a necessity.
What can we learn?
Throw away your traditional features/benefits mix during a crisis. Rethink the value you bring against what your target audience is really going through in real-life.
Also, speed. Holy smokes dop was fast. This video came out on March 25, just 9 days after the White House’s “15 days to slow the spread” policy was announced. Don’t worry about being perfect when responding to a topical/temporary situation. Do worry about being quick!
Toyota – “Here to help”
This video featuring Toyota’s spokesperson, Jan, won’t win any Cannes Lions but still is a great example of effectively communicating to a large customer base. Its message is super simple, clean and effective: “We’re here to help.” The video features Jan explaining that Toyota service centers are open, and many offer services that are uniquely appropriate in today’s environment – online scheduling and no-contact vehicle dropoff.
If you’re a regular reader to Umault’s blog, you know we always favor entertaining over explaining. But in this case a very simple and explanatory approach was the right call. The video doesn’t attempt to be cute but somehow still summons up Toyota’s brand vibe through using Jan. Another reason this approach was the right one is because Toyota’s customer base is so large it’s basically a public utility at this point. Especially for customers deemed “essential” who need to be able to get to work safely.
What can we learn?
Sometimes the best thing to do is go “straight at ‘em,” especially if your customer base is large and what you’re offering is critical. Consider this approach if your products or services fall more in the realm of public utility than a discretionary or superfluous purchase.
Facebook – “We’re never lost if we can find each other”
I mean, come on. This video proves that great work can sometimes be as simple as a poetic, humanity-driven script, paired with found footage. This Facebook spot does exactly that. It uses visuals from real users’ feeds to visually tell the story of what we’re all going through.
The voiceover isn’t some kind of boomy Morgan Freeman type, nor is it a smooth-sounding commercial voice like The Home Depot guy. It’s the voice of British poet Kate Tempest reading her poem “People’s Faces.” There’s passion behind her voice that the best actor in the world wouldn’t be able to summon up.
The visuals aren’t slick. Some are vertical, some are horizontal. But what they lack in “quality,” they make up for in being authentic.
What can we learn?
Stop trying to be perfect all the time. Embrace the raw. Find the people most passionate about the message you’re trying to convey and give them the microphone, metaphorically speaking.
Understand that the reason you cry while watching this video isn’t about any particular single word or single image. It’s because the video is presented to you unfiltered. It’s presented to you in an honest and vulnerable way. Nothing is perfect – yet somehow that’s what makes it perfect.
Budweiser – “One team”
This is my favorite video to come out of the crisis. It has everything we’ve come to expect in a Budweiser spot: heart, patriotism and a little bit of humor. This gets a 100% in my book.
The video uses the “This Bud’s for” phrase paired with real sports teams names, but uses imagery of the people on the front lines of the crisis instead of the athletes. For example, when the narrator says, “This Bud’s for the Braves,” a food delivery driver is shown (my favorite moment btw). At the end of the spot the narrator says, “This Bud’s for the Home Team” and a shot of us in our homes is shown.
This spot uses what I call the “Forrest Gump effect.” The movie Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, makes you go through every single human emotion possible. By the end of the movie you’ve excreted every hormone from stress-inducing cortisol to happy-making serotonin. You are an emotional wreck. That’s the exact feeling I get after watching this. My heart hurts yet I’m delighted and so proud to be staying at home and doing my part.
The other amazing part of this video is that Budweiser seamlessly links in our love of sports with the message. It sends a subliminal message that while there are no sports right now, there are still heroes playing in an even bigger game. Brilliant!
What can we learn?
Budweiser knows its audience so well they know they’re probably missing sports. They then had the guts to address that audience and “risk” leaving everyone else behind. But guess what? Even though most of us don’t follow every sport or watch every night of SportsCenter, we still get it.
Have the courage to address your single most important audience and have the confidence that others will understand. By speaking to everyone you speak to no one. Budweiser spoke to its core audience and we all gladly came along for the ride.
United Nations – “Don’t Touch Your Face”
In March, the United Nations released a global call to creatives to help them spread the message of how to stop the coronavirus. They needed a range of works that shared key messaging to audiences across borders and age groups. We responded with “Don’t Touch Your Face,” an earworm designed to remind you to, well, not touch your face!
The piece was shortlisted from over 16,000 entries. Our goal in creating this spot was to write a song that would pop into your head every time your nose started itching in the grocery store. We paired it with an equally eye-catching animation.
What can we learn?
For some messages, it’s best to stay simple. There’s no need to get fancy when telling people not to touch their faces. BUT you also need people to listen, especially when you’re sharing a message that they’ve heard before. That’s why this combination of catchy song with colorful animation works.
BONUS: Taco Bell – Conference call backgrounds
Full disclosure, I’m a Taco Bell addict and superfan.
Taco Bell released 10 conference call backdrops that people can use on Zoom (and other programs that let you replace your background).
Again proving Taco Bell knows its customers better than pretty much any brand out there, I ate these up (no pun intended).
I don’t have anything clever to say about these. They put a smile on my face and the people who I had Zoom calls with. 😃
Marketing in a time of crisis
There really is no “best approach” for marketing during a crisis. But I think the thing that all these marketing videos have in common is that they are true to the brand making them. They all seem like, “Well of course (insert brand here) would do that!” – which means these companies all know exactly who they are and who they’re talking to.
Working with an agency that delivers strong account management is vital to the success of your video marketing and advertising campaigns.
Account people focus their efforts on understanding you and your brand, so you can focus on the important tasks in front of you, like making sure the campaign or video…
- Accomplishes the project and company goals and objectives
- Speaks to the right people
- Will be leveraged across your organization
- Is work you and your key stakeholders are proud of
- Fits in with everything else you are doing or blazes a trail in the right way
Read on to learn how account managers make sure your marketing and advertising work hits the mark and help you deliver marketing success.
What is “account management?” How does it differ from “project management”?
Hubspot defines the role of an account manager with this simple sentence: “It’s the account manager’s job to understand how the campaign fits into the client’s long-term strategy and high-level goals.”
While account team members have varying titles based on their experience (account director, account manager/supervisor, account executive, etc.), we will use “account manager” as our catch-all term.
Looking at the big picture, along with the smaller details, is the key differentiator between a project manager and an account manager.
An account manager is a trusted ally who is always making sure that the long-term strategy and goals you’ve worked hard to create are driving all of the work you are making, big and small.
Project managers help coordinate all of the necessary resources and keep the project on track, but the responsibility for delivering effective work ultimately falls on your account manager’s shoulders.
What does account management look like within an advertising or marketing agency?
In the case of ad agencies, an account person is your main advocate within the agency. They work with the full agency team to optimize the work and ensure you are presented with viable creative options that will make a difference for your brand.
This includes presenting work that aligns with your expectations, work that pushes the brand in ways you may not have seen before, and work that will do its job.
While Mad Men doesn’t always get it right, this quote from a frustrated Heinz executive looking for true counsel during a creative presentation with Peggy (a creative presenting work sans account partner) demonstrates the continued importance of account management in the creative process: “Stop writing down what I ask for, and try to figure out what I want.”
Great marketing is the product of different perspectives coming together to find the best solution. It is also dependent upon a strong account manager working with you to listen and understand your business and your needs (diagnosing your pain) before the agency writes you a prescription (developing strategy and creative concepts) that may or may not solve your issue.
In the Mad Men example above, the Heinz executive is frustrated because he feels like he’s paid for an expert to do three things:
- Listen to his take on things
- Combine the provided information with their expertise to diagnose his business issue
- Prescribe a treatment plan to take the brand to the next level
What he feels he got instead was a doctor who asked no questions and then shoved him a prescription based on his original self-diagnosis, with no explanation.
The agency’s creative recommendation failed to demonstrate the expertise they were paid to provide and left the executive questioning why he came to them in the first place.
An account person is there to ensure that agency recommendations are vetted from every angle and that rationale for recommendations is clear.
Having a strong account manager doesn’t ensure you will never see concepts you don’t like. It does mean that your agency takes their duty to listen and provide expertise seriously and aren’t skirting those responsibilities in favor of presenting safe creative that may or may not work.
What does an account manager do all day? How do they figure out what you want?
Understanding your needs and expectations, and balancing them with your longer term strategy and how best to get it done within your budget and timing constraints, is a lot of what an account person does on a daily basis.
Speaking from experience as an account person, we also don’t do it alone. We spend our days collaborating with our internal teams, including strategy, creative, production, post-production, project management, and operations to find the best solution for your specific challenge and project.
Figuring out what you like, what you don’t like, what you need, and what you expect requires taking the time to build a relationship with you. We want to better understand you as a person, so we can deliver for you again and again.
When your account manager understands what you’re struggling with (or what’s going really well!), we can watch out for things that may not be objectively wrong, but don’t fit your brand or campaign. “Cool creative” is really great until it doesn’t deliver the goods. We want to help avoid that.
How does account management deliver value to you as a marketer?
Your account team and agency understanding you, your team, and your business delivers a ton of value, and it’s the reason you can sit in a creative presentation and know the agency gets you without having to spell everything out for them every time you work on a project.
What does this look like in practice? Let’s use the below example:
Your company is set to trounce competitors as the foremost leader in trendy hand-delivered floral arrangements.
A member of your team is in your agency briefing, pushing hard to include key copy like “offering traditional arrangements” and a testimonial calling your company “the Amazon of flowers” in your latest brand campaign. They support this with comments like, “Amazon is a big name and dependable. Of course we should use it.”
This language also goes directly against the strategy and communications objectives that your team vetted and approved months ago.
If your account person and agency know your business, they know to politely acknowledge the request, and also ask:
- Does this approach align with the overall brand strategy and positioning we are all working towards?
- Does this copy make sense for a florist that is creating a competitive advantage with trendy arrangements that are carefully hand-delivered?
- Do people think of “trendy” and “traditional” in the same vein?
- Do people think of “careful and personal delivery” when they think of Amazon? Or do they think of brown boxes with blue tape tossed over the fence into the neighbor’s muddy grass yard?
In light of these questions, your team should feel empowered to say you still want to move forward with the proposed language. At the end of the day, you are the ones in the trenches with your brand day-in and day-out. But your account team is there to make sure ideas moves forward intentionally, in light of all of the important information and considerations.
Tough, tension-filled conversations like the above are a much better long-term approach than getting “go fever” and driving full speed ahead with this language only to find loads of “thumbs down” clicks on your latest video (and comments saying your brand has changed and they want their old florist back.) Or potentially worse, you spend a bunch of money to get no results at all because you’ve thrown yourself back into the sea of undifferentiated florists.
A strong account manager can help guide these conversations in a way that is productive. And move things forward once a decision has been made.
Why is working with an account person better than just working directly with a creative leader?
While working with a smart creative lead is an important component of finding the right marketing or advertising agency, a creative’s primary focus is coming up with and making great and effective ideas. And you want it to be. That’s where the magic happens.
They are also very close to the work as it is their heart and soul being poured out for approval or criticism (even if it’s constructive).
It’s the account person’s job to inform the creative team of your preferences, your challenges, the competitive landscape, and any legal watch-outs, and help create fantastic work that has been vetted for these things before you even see it.
The account person is there to make sure we don’t send you wardrobe recommendations with a slew of purple knowing that purple is your main competitor’s brand color (unless we are cleverly poking fun at them). And to make sure there is phone dial-in information in the Google Hangouts call invite for your boss who hates video chat. And to make sure we avoid using sensitive product claims as RTBs (reasons to believe) when you are involved in ongoing litigation with a feisty competitor.
And sometimes, you’ll have additional insights or perspectives that still result in changes. The important thing is the productive thinking and conversations between your team and your agency that enable the best work.
How much does an account manager really care about your business? Your company’s success? Your success? You as a person?
Having spent some time in account management, I have worked with clients who have been treated in ways that made them question whether or not their agency cared about them – about their needs, their business and their career. Or if the agency just cared about creating work they could post on their website to win more business. Or to win arbitrary ad industry awards regardless of business results.
I can confidently say that a good account person cares about you, your business, and your career.
And while caring about you is vital to being good at our job, it’s also something we don’t talk about often. It can sound like patting ourselves on the back or indulging in self-promotion. At the risk of doing just that, I also believe getting it out there is important in helping folks with less positive experiences know that there are good account people out there who want to help you!
Examples of account people giving a hoot include:
- Wanting to know that you have to pick your child up from daycare no later than 5:00pm this week (or every week), so we can get our final video into your inbox no later than 3:00pm, and you can give it one last review, love it, send it on to the right people, and still leave work on time.
- Wanting you to reach new heights in your career by helping you create work that delivers results. We want to help you hit this year’s bonus target and land the promotion you’ve been working towards for so long.
- Acting as a hand model for the year’s biggest campaign shoot when the talent had a family emergency and won’t be able to make it.
- Pushing for what could be unpopular creative because we truly believe it will work – even in the face of harsh criticism or pushback.
- Picking the right products for your shoot and knowing not to show that delicious looking ham because it is a special buy and quantities are too limited to advertise it heavily.
- Guiding the creative team away from showing cool (but clunky) looking server rooms in this video because your next big services push is around digital transformation and encouraging clients to move everything to the cloud.
- Delivering the most value for your dollars and being honest about how far they can go. This includes being upfront when we aren’t the right fit and providing you with recommendations for trustworthy folks to help you accomplish your goals for less.
We believe in doing what we say we are going to do, telling you ahead of time when we can’t, and finding different solutions to help overcome obstacles.
We do this job because we want you to succeed. We truly believe that your success is our success.
Final thoughts on the value of account management in marketing
When you are looking for an expert to help make your next greatest piece of marketing or advertising content, be sure to evaluate the strength of the agency’s creative and account teams.
Overvaluing creative prowess while undervaluing fantastic account partners has led to plenty of disappointment for brands when the excitement of the pitch or agency search ends.
Many great ideas have languished and died in the throes of a rush (re)brand or product launch due to subpar communication and your agency’s inability to deeply understand what you do, your needs, the needs of your business, and the challenges of your industry landscape.
Get to know your prospective, new, or tried and true account team, let them get to know you, and watch your marketing and business results reach heights you never thought they could.
P.S. Be sure to tell us about it! We knew you could do it!
The Hall of Shame of corporate video is filled with bad interviews. A staple of corporate video is what we call the mini-doc, a short form documentary created out of interviews with key people. These videos rely on real people to tell the story without added voiceover or scripting.
We love a good mini-doc. We’re insanely proud of some mini-docs in our portfolio. The documentary medium can be incredibly powerful — it’s an Oscar category for a reason. However, the key word there is “good.”
The poor, overused mini-doc is hard to get right. A bad mini-doc is one of the worst sins of B2B video marketing. When you imagine a bad corporate video, you probably are picturing an executive looking like a deer in the headlights in front of a camera talking about synergy paired with b-roll of people sitting around a conference table. Yuck.
We’d like to save the mini-doc from its own popularity. A well-produced mini-doc can exude authenticity in a way that a scripted piece cannot. The raw emotion from a good interview is a powerful thing. So how do you get to the holy grail of a good interview? The tips below will help guide you on your journey.
Tip #1 – Do not script the interview.
If you stop reading this article after one tip, make it this one. Do not script the interview. Just don’t. Whoever is being interviewed, whether it’s one of your employees or a client or an end user, is not a professional actor. They will not be able to deliver scripted remarks in an authentic manner.
If you’ve asked them to memorize a statement, it will sound rehearsed and, well, memorized. A viewer will generally be able to tell when a statement is recited.
Some clients will request a teleprompter to avoid the memorization issue. Reading off a teleprompter is itself a learned skill, and your people are probably not broadcast journalists.
Your subject will sound like he or she is reading, and if the text on the teleprompter is too small, you will be able to see their eyes darting across the words. Nothing screams “inauthentic” like visibly reading a statement.
Tip #2 – Don’t hand over the questions in advance.
Over-preparing an interview subject leads to accidental memorization. The interviewee will want to say what they think you want to hear.
They will practice their answers with their spouse or in the bathroom mirror, and suddenly your unscripted interview has become scripted by the subject.
Even when our clients know not to hand over the questions, a common related sin we see is “prepping” the interviewee immediately before the interview.
While the video crew is setting up, the interviewee, especially if we’re in their office, may be standing off to the side waiting for the interview to start. They’re often nervous. To calm them down, the client, producer, or director may start to tell them what to expect and preview some of the questions.
This is a terrible idea.
When you start to talk to an interviewee about the topic before the cameras start rolling, the person wastes their authentic, conversational answers on the producer.
When they get in front of the camera, suddenly they are trying to remember what they just said instead of simply answering the question in the moment.
Even though it’s only been a few minutes, they inadvertently spent the time practicing their answers. The plan to make the person more comfortable has backfired, and now they sound rehearsed.
To help someone be more comfortable, instead consider having the person sit in their interview spot was the crew does their final touches. It allows them to get used to the camera and lights before the interview starts.
Tip #3 – Don’t rush the interview.
Sitting down for an interview is nerve-wracking. There are bright lights, a boom microphone over your head, and a camera or two in your face. A team of strangers is buzzing around futzing with silk diffusers and clipping another mic to your shirt. A makeup artist is simultaneously fixing your hair. None of it feels authentic when you get started, because it’s absolutely not.
That said, an interview subject who is an expert on their topic will often find comfort in talking about what they’re good at. It takes some time to get used to the set, but once they do it can become a conversation with the director or interviewer.
Assume that people will start out nervous. Even if an interviewee is one of several people being featured in a 2 minute spot and you figure you’ll only use 45 seconds of them speaking, schedule 30 minutes for their interview.
You may not need it all, but that gives people enough time to get comfortable in front of the camera and start just talking.
Rushing a subject will make them more nervous.
Tip #4 – Don’t make people repeat what they just said.
As video creators, we want to get the best sound bites out of our interview subjects. Sometimes someone says something amazing, but they stumble over a few words.
Or they start the sentence in a roundabout way, or they use a term the communications team won’t be allowed to use in a final video.
Making a person restate what they just said is a problem for two reasons: it sounds inauthentic and it brings them out of the flow of the conversation (how often do your friends ask you to restate an anecdote “just like that!” but without saying a brand name?).
Are you sensing a theme here? The heart of any successful mini-doc, be it for marketing or entertainment use, is authenticity. The power comes from the person in the thick of the story telling it in their own words.
Without that authenticity, you might as well script the video and hire an actor to read it.
Trust your subject to tell their own story. You are making this video because the person did something noteworthy that you want to share with the public. Let them speak freely, and trust the video team to curate the story and make the subject look good.
When it comes to video marketing, outlining the initial goals and objectives is pretty straightforward: Who are you trying to reach with your video? What are you trying to communicate? Where should you place your video?
And then there’s the question we get a lot from clients big and small: How long should my video be?
The common answer you will find when Googling or posing this general question is “no more than two minutes [depending on where you use it.]”
Ah, everyone’s favorite answer to life’s toughest questions: “It depends.” This take on the two-minute rule makes it less of a rule and more of a guideline (see Pirates of the Caribbean). The length of your video should be determined by a variety of factors resulting in the answer our team has coined – “As long as it needs to be.” Here are three key variables to think about when determining how long your marketing video should be.
1. Audience experience
In 2020 (can you believe it’s officially 2020!?), we are constantly hearing and reading about shrinking attention spans and the crazy amount of content we are interacting (and bombarded) with each day. And while these insights should be taken into account when deciding your video’s length, the more important factor should be this: what is the overall user experience looking like right now for your audience?
For example, let’s say your audience is internal and your co-workers have been drudging through watching a series of five mandatory 27-minute HR videos this month. Laying another, long, boring video on them is not a good way to capture their attention or deliver engagement. And their appetite for it may be even less than normal due to existing fatigue.
Ok, so you get what I’m saying about not boring everyone with long, banal videos. But what if your topic is very complex and detail heavy? It needs 27 minutes to cover properly and make sure there’s no miscommunication (as is true for many HR topics.)
In response, consider this: Can you approach the way the content is presented from a different angle? Could you make a one minute teaser video that tees up the open enrollment season? Could you make that video an authentic sampler and leave the detail heavy information as copy posted below the video on your intranet? Or as (a) separate attachments? Sometimes, you don’t need every dry detail read to you or animated.
Heavy or complex content is often easier to digest in text format (this also allows audiences to skim for the exact info they need.) But even if the majority of the content is going to be shared as text, you need something to get audiences excited to start reading or engage with content.
At this point, you may be asking, “Well, what if I follow this advice and the employees just watch the short video and don’t read the PDF or other information?” Take a step back here and ask yourself: Is that better than them watching/reading neither?
If they watch the teaser video, you should count that as a win. And after viewing your thought-and-question-provoking one minute video, they may even be willing to look through the PDF/additional content. If they see “27:00” on the video player, there’s a solid chance they won’t be watching that video at all. Or even half the video. Or reading the PDF.
Take the time to know and check-in with your audience each time you make a video. Understanding the climate and your audience’s experience at that moment can help you make the best decision about the length of your latest video.
That said, if you can make your 27 minute video as entertaining and engaging as your favorite streaming series, then maybe your video can be 27 minutes long. This a rarity, but who doesn’t love a good challenge?
2. Video value
Creating content that delivers value is the hardest part of making a video. Anyone can take their iPhone and find a way to capture 30 seconds of content. But is that content something anyone else wants to watch? You might find your baby making a face for over two minutes to be the cutest thing ever (and hey, maybe it is), but does your subscriber base following your page for updates on your latest product release care? Probably not.
Your audience expects you to deliver value. And their level of engagement will let you know whether or not you are doing that. So ask yourself, when you put out a five minute animated explainer with lots of industry speak and definitions, does anyone actually want to watch that? Even if they’re in your industry?
A video that is inherently interesting or engaging to your audience can and should be as long as it needs to be, so long as it is delivering value to your audience. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Extended Addition is over four hours long. You may watch this countless times because you love the movie and find the extra content valuable. You might also watch a movie like Darkest Hour with just over a two hour run time and fall asleep in the theater.
The proper length is dependent upon the value delivered. How much time do you need to deliver your vital and valuable information? When making a successful video, you need to be ok with putting the significant few messages above the important many. Think of the proper length of a video as your minimum effective dose.
3. Media/channel/content strategy
Traditionally, the most important factor taken into account when considering video length was your media, channel, or content strategy. Where are you going to use this video?
Traditional media buys lead us to default to making videos to standard specs without questioning them. We just execute instead of digging deeper, asking questions about our audience and the creative, and deciding what is best for our video and brand (vs what’s best for our vendors.)
Is 30 seconds going to get your audience to buy your services? Do you really need a full two minutes to successfully communicate your message or are you just doing it because that’s the maximum time the buy allows for? Does this creative concept really work for this platform or are we just using up an existing credit? Could three minutes of solid content on a different platform be more valuable and drive better results? Or even 15 seconds?
Social media platforms have begun offering different options to accommodate short and long videos. And that is great news! Platforms are growing with creative. You don’t have to have a $10M media buy to make an impact.
In fact, when you have a $10M media budget, you may be sacrificing opportunities for great work. You waste time force-fitting content to an existing buy or channel strategy instead of purchasing or leveraging media based on your specific project’s marketing goals or strategy. Think through what’s best for the overall initiative first. Then develop your video creative to achieve the strategic goals. That information will allow you to select the best run-time for your video along with the best platform and placement.
Audience experience, video value, and channel strategy are three variables to thoughtfully consider when deciding video length. The goals and objectives of your organization and your marketing should serve as the foundation for all of your content decisions. Once you’ve decided to make a video, develop creative concepts that serve those goals and then decide how much time you need to consistently deliver value throughout the entire piece.
Once you’ve done all of that, you’re on your way to achieving better marketing and business results than ever, all with the help of a well-timed video.