Most marketers, especially in B2B, want to get the most out of their video production budget. One of the most common questions we get when a client has a limited budget is, “Can we just write it?” 

In this episode of Death to the Corporate Video, Guy and Hope break down why that is the absolute wrong question, and what brands should do when they need to trim video production budgets. The answer is think like Danny Boyle when he made 28 Days Later. (Hire Cillian Murphy? Listen to find out.)

For more on choosing the right video production company for your project, read our buyer’s guide to hiring a video production company.

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

Episode transcript

Guy Bauer: Great ads primarily are a story, like a macro story. It’s the idea is really where all the value is generated. 

Hope Morley: Hello, and welcome to Death to the Corporate Video, a podcast with tools and advice for making B2B videos your prospects actually want to watch. I’m Hope Morley. 

Guy Bauer: I’m Guy Bauer. 

Hope Morley: We’ve been making videos and ads for a really long time, especially for B2B audience. And we know that it is often one of the biggest, if not the biggest line item in a marketing budget in any given year, especially for B2B brands when you’re making a new campaign and you’re making a new spot.

It can get really expensive. So we often have clients come to us and ask how they can make this more cost-effective or what they can do to get the most out of their budget. And one of the most common questions we get is that clients say, well, what if we wrote the script to save money? Or what if we came to you with things already kind of set to save some money?

And we’ve found that that’s actually the least efficient way for B2B companies to save money on their video advertising. 

We found, if you really want to be efficient with your budget, the best way to do it is actually to spend the money on the creative and save money on the production. 

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Episode over goodbye. That perfect. Well said. We get like, Hey, you know, uh, we’re trying to cut, you know, save some pennies here.

What if we came to you with the script and you guys just made it and yeah, that’s the exact wrong thing to do. It’s very common to give the last attribution. So if you think about what is a video ad, a video ad is a video and how do you make a video ad?

Go one step back. It’s what you had to have a shoot and then you had to edit it. And so that’s where most people just psychologically put all the value is in the making. But in fact, you have to take it one step back to where the value was actually created in that ad, which is the thinking and the wordsmithing and the art direction.

That’s actually where all the value is created. And so most people make the mistake of, misappropriating value, right? So they overspend on production and under spend on creative, or they do the creative themselves. And what you end up with is a well done stinky idea, because if you think about what an ad is, an ad is just an idea, put forth through the medium of video, that’s it.

Right. It’s an idea. What you’re actually watching is an idea. So that’s where you should put all your money. Most of it. 

Hope Morley: And a lot of marketing departments that we work with, they almost all have talented writers on staff. They have people that write their white papers that do their web copy or, you know, just their social.

They have people that are good writers. A lot of us in marketing, you know, I, I have a journalism degree, you know, we got into marketing from a writing background. So people assume like, oh, well, the thing that I can take on is the writing. The thing that I think a lot of people underestimate is how specialized of a skill writing a script and coming up with the visuals to go with it really is.

It’s a very different type of writing and a very different kind of thinking than writing web copy or writing a white paper or any other of the writing that you do in your marketing day to day. It really takes a specialized person to do it very, very well. 

Guy Bauer: Yeah, because, it’s not just writing an ad.

It’s not just writing copy about features and benefits. Great ads primarily are a story, like a macro story. It’s the idea is really where all the value is generated. The idea then has to be flushed out through copy and art direction. When you think of the quote, unquote, the creative, don’t just think of it as like a copywriter and an art director, or, just get your web copy person to write it that they’re not going to be able to generate an idea.

And the idea is, that’s where the magic is made. And I wish I could codify where do ideas come from? And the answer is, I don’t know, you just need people with crazy childhoods to get into a room with each other. And we generate these kind of weird things and make these weird worlds.

That’s where all of the value is generated. And so I have this mental trick to prove this point of view is, would you rather have a great idea poorly executed through video? Meaning the sound stinks and the video quality isn’t great, and the lighting is poor, but the idea is life-changing. So great idea poorly executed, or would you rather have a stinky idea perfectly executed? Neither are ideal, but I would take the great idea poorly executed any day. 

Hope Morley: There’s two ways that you can think about this. Think about TikTok or YouTube as well.

Like how many times you’ve watched something that somebody shot on their phone, but it’s funny or that it’s entertaining. It’s got a good story. There’s something about it that just keeps you engrossed in it. And very quickly you stop noticing that it’s weirdly lit you stop noticing that the person’s really contrast-y. W hen you first start the video, you might be like, oh, that looks, they look a little washed out.

But then you just give up because you like what you’re watching, but if something’s not engaging you, if it’s not funny, if it’s not entertaining, if it’s boring, it doesn’t matter how beautiful it looks. You’re going to turn it off. 

Guy Bauer: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The big mistake is that marketers opt for high fidelity recording of a low fidelity idea where they should actually do the opposite. In a constrained environment where you have budget constraints and time constraints. And –

Hope Morley: Because most of us have unlimited budgets, but, you know, for those of you who don’t. 

Guy Bauer: This is universal. So instead of opting for high fidelity recording of a low fidelity topic.

Flip the order, the way you triage your cash and do a low fidelity recording of a high fidelity topic or creative. And the creative, as I define it is the idea, and then the words and the visuals that bring the idea to life. Now, for example, next Thursday, we’re recording our annual agency or it’s the first annual agency we’re going to make like a tradition here. We’re going to do Halloween spoofs, every Halloween. So we are doing this and we are spending virtually no money. I mean, I’m talking no money, but I think we’re all excited here because the script is rock solid. It’s an idea.

And so when people see this, they’re going to go, wow, we want that, you know, how much, how much? And it’s really hard to, you know, because well, production was nothing like, my house and you know, a camera, but that’s not where the value is generated. The value is generated in the idea and then the words and visuals that brought that idea to life.

Hope Morley: People still talk constantly about the Dollar Shave Club launch video. I think at this point that was about seven, eight years ago now. So talk about an ad that has legs. I mean, that thing is so memorable and their production value in terms of just aesthetic production value is relatively low.

The actor in it is the owner of the company, I think, or one of the founders so they didn’t pay for talent. They didn’t spend a lot of money getting a super expensive production crew, but it’s well-written and it’s engaging. And so you keep watching it. You keep talking about it.

And here I am talking about it. Seven, eight years later. So, what they had was a great idea. It doesn’t matter that it like someone who is in the production world would think that they cut corners on it. 

Guy Bauer: Yeah. It doesn’t have great color correction and there’s a million things technically wrong with it.

But it doesn’t matter. The idea is so solid and there’s a big like myth there. Cause they go, well, the Dollar Shave Club video was done for $5,000 and I’m like, yes, yes, it was. But you’re just attributing all the value to the camera and the crew. It’s like the last attribution bias. There’s gotta be something, you know, uh, there.

What you are watching is just a message delivered in the medium of video. It’s the same thing as like, if you think about van Gogh, what separates van Gogh from, I don’t know, your cousin Rick, who does art? I guarantee you, your cousin, Rick can go to Blick and buy all of the best art supplies and paint supplies, probably technologically speaking, magnitudes better than van Gogh’s paint supplies. Right. And your cousin can devote the same amount of time to painting and use the same brushes that van Gogh used, but it’s not going to be van Gogh. It’ll be your cousin, Rick, and not to put cousin Rick down.

It may be beautiful. But the value that van Gogh is driving is through his mind. Didn’t he cut off his ear? He cut off his ear! And he’s a crazy guy. 

Hope Morley: Just his, his ear lobe I think. 

Guy Bauer: Oh, okay. 

But I mean, it, Starry Night is beautiful. Not because of the, technical artist right? 

Hope Morley: Yeah, but it’s not the paint and it’s not the brush that he used. What’s beautiful is his vision and the way that he saw the world and how he was able to translate that vision onto the canvas. And that’s what we’re talking about here is that if you have that creative vision that you can translate, like even if I gave van Gogh the finger paints that my toddler uses, he would make something beautiful.

Taking it back to advertising, what matters is not the camera. It’s not having all the best lighting and the most perfect, beautiful studio set. What matters is, what’s the vision that’s going into this piece. 

Guy Bauer: And so, we’re not putting down the making of it because we’re production snobs ourselves.

So like when we go out and do stuff, we want all the best tools, because ideally what you have is a high fidelity recording of a high fidelity creative, right. But as budgets go down, as constraints, increase and budgets go down, you don’t want to favor one over the other. And if you have to drop one of those categories lower than the other, it’s drop the recording, drop the production.

But not to put production down. I mean, production is an art form in itself. I mean, that’s why Spielberg has, you know, a career and stuff because he can take a script and make it magical, but he still has to take a script. He has to start with the idea. And he doesn’t just show up to set and go, Hey, let’s wing it, which is what they did with Star Wars.

Hope Morley: Which Star Wars? Are we talking about Star Wars original or new Star Wars?

Guy Bauer: The new trilogy. If you think about the new Star Wars trilogy, it’s perfectly well done technically. I mean, it’s blockbuster, right? But it’s got no story. 

It’s weak. The whole thing is weak. If you think about 28 Days Later, I always bring up 28 Days Later, 28 Days Later basically reinvented the, the zombie genre. Before 28 Days Later, zombies were slow and like very slow brain. And 28 Days Later made zombies through like a, biohazard thing.

They weren’t undead, they were undead, but it wasn’t because of some, religious thing. It was a disease that made them undead. They reinvented them where the zombies were fast and still to this day, the zombies are fast and stuff that was 28 Days Later. Now, 28 Days Later was recorded on a camcorder that’s so crappy. You couldn’t even, you would have to go on eBay to find it. Now, Canon XL1, they shot that on. So technologically, it was a stink camera. If you watch it, it’s like, it’s not very well done. Uh, but what it is is, is the idea and the, the direction and every, all the thinking parts are extremely well done, which is what carries the whole thing.

The first few minutes of 28 Days Later, you’re like, Ooh, you’re turned off by the low quality video, but then after 10 minutes, the story’s so powerful you forget about it. Totally. There’s a Spike Lee film called Bamboozled, same thing. He shot it on a camcorder in the nineties and, I think it’s one of his best, probably my second favorite Spike Lee.

And again, first 10 minutes you’re like. Ooh. Ah, Hmm. It looks like a camcorder from the nineties, but because the story’s so strong. You totally your mind like forgets about it somehow. So the idea will always cut through. 

Hope Morley: So when people are allocating their budgets, try to allocate your budget to buying ideas over buying a more expensive camera.

Guy Bauer: That’s right. If you have to make sacrifices, make them in the production realm, not the idea realm. If we go back to the start of the episode, our clients are saying, well, you know, we’ll do, we’ll write it and you make it. Reverse the streams.

So it’s have the agency write it and let them just give you the idea. And then you can either make it internally on an iPhone. I’m being dead serious. Arguably the most effective ad we ran this year for our agency was done on an iPhone. The idea was exactly on point, very timely and everything was like hit on, right on the head.

 And it was done on an iPhone and no color correction, no crew, no nothing. It was an idea. 

Hope Morley: There’s a couple of practical ways that people can go about this. So if you’re listening to us and you’re like, yes, I agree. I need to buy my ideas. I’m not going to go straight to a video production company with the script that my white paper copywriter wrote.

 There’s a couple of options that you can go about this depending on what your, your budget ranges are looking like. And, and also like what your own experience is with making video advertisements, because there’s a big range there. So your cheapest option, is that you, yourself, as a B2B marketer, you can go out and find your own copywriter and your own art director, and you can manage the project and work with them to get you a really solid script and really great visuals to go with it. This is going to be the least expensive option because you’re just finding people yourself. It’s a lot of legwork on you.

It’s also more risk on you because you know, if you’re working with somebody new, they may or may not be the best person for your specific project, but they will give you something that’s probably better than what you could do in house. Then you can take that script and those visuals, and you can take it to a video production company.

The second way to go about this. It’s slightly more expensive, but easier on you and a little bit de-risked option is that you can go to an agency like there’s this one called Umault that I’ve maybe heard of, and have them do the creative and just that first piece for you. Have them come up with the idea, write the script, come up with the visuals, give you storyboards.

And then you can take that again to a video production company. Once you have a really great storyboard, there are so many excellent video production companies out there. Like they’re all very good at this point. Obviously there’s better and worse options out there, but the baseline is just excellent video quality out there.

You can get it and you can get it for a reasonable price. What you’ll need to do is make sure that you’re taking them the right thing to film with their nice cameras and their talented people. 

Guy Bauer: That’s right. Yeah. Whether you’re developing a script and storyboards, through, the freelancers freelance copywriter, art director, or you’re going to an agency and the agency is going to charge you more because they have to mark up all the resources they’re using.

Right. So the agency will be more expensive, but you’re a little bit more risk assured because their neck is the one you can squeeze if things aren’t right. But the end result is a script and storyboards, which is effectively a blueprint. So, if you were building a custom house, that is the blueprint that the architect gives you.

And now that gives you bidding power, because now you can just take the blueprint and show it and you can bid it out to like five video production companies. And there’s like very little vagueness. It’s basically the job is completely specked out and now you can compare apples to apples. And now find the combination of the lowest bidder, but also the best quality, in terms of bringing it to life.

So it gives you, I think, doing it this way, like the max amount of price control. If we, if we just run the alternate scenario, you didn’t invest in creative. You go to a video production company with a half-baked idea. Now, when they’re sending you bids back, You still don’t know who’s going to have the best idea or be able to do it.

It’s like a lot more fuzzy and that’s why a lot of these projects go really sideways when B2B marketers go direct to, video agencies without the, you know, the creative chops is- 

Hope Morley: Video production companies, really. Yeah. 

Guy Bauer: Video production companies. But yeah, so wind it all back.

I think it’s reverse the streams don’t make a high fidelity recording of a low fidelity idea. Just reverse it. Make a low fidelity recording of a high fidelity idea. The idea is everything. The idea is what makes people share it. You don’t share a terrible idea, perfectly executed. 

Hope Morley: Yeah, exactly. What we want you to take away from this episode. Like Guy just said is, you know, make sure you’re investing in, the building blocks of a great video ad and not in the final finishing touches.

Guy Bauer: If you have to choose, if you have to what you do both, ideally you would do both, but if you have to choose air on the side of idea, not on the side of production. 

Hope Morley: Thanks for listening to today’s episode of Death to the Corporate Video. You can find us across all the social media channels that you would like to be on at Umault that’s U-M-A-U-L-T.com.

Or you can always email the show at [email protected] Thanks for listening. 

Guy Bauer: You’re welcome.