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Grab life by the Firewire cable

This article appeared as a ‘Futures’ column in Marketing magazine, Canada’s version of Advertising Age, in May 2003.

Life moves. From the moment our eyes behold their first blurry view of the world around us until they close for the last time, life is a blur of activity, colour, sound. Is it any wonder we’re fascinated by video? Movies, and then television changed our world. After more than 100 years, motion pictures still capture our imagination, holding us in their enthralling grip for hours at a time. On a recent flight, I was amazed by the number of people watching DVDs on their personal computers. We love moving pictures! No wonder advertising people feel that being part of an industry churning out creative 30-second mini movies is one of the best jobs in the world.

CROSS DISSOLVE. NIGHT.

My family reviews some footage I recorded when my kids were little, edited to music and burned to DVD for the grandparents. We laugh. But emotions soar, roused through a simple combination of moving images and music. So, with our universal fascination for moving pictures, why don’t more companies use video for marketing?

CROSS DISSOLVE. OLD MOVIE FOOTAGE.

It used to be a big deal to use video in a corporate setting. Few people knew how to use these high-tech tools. Equipment was bulky and expensive. Editing suites were big rooms with lots of buttons and dials that only experts understood. You had to find a specialist just to script the thing, never mind finding someone with an eye for motion graphics to produce it. And getting decent production values required a financial commitment beyond all but the biggest firms.

HIGH ENERGY FAST CUTS WITH MUSIC.

No longer. Today, high school students armed with mini camcorders and free software like Apple’s iMovie are turning out products that are staggering in both creativity and quality. The tools for video are getting better, faster, cheaper. Eventually even e-mail will be video-based (I’ll bet everyone who has trouble typing can’t wait for that day). Have you seen what today’s young visionaries are doing with video? While helping judge the Alberta New Media awards, I was amazed at the high production value of student submissions. They not only had the tools, they showed vision and a creative understanding of how to edit footage to communicate effectively. Young people in summer camps and churches are doing more and cooler stuff with video than are most corporations.

Here’s an idea. Put them to work on marketing projects and watch how it infuses your brand with power and energy. Equip enthusiastic employees with a low-cost video suite. Invite them to use these powerful tools to create motion-based brand messaging. Training videos. Corporate newsletters with on-scene footage of the manufacturing process, new products, or interviews with new staff. In our agency, we use video as a way of enhancing new business presentations.

Don’t worry so much about the quality. Modern equipment is good. Just get started. Find people in your organization with vision and enthusiasm. Empower them. A new Macintosh computer and a $1,500 digital camcorder is all they need to turn out above-average productions. They’ll even be able to burn those videos to DVD for easy distribution. Double that investment and the quality will come close to that of professional-grade tools.

Is it really that easy? Yes and no. You do have to provide leadership, management and accountability. You need to get signed releases from staff appearing in your productions to ensure that you can continue to use the material after people move on. But those are minor issues in terms of the big picture. Sales. Not to mention the future of your brand.

The point is that there are virtually no barriers left to using video to enhance your brand messaging. Corporate video is now affordable. It’s accessible. It can be reformatted for other media such as Web delivery. It’s dynamic, vivid, fresh. Getting started now will breathe new life into your brand.

SUPER: “Life moves.”

Technology isn’t going to stand around waiting. Imagine how your company’s digital streaming video annual report 20 years from now might show some of the archival footage from the past. Sure, people might laugh. But emotions will soar, grateful you showed the way.

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George Pytlik

George Pytlik has been involved in the advertising industry for over 30 years and designed his first website when the Internet was one year old. He was an internationally recognized speaker on advertising and branding and served on a number of communication committees at various times throughout his career, as well as writing a regular column for Marketing magazine.

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