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Digital Marketing

Elements of Style: How to Elevate Your Online Video

The first movie I saw that wasn’t a cartoon was The 10 Commandments. I think I was about nine or 10. There were slaves, pharaohs, parting seas, and the bizarre yet compelling sight of Edward G. Robinson in a striped headcloth with an asp on his forehead snarling, “I give you a God of GOLD.” Heady stuff. I’ve been in love with movies ever since.
Cinema is a glorious art form, synthesizing many contributions to make one frame after another say exactly what it needs to say. For movie lovers, there’s never been a better time. The democratization of content and greater access to affordable digital equipment, as well as much easier distribution via the web, has absolutely made it easier to make movies, and a lot of them are good. The following elements are crucial:

  1. Good writing. Story, but also characters. You have to care.
  2. Good casting. Probably more important than good acting. You know they wanted to cast Ronald Regan as Rick in Casablanca, right? (Accidental unavailability is the backstory for many a legendary casting coup.)
  3. Every single person, from the director to the grips, has to do his or her job with energy and care to get a decent product.

As video explodes online—just recently, Donnie Williams, executive vice president of Horizon Media, estimated that many clients were shifting 8% to 13% more dollars into premium digital platforms during the recent upfront sales—all of the three principles above are just as important. Digital agencies have proven that they can produce content that engages the consumer at least as well as traditional ads, and at a fraction of the cost. What’s more, there’s an ability to immediately respond with online video in a way that’s simply not been possible before. Within days of bin Laden’s death, Funny or Die had an exclusive video about a Navy Seal responsible for breaking his vow of anonymity. Humor, of course, is hugely subjective and you may get nary a chuckle from the above. But think it through: people had to bang out a rough outline, scout locations, hunt up actors, and get a crew, however minimal, on May 2nd, shoot it on the 3rd, and edit on the 4th to get it live on the 5th. Damn.
A great deal of movie making, no matter how small the movie, will always be about making money—and especially with the smallest movies of all, 15- and 30-second spots. But much of it is about expression. That is true connection. That is what makes people care.
The audio/visual story is one of the most immediate ways to get a reaction, to hear people say, “I want that,” to even make them fall in love, if only for a moment. Movies are extraordinary devices, and people have never been able to get enough of them. The web feeds that voracious appetite, and online video can make marketing immediate and relevant like nothing else. This is the space not just to watch, but to start contributing to.

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