It’s commonly held that having an explainer video on your homepage increases your conversion rate and that potential customers will stay longer on sites that have them. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.
The majority of explainer videos don’t result in any meaningful benefit at all to the business they were meant to promote. This is due entirely to the fact that most videos fail to communicate their message in a clear and engaging way. A dull uninspired video that fails to grab its audience is like throwing a bucket of ice water on your potential client’s interest in your site. Visitors to a website that don’t even watch the explainer video past the first few seconds are damn likely to leave altogether with their next mouse click.
The benefit of an explainer video is directly contingent on its ability to capture and hold the attention of its audience. By the same token, a poorly executed explainer video actually drives customers away. There is no great secret to creating a video which communicates its message successfully. It’s just that nearly no one in the explainer video industry is taking the trouble. All we’re seeing is bland repetition of the same tedious look and feel, over and over.
Most videos are produced using the same flawed formula in spite of the fact that it doesn’t deliver useful results to the client. The graphic art software used to make 99% of all explainer videos is the same one that is taught to kids in middle school. As a result, most videos look like they were made by a couple of 7th grade school children. It’s important to remember that the impression made by a video reflects directly on the product it represents. It’s a mistake to assume that a mediocre video is better than no video at all. The opposite is actually true.
Here are the three main areas where the currently prevalent production formula fails.
1.Writing . The style of writing most commonly employed uses a patronizing voice-over monologue approach – in many cases actually reusing old scripts by substituted key words and phrases. Disembodied voice-over monologue, while certainly the most convenient approach from the production company’s point of view, is by far the weakest at holding the viewer’s interest. An audience is more likely to absorb information when it’s conveyed in a narrative or conversational manner by the characters on the screen. As humans we are naturally predisposed to relate to communication conveyed by direct verbal interaction. People pay attention and absorb more when they are either addressed directly or when they feel present during a dialogue between two other people. It’s why talk shows have a host and even the shopping channel has a presenter. People just don’t relate well to a an off-camera diatribe.
2. Video Production suffers similarly by relying on a flat, static artwork technique. Here again the reason for this compromise is purely a matter of convenience on the part of the production companies. The explainer video industry has only existed for a very few years and consequently has had no opportunity to refine itself. Creatively, the industry is stuck in its infancy. The flat, largely static slide approach is pushed on clients because it can be easily produced by untrained staff or sent overseas. These explainer videos have no actual character animation – instead you get long drawn out static slides. This is a huge problem because the lack of human movement makes it impossible for an audience to identify with the characters. It alienates the viewer and results in a loss of interest. Once a viewer’s interest has been lost, they stop listening to the message and turn away.
3. Budget. Clients are paying far too much and settling for far too little. Typically, 70 to 85 percent of any given explainer video budget is allocated to the production company’s own profits and overheads. The video itself is produced with whatever is left over. So the client’s money goes largely toward things other than the video that they’re commissioning.
The biggest portion of a video budget goes to the Sales and Marketing efforts of the production company to enable them to pursue new commissions. The impact of this hits the quality of talent used to actually produce the video. This is the factor that accounts for the frequent use of re-purposed scripts and static, uninspired visual content. The big losers in this equation are the small start-up companies who are sticking their necks out to try to grab market share. It’s time for the explainer video industry to step up and raise the quality bar. Clients should be getting a lot more for their money. Companies that continue to over charge and under deliver do so at their peril.
We’ve been working with Hewlett-Packard and Symantec for many months now to provide them with cool animated videos – and it’s always interesting to know how our videos are put to use.
Yesterday was the opening of HP Discover 2012 in Las Vegas, where the star of our video series for HP and Symantec “Cleo and the Force Unseen” is featured. The series was created to demonstrate the partnership between the two behemoth companies, and how they work together to provide easy solutions to mega-problems in the IT realm. After all, as HP President and CEO Meg Whitman pointed out in her keynote speech this year – partnerships are in their DNA.
It also seems as though animation is in HP’s DNA, as Jeffrey Katzenberg, Director, Co-Founder, and CEO of Dreamworks Animation was a guest speaker at HP Discover 2012. Mr. Katzenberg spoke about the strong technology collaboration between HP and Dreamworks, something that we can relate to at Red Slider Films (on a slightly smaller scale – ha).
So what else does Cleo do at HP and Symantec events other than star in her own video series? Well, you can’t really be considered a ‘star’ until you’ve been carved into a larger than life ice statue – something that she got to experience during the Symantec Vision 2011 conference in Barcelona, Spain. Cleo’s even been brought to life (thanks to the help of an actress) at an HP webOS event in San Francisco this past February.
So what’s next for Cleo? How can she top the events she’s already taken part in? We’ve been sworn to secrecy, but we can assure you…it’ll be worth the wait.