The Changing World of Corporate Video

I could spend hours talking about the changes I have seen in corporate video production over the years but banging on about linear editing and Betacam tapes will just give away my age. Instead I’ll be looking at the changing world of corporate video in 2017 and consider how we, as production companies and filmmakers, can adapt to these changes.

What’s a “corporate video” these days?

Corporate video sounds so 80s doesn’t it? These days the buzz word is content. Ok, so the content is still commissioned by corporate entities but it’s not all about the hard sell. A video that screams,“look at me and my wonderful company” has no place in 2017. Few are interested in watching cheesy staged corporate videos narrated by a pompous sounding English male voice. The viewer wants to watch sincere videos that tell real life stories and share engaging, useful content that they can apply to their own lives. That’s not to say there isn’t still a place for corporate promos but other creative approaches are available out there.

Shorter is very much sweeter

“Short n sweet” is nothing new. Although we do sometimes surprisingly receive the odd brief for a 10-minute video, shorter is sweeter is taking on a whole new meaning. For instance, we have just produced a 12 second video for airing on a video wall at an exhibition. On a personal level, unless it’s a very well produced and interesting video, I start to switch off after about a minute or so. There are times when a video needs to be longer such as a training video, but for online video content keeping it super short and sweet is best.

Clients are making their own films

Since the property debacle of 2008 and the oil price crash in 2015, budgets have been squeezed mercilessly. The marketing budget is normally the first to feel the pinch. We’re seeing more and more of our clients making their own films on iphones or consumer camcorders. Some of our multi-national clients have even set up their own in house studios run by professional technicians. Now we can either whine about this and falling standards or accept reality and continue to support our clients with their dwindling budgets as and when they need our help. Seraph Production is currently filming and editing customer stories for a multinational working with their talented and experienced in-house producer/writer. It’s a new experience for us but so far so good. We have another client we advise with their own shoots and then we edit their footage. The bottom line here is that we need to embrace change and adapt our services to suit what our clients need in the current economic climate.

Speed is of the essence!

In a world where sharing video from a mobile device is instantaneous speed is of the essence and some are happy to compromise on film quality just to share the moment. One of our dear clients, a Director of Communications for a multinational, is with me on this. She understands only too well the need for quality, but what can she do when her boss tell her “just shoot it on an iphone and get it out ASAP”. Many non-creative executives don’t appreciate how much a company’s videos affect their brand. A cheap video makes a company look cheap. To square this circle we advise our clients on the most effective ways of producing a video, whilst streamlining our own work processes so we can produce quality content quickly. It may not be as instant as an iphone but with a bit of hard work and ingenuity we do close the gap.

The middle of the market is being eroded

It’s not only the clients shooting in-house on camcorders and iphones; the film production market is awash with keen and often talented freelancers shooting on whatever equipment they can afford and who are willing to work for rock bottom prices. At the other end of the scale, advertising and marketing agencies now tend to handle much of the larger budget, high profile work. Whereas in the past production companies also had a finger in this particular pie, with the explosion of unknown and untested production companies entering the market, many clients feel safer working with a known big name agency that takes on the responsibility of vetting and selecting a production company on their behalf. Today, as a result of this dichotomy, the middle of the market inhabited by production companies working directly with clients for mid-range budgets is being eroded.

Is specialisation the key?

Clients will invest in specialist services like aerial drone filming or 360 video or whatever the “next big thing” is! Of course, not all of us have the money or desire to invest in toys but being specialist doesn’t have to be expensive. We can find other ways to differentiate ourselves from the competition such as having multilingual producers, focusing on a particular industry sector, or making “explainer” videos. At Seraph Production one of our specialities is underwater filming and photography services.

When you are told, “I don’t have a budget”

This is something that puzzles us on a daily basis. Whenever I buy myself a new car I sit down and work out how much I can afford and then I look at cars I could buy for my available budget and after a great deal of thought I go out and buy one. It sounds simple doesn’t it? The truth is that clients do have a budget in mind, either approved and in the system, or at the very least a figure in their head. Unfortunately we waste a lot of time dealing with potential clients with “no budget”. I sound a little harsh but over the years we’ve tried a variety of approaches towards weeding out “timewasters”, some more successful than others. Time is money and we don’t have enough of either to prepare for multiple cost estimates or proposals for clients with no budget! Fortunately the situation does seem to be slowly improving and more companies are now sharing budget guidelines. Nowadays if a potential client says they don’t have a budget we don’t waste any time on the enquiry; we politely walk away.

Why should I pay you when the last one was free?

This is a real question that was posed to me during a briefing meeting in Dubai. A young filmmaker had approached the client offering to make a corporate video for their company free of charge so he could put something on his show reel. Note here that it was not the client that expected or asked for a free video; it was the young producer offering! There are now too many film graduates doing this. It’s damaging the market and driving down budgets for established companies and freelancers. It is not sustainable. Why should a client pay if someone else will do it for free? In this case the producer’s inexperience was obvious and the film he produced of limited value, so they still called in the professionals. We didn’t get the job because our fee was “way too high” but that’s not surprising when their last video was free! We understand the need for young graduates to gain experience but this must be done in a way that supports the industry rather than damaging it or there will soon be no industry for graduates to work in! Try an internship instead.

Many different strings to the bow

Is it time to go back to the good old days when everyone had a role, producer, director, researcher, camera operator, editor, all working together as a team to create beautiful films? Not until budgets allow. Whilst this still runs true for movies and commercials, budgets for corporate videos these days rarely allow for a large team. We therefore need to evolve and skill up to make ourselves multi-talented. I am talking to the oldies in the business now, since the youngsters already know this! It’s no good only being a good director; you need to be able to operate a camera too. Maybe you’re already a fantastic director and DoP but can you produce and manage clients? If not then the multi-talented have the edge on you!

It’s a lot harder working in video production these days but it’s also a lot of fun with many exciting opportunities to learn and enjoy new skills, even at my age!