If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words How Much is a Video Worth?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video on your website worth?

Plenty more. Or maybe a lot less.

It depends on the video. And the website.

If you’re a personal “citizen” blogger you may be fine with something that’s  homemade. People will often give you a pass. They’ll accept that you’re not a big operation with deep pockets to invest in high-end video.

If you’re a business, people may still give you a pass. But for a different reason. They think, “Gee, what a cheap looking video.”  You turn viewers off, and so they’ll pass you on by.

A slapdash video is a poor reflection of your entire company: the expectation of quality is higher.

Melissa Shusterman, director of digital video and web communications at D4 Digital, a division of the Philadelphia-based D4 Creative agency, knows a heck of a lot about internet video.  Formerly a producer who’s works with MTV, VH1 and FX, she’s also noted as an innovator of episodic web video.

Melissa and I had a chat about video and its use on corporate websites. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Use of video online is getting a lot more popular. How do you see that trend going forward?

Melissa: YouTube is the fastest growing audience online. And its audience is far beyond the under-21 age group… Yet YouTube is filled with crap. There’s a lot of nonsense. You’re seeing a dog sit, or a baby cry, or a person rant. It’s amazing because people watch it. The power of receiving your information through someone’s mouth, or moving pictures, is incredible.

Why is that?

Melissa: Because we are human and we like to feel like we are spoken to directly and that we’re connecting with someone’s body language. Their eyes. Their opinion. It almost feels like a conversation, even in a video that doesn’t have a person looking right at you. Take that guy who talks about wine but screams at you. He’s a prime example. Why would people want to listen to that? Because instead of reading a PDF about the top four wines with picture of a wine bottle, which is highly impersonal, you suddenly got to connect with a person who is as passionate about wine as you are. And who gets down and dirty about wine. So it increases people’s passion.

With certain clients you advocate the use webisodes; a series of short episodic videos. How does the impact of that differ from a TV commercial?

Melissa: With a commercial you have the constraints of 15, 30 or 60 seconds. It’s a more traditional medium to convey a very specific message. When you have webisodes, it’s organic. It can be a continual message that can be woven into something that’s entertaining and informative.

When you watch a commercial it’s an assault at you. They’re great and some are highly entertaining, but they’re very quick. Sometimes you don’t even really know what you are seeing.

When you have a personality, or a character, or a storyline, that’s in two-minute increments for 10 days; or a lifetime; you are getting to know the brand better. You are getting the added value of a longer format and the information that can unfold.

Companies often go with a “talking head” approach on their homepage. Do you think that can still be effective?

Melissa: In the past you would have a talking head and it was only about two inches wide and one inch tall.  The players are much broader today. So now maybe it’s taking up a third of the homepage and it’s taking away some of the space you used to have for your messages. So instead of having the CEO speak, that video should encompass your messages.

The CEO could tell the messages. What’s the difference with what you’re referring to?

Melissa: Graphic pictures, voiceover and music can convey a compelling message and it can guide people further into your website. Video messaging is now multi-layered and engaging. … I can talk about this for hours but the simple thing is, people Google your company. They land on your page. Do they understand what you do, or do they go to the competition?

It’s one of the components of integrated media that’s going to be essential for being current. People do not read, people watch… If it’s people’s first impression of your company, the message doesn’t have to be long. But there should be entertainment value and it needs to be authentic… Pick a genre that fits your company. Possibly documentary style. Or like a sitcom. Whatever fits your clientele.

Are there any common mistakes that you can identify with corporate videos?

Melissa: Things that are too long. People are busy. Keep it short. Even if it’s got humor; because after someone laughs they’re ready to move on.

It’s always about the consumer or the potential consumer. It’s not necessarily about the company. That’s true of all good marketing.

What if a company says they’ll just repurpose commercials? They’re short. What do you tell them?

Melissa: Don’t repackage what you do for broadcast for the internet. People are savvy. The minute they know it’s a commercial you’ve made a mistake. You’ve turned them off… You have a captive audience. If someone is sitting at their computer it’s different than watching TV where they may be on the phone. Walking around. Feeding the kids. Doing sit-ups.  They’re half listening. When someone opens up something and it’s speaking directly to them and you haven’t captured the audience, shame on you.

Do you have ideas about what does or does make a good corporate video? What is your reaction to Melissa’s thoughts on the subject? Please share. Comments welcome.

  1 comment for “If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words How Much is a Video Worth?

  1. January 28, 2010 at 11:16 am

    “But there should be entertainment value and it needs to be authentic… Pick a genre that fits your company. Possibly documentary style. Or like a sitcom. Whatever fits your clientele.”

    Along those lines, I’d like to see a lot more business use of video on web pages. I think businesses of all sizes could benefit, entertainment people could benefit and new businesses, not just in LA and NY, could emerge from it

    LA, for example, has approximately 90,000 Screen Actors Guild members, a lot of who are going out for commercials and films on any given day. Competition is high and the percentage of SAG members employed on SAG jobs on any given day is low (I belong to SAG myself and I am not shy about speaking on this).

    In my opinion, greater use of web video by business might lead to the more consistent Union employment of the many talented actors in NYC or Hollywood as well as members of the Writer’s, Director’s and other Guilds. Talented non-union performers might find a niche in this industry also.

    I remember looking at prices for web video hosting in 2003 and in LA it ran $80 a month to rent hosting space for a 100mb worth of low res video files. To add insult to injury, people could only view these videos 300 times a month before you’d get booted up to a higher-priced hosting package.

    It is very nice that perhaps due to YouTube, but also perhaps due to the generally cheap cost of hosting video privately in 2010, business — especially small business — may finally take a shot at getting in the professionally-produced Web Video game on a wide scale.

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