5 Creative Lessons You Can Learn By Creating Corporate Video
Many filmmakers shoot corporate and commercial content in between personal projects, but it’s rare that they take any meaningful insight learned from corporate projects and apply it to their creative work as well.
Corporate videos are more exciting and creative now than ever before, but they remain a far cry (creatively speaking) from working on most film and television projects. In some rare instances (such as the branded content space) corporate videos allow for great ‘out of the box’ thinking — but in most cases, corporate video production imposes a lot of creative limitations, especially from a messaging standpoint.
That said, the challenges associated with creating corporate video content can teach us some valuable lessons, which apply not only to other commercial projects, but to film projects too. Here are five (of many) lessons that I’ve learned from directing countless corporate video projects.
1. Less Is More
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Corporate clients often want to inject every last bit of information imaginable about their company into their video. However, this approach leaves most viewers feeling overwhelmed, and subsequently they can’t absorb all the information thrown their way.
The ‘less is more’ philosophy benefits both film and corporate projects equally. Whether you’re struggling to limit a company’s message in their video, or having difficulty removing unnecessary exposition from your feature film script — remember that all content is best served when it’s streamlined and efficient, and trust that your audience will fill in the gaps.
2. The First Five Seconds Matter
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Audiences are quick to judge content of any type, which means they’re also quick to disregard video content if it doesn’t interest them. For corporate videos, in almost all cases, it’s the first five seconds that are most important, as they hook the viewer and (hopefully) keep them wanting more.
I’ve spent countless hours working with clients to develop strong opening statements, images, voiceovers, or graphics as a means to hook the viewer early on. And I’ve learned that the same lesson more or less applies to film projects too. For example, a feature screenplay absolutely needs to have some kind of hook in the first few pages, otherwise you’ll almost certainly lose your reader. Whatever the project is, always be aware of the fact that you have a finite amount of time to hook your audience. If they’re not sold in the first few moments, then you may lose them for good.
3. Build up to Something
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In the corporate video world, one of the biggest issues plaguing poorly constructed spots is a weak ending. Corporate videos ultimately need to lead viewers to some sort of call to action — whether it’s a click to a website, sharing the content with a friend, and so on. Without a strong ending, there’s little chance that a call to action will be seen through.
In other words, you might have a great opening statement that hooks your viewer, and a solid midsection (or ACT 2, if you will) that ultimately leads you to your finale, but without a payoff at the very end, the viewer’s response won’t be quite what you imagined.
In films terms, this is often the case with a poorly executed third act. There are many failed scripts that suffer from an underwhelming finale, despite a perfect setup and intriguing journey. Whether you’re making a corporate video or a feature film, the final moments of your story will be what your audience connects to — so you better make them strong.
4. Make the Tone of the Video Clear
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It’s common for corporate videos to lack a central voice. Similar to how they can suffer from including too much information, they can equally suffer when trying to convey too many different moods. Stellar corporate content will clearly convey a consistent tone and mood throughout. It may be nostalgic, silly, heartwarming or factual — but it cannot be all of these at once.
The same principle apples to films, television shows, and any other narrative or documentary project. Of course, a great film should have ups and downs and take viewers on an emotional journey, but there should always be a central tone or point of view that anchors the story. Whether it’s a film or a corporate video, remember that audiences and customers alike tend to react to their emotions, and not hard facts alone. Your projects should allow them to be clear about what they should be feeling.
5. Don’t Overthink It
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Some corporate clients have a tendency to overthink their video concepts, often because they don’t have a ton of experience producing videos. You can’t fault the clients for this approach, as they’re usually investing quite a bit of money in the video project and understandably want it to be as perfect as possible. But like almost any other project, it’s that extra bit of wiggle room or flexibility that serves to keep the creative process moving in the right direction.
There’s always going to be prep work involved in creating a video project of any kind; scripts need to be approved, shot lists must be created, and so on. That said, there comes a time with any project when you must move on from a certain stage in the creative process and go on to the next one. It’s common to feel like you need more time to refine that shot list. storyboard, or voiceover, but in many cases, you need to know when to call it quits. Otherwise, you may wind up sucking the life out of your project, and losing any semblance of creative spontaneity.
What creative lessons have you learned from commercial and corporate video work? Share your experiences in the comments below.