In the 1997 Oscar-winning feature film, “Wag the Dog,” to divert attention from a presidential scandal, an expert spin doctor, Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), hires a seasoned Hollywood producer, Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman), to manufacture a war. Motss’ stories about challenges he has faced producing past films are priceless:
The war isn’t over ’til I say it’s over. This is my picture – this is NOT the CIA’s picture. You think you’re in a tight spot now? Alright, Conrad, try making The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – tell ’em, King.
Three of the horsemen died.
Hear what he’s saying? Three of the horsemen DIED. Two weeks before the end of principal photography. This is NOTHING. This is nothing, this is – this is – this is just, “Act One, The War.” Now we really do need an Act Two.
“THIS IS NOTHING!” is the attitude you should adopt right now because when you start making your video, everything will go wrong. Whatever it is you think will happen isn’t going to happen, and what does happen will not be anything predictable or preventable (for the most part).
It’s a war, alright, so when everything falls apart, and you wish you had gone door-to-door with flyers instead, just remember that THREE OF THE HORSEMEN DIED! Out of four!
[ONE] You Fall for the DIY Trap
It doesn’t matter that your niece’s 15-second lip-synching TikTok video has 250,000 likes, and she’s only seven years old. She can’t make professional video ads, and neither can 99.9% of the people who work for you. Successfully producing a video requires more than .1 of a person.
If you needed heart surgery, a clear-thinking individual wouldn’t say, “You know, I think I’m just going to do it myself.”
- Shooting video is complicated. Shooting a video at your kid’s game is not difficult. Shooting video with perfect sound and fantastic performances, if applicable, is a highly specialized skill. If anything goes wrong on your video shoot, you have no ad. Producing organic videos that encapsulate a brand’s entire message is challenging, which is why movie studios hire top talent to mitigate the risk and not kids with halo lights. Viral video rarities make headlines but are statistically insignificant.
- Post-Production: Congratulations! You now have hours of video and sound that do not add up to anything until an entirely new group of skilled artisans get their hands on it and assemble it into the groundbreaking brand-making digital video of everybody’s dreams. Editing requires another layer of expertise that isn’t on your staff. Hire professionals.
The term “video” is misleading. Your “video” is really “audio-video.” That’s where the term “A/V” comes from – “Audio/Video.” In 2021, effective online digital marketing unlocks the full potential of both sound and picture.
Unfortunately, the sound is an afterthought to the majority of the participants in a video production, which results in a long list of potential points of failure throughout the campaign’s life cycle.
- If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage. In a script, writers craft each word and action with great care, but the sound is almost non-existent. Sound is what the production people will do later on. Or the company will add a jingle or pay to use a popular song. Presto! Sound! The first way to avoid an Audiopocalypse is to put sound on equal footing with video from the first moment of your first brainstorming session.
- You choose a great song for your ad, then in post you discover the cost to use it is triple the size of your budget. Do your homework.
- The sound and the video must sync. The only exception to this rule, for some reason nobody can fully explain, is if the content originates in Japan and is dubbed into English. In that case, if it syncs, somebody will get fired, but in every other scenario involving video content.
- Due to the unpredictability of video production, the recorded sound may not be professional grade. Sound quality issues are common, and are no reason to panic. However, fixing it requires additional work in post, which costs money (I hope you budgeted for it), needs your talent to return (scheduling nightmare), and a talented sound editor.
- Post-production effects are not professional grade. Much of the sound you hear is recorded in a studio. A sound engineer records everything from a car door slamming to a dog barking in the studio. If any of the completed work isn’t good, it may affect the overall quality of the final video.
- The sound editing is terrible. That is your worst nightmare. You hired a professional, yet still, somehow, the last word of every line of dialogue cuts off.
- The original song you commissioned is horrible, and nobody likes it. Bad songs happen a lot. Nothing will kill a video faster than a bad song – or the wrong song. Fun Fact: Sylvester Stallone’s younger brother Frank wrote a song called “Take it Back” for the 1979 mega-hit “Rocky.” You probably don’t remember it. Nobody does.
[THREE] Your Video is Held Hostage by Creative Differences
Any member of the professional creator community knows that “creative differences” mean that all hell has broken loose. The result is that your production has come to an inglorious halt. Think of the partisan gridlock in the United States Congress. Creative differences on a video shoot are the same thing, just with better-looking people.
- Creative differences between talent. The worst. Creative differences between talent are like a bad date that gets progressively worse and never ends. Content creators are moody, and a creative ad campaign may unleash an ugly human element common in film/video productions.
- Creative differences between marketing agency and production team. Choose your production company wisely. Yes, their technical capabilities must be flawless, but be sure you get along with the people. At some point, there will be conflicts that leadership must resolve to ensure the project’s success. The production talent sees themselves as independent creators, not as part of a marketing campaign.
- Creative differences between client and marketing agency/production team. Making compelling videos involves many different types of people with different agendas. However, an advertising campaign begins and ends with the client. Nobody is heading to Cannes to walk the red carpet after completing your agency’s latest explainer videos.
[FOUR] The Film Shoot Does Not Go According to Plan
Never once in the history of filmmaking has a film/video shoot gone according to plan — the original nickelodeon flickers included. In 1900, it took half a day to film a train coming down the track. Don’t get cocky because there are billionaires in space. THREE out of FOUR of the Horsemen died. This stuff isn’t easy.
- Your shoot goes off schedule and off-budget. A production’s kiss of death is to get behind schedule. Video production is like a taxi. You’re trapped in the back seat, and you can’t get out until the ride is over and every second the meter is running. If you get the wrong red light, you’ll miss ten green ones, and then you’ll be even more behind schedule. And all the while, the meter climbs.
- You created a corporate budget for video production. Your film shoot will not go according to plan if your production runs out of petty cash halfway into your first day of principal photography, or you go into post-production without the money for looping (or ADR – additional dialog recording). Or maybe you committed the cardinal sin of production and short-changed the Crafts Services. Now you have fifty angry crew members who have suddenly forgotten how to pull focus and flip the lights on, and only last-minute catering from Zankou Chicken (read: premium price) will ensure the viability of your project.
[FIVE] Distribution is Mishandled
- Buying Ad Time. It does not matter how great or funny your video is if nobody sees it. Choosing the right channel at the right time with the best reach for your brand and selecting the ad that is the perfect length and tone for a brand’s target audiences is a distribution jigsaw puzzle. Your video may languish without the credit it deserves if all the pieces do not fit together seamlessly.
- New media madness. YouTube Marketing, Vimeo, TikTok, Instagram Reels, Twitter, Facebook Video Feed, Google Ads, and the list keeps growing. Every distribution channel has its own rules and regulations, culture and customs, and users who engage in different ways. A killer ad on TikTok may flop on YouTube. A brand’s potential customers are out there, but one size does not fit all. If you’ve invested in a single ad, chop it up and maximize its use. Please take advantage of your video partners’ drive to maximize their profits! For example, YouTube does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Between YouTube Kids, YouTube Studio, YouTube Red, and YouTube Analytics, YouTube is begging you to reach your customers with creative messages. Add new campaign settings like Video Discovery Ads (aka TrueView Discovery Ads) give marketers new real estate to build their brands.
- Video formats vary from channel to channel. Knowing what video ad format you need is essential. Plan on delivery of your final video in formats optimized for each channel. Do not have the quality or effectiveness of your video downgraded because it’s the wrong format. Optimize for each channel. For example, optimize mobile video for mobile users.