Inform, Educate, Entertain… and Engage

Cross-posted from the Across the Pond Productions blog

This is a blog post based on Robert Waddilove's talk at The British Library on 20th April 2012. For more info on that event, please visit here.

As this is part of a series of talks in relation to business models, I thought it would be interesting to explain how we as a company respond intuitively to the world of online video.

We do a lot of work with Google, which is fantastic, not just because it's one of our generation's most interesting and important companies shaping the internet, but that it's so diverse in its interests. Their mission statement to 'Organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful', means there's almost no boundary to where it can go.

One of our most recent pieces of work is for the newly relaunched Google Art Project, which is a brilliant marriage of art and technology using gigapixel photography, Street View imagery and art from over 150 museums. It's an amazing way to view art - and for many people, their only way. It's one of the things I love about it, which speaks to the core mission of Google as well.

We were tasked with creating a launch film that would capture the breadth and beauty of content in Art Project, but also the emotional attachment we have with art. Ultimately we wanted to know how it would feel if you 'fell' into Art Project.

We're extremely happy and proud of the finished piece and it really works in capturing what we set out to do. Most importantly, it helps engage the viewer in what Art Project is and drive them to the website to use it themselves.

In 2008, when we started working on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, this was something very, very different to what we had been producing previously - and it was a clear indicator for the way brands would start to engage audiences online - through entertainment and interaction.

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra is a crowd sourced orchestra using YouTube as a platform to learn, collaborate, and enter their submission videos. In 2008, the composer Tan Dun composed a piece of music called "Internet Symphony No. 1 'Eroica'". Musicians from around the world could choose their instrument, get tips from professional musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra, film their performance and then upload it to YouTube. The chosen orchestra were then flown to New York in order to perform at Carnegie Hall.

The project was a huge success with impressive statistics: over 38million video & channel views on YouTube, and over 3,000 people submitted entries from 71 countries. Most importantly, it proved that by making something fun, entertaining, and interactive you get fantastic engagement.

When I wrote my notes for this, I was going to say that the core content or product should be exciting, new, interesting etc, But then I remembered I once produced a viral video for beds...and beds are not at the cutting edge of cool!

In 2009, I was still freelancing as a producer whilst working at Across the Pond, and most of this work involved producing quite standard (but nice!) TV commercials for Bensons for Beds.

The agency where I was freelancing saw a video online of some students messing around in their dormitory and pitched the idea of Mattress Dominoes to the client. I think the fact we were going to do it so cheaply and quickly meant it could just be a bit of fun. It wouldn't cost them a great deal and if it failed it wouldn't hurt. So they let us have our fun, and we produced this:

I edited and uploaded that from a Travelodge and we devised a rough strategy to create accounts with every online video sharing website, upload to all of those and have links within that to the YouTube video, thus creating a neat loop where, hopefully, all roads would lead to YouTube (where view counts are king). In a matter of days coverage started to snowball - traditional press, news, breakfast TV - then it went global - USA, Australia, Brazil etc.

Then people started to copy it, and make their own record attempts - The Morning Show in Australia, other bed companies, even Blue Peter on BBC1 beat the record. We received over 1 million views on YouTube with a lot of comments from people not even aware it was a commercial.

One of my favourite comments from YouTube was "this should become an advert!!!"

This was a very interesting response to something that actually is an advert, it just happens to also be quite silly and entertaining. Since it's not explicitly advertising a product or telling you that a sale is on or trying to force information on you - it becomes acceptable. It becomes viral because it's new and entertaining and people suddenly have an element of emotional connection with your brand, which you may not have had previously. As they enjoy it so much, they want to share it with their friends.

Last year, we began work on the launch film for probably the most exciting project we've worked on at Google, which has one of the coolest names too - 'YouTube Space Lab'. 'Space Lab' is a competition to get kids aged 13-18 to design an experiment which will be carried out on the ISS, 250 miles from earth.

We had to create a promo that spoke not only to those kids, but their teachers as well. It had to be universal and not look specific to a country. Most importantly, it had to be 'cool'.

The video did tremendously well, being the focal point for much of the advertising YouTube did for the project. Currently, the video has well over 13 million views on YouTube and helped the project not only reach the 13-18 year olds, but it spoke to their parents and creative communities just by having a relevant and cool film to summarise the emotion of the project.

At its peak, in one week, it achieved 2.8 million views which earned it the number one spot on Ad Age's Viral Video Chart, beating out Apple's iPhone 4S commercial.

Let's talk about shopping online.

We've all experienced problems shopping online whether it's not understanding a captcha code, having something added to your 'basket' that you didn't want, or forgetting your login and password. It can often be very frustrating.

Google has a product called Google Analytics that can help website owners determine how their site is being used at a granular level. The problem is lots of website owners may either not have heard of Google Analytics, or they're not using it to its full potential.

ATP were approached to make a comedy sketch turning an online shopping website into real life. It was approached with the view that we all live through this, we've all had this experience of getting incredibly frustrated trying to buy stuff online. So we decided to use that painful experience to communicate how it can be improved by incorporating Google Analytics into your website.

The film was uploaded to the Google Analytics YouTube channel and embedded in a blog post. This was to target website owners who were already using Analytics and subscribing to the blog, or people interested in learning more about Analytics but may not be using it yet. It slowly started to gain traction, though, with people outside its initial target audience and quickly went viral, gaining over 500,000 views. The film has since been nominated for several awards and recently won Gold at the IVCA Awards in March 2012.

To paraphrase the BBC's mission statement, it's our way to help inform, educate, entertain, and ultimately, engage the audience. To do this we like to strip stuff away - like any content that could distract from the entertainment value of the video (usually facts and figures). Video is a visual medium, so we find it best to take away lots of text and heavy use of voiceover, you can have a supporting website with all the detailed information you need. If it's successful, audiences will inevitebly want to know more, and they will visit the website for more information, investigate the product/campaign or even buy it!

Coming back to the title of my talk 'Inform, educate, entertain... and engage'. It's so important to try and get those three elements in your communications in order to engage audiences and ultimately interested in what you and your clients are doing.