Video ads used to be the domain of AAA businesses. Of huge corporations with massive bankrolls for big, beefy ad spends. Just 15 years ago, the average small to mid-sized business couldn't dream of putting together any kind of video ad (unless they were a used car lot with one of those wacky-waving-inflatable-tube-man things and didn't mind showing their commercial at 2:00 am on public access).
All of that has changed. With advances in technology that put cinema quality cameras in our phones and the power of a studio editor suite in our laptops, and democratized platforms like YouTube, now even moderate sized businesses can create compelling video pitches. And with social media platforms like Facebook, the right video marketing package as the potential to be seen by thousands or even millions of potential customers.
Of course, just because you can make a video relatively cheaply these days doesn't mean everyone knows how to. I'm not talking about the nuts and bolts of photography, editing, and sound – those are technical questions you can consult a help file for. I'm talking about the structure of an excellent pitch video, the meaty guts, the heart and soul of a good video that will capture people's interest and make them pay attention. So roll up your sleeves, we're gonna get into -
The anatomy of an excellent video pitch
The pain, and the promise -
Okay, so "the pain and the promise” sounds like a dime store Michael Caine describing how to make a magic show work, but this marketing technique is actually as old as the first newspapers.
Pain and promise is all about empathizing with your audience, identifying what difficulty or challenge they are facing (even if they are not acutely aware of it) and providing them with a solution to it. This is about directly stating the benefit of your product/service, which sounds like the simplest thing in the world, but often takes a little creative muscle to really connect.
It's not enough to flatly say "you have this problem, this is what our product does to fix it” like Ben Stein reading out a class roll call. You need to find a way to dramatize the problem, to demonstrate it in a relatable way and show how your product fixes it. The best ads do this subtly. Infomercials do this by showing people unable to hold a spatula and pot at the same time with a cartoonishly haggard expression of "THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY!” plastered across their face. Lean towards the former instead of the latter.
The nice thing about the pain and promise angle is that it often relates directly to search requests. A lot of searches are phrased similar to 'how do I X?” Or "problem with X” Or "my X keeps spontaneously bursting into flames, THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY!” (okay, maybe not on that last one). This will help your SEO if you can identify these problems and weave it into your accompanying copy.
How many times have you heard something described as "it's like X for X!” Yes, this is such a common pitch technique that it's a cliché (just check out http://itsthisforthat.com/ if you don't believe me). But, it's common because it's effective.
Just like with the pain and promise though, it pays to be a little creative. Instead of directly blurting out a direct comparison or contrast to something, get a little more clever. Show how your product or service is like X for X. Remember the Staples’s Easy Button? That was a pretty direct metaphor, but they made it very fun, very silly, and ultimately, very relatable.
Metaphors are great because they break down the complexities of an issue quickly and clearly. This is essential for any video spot and only gets more important the more complicated your product or service is. You need quick communication when attention spans (and budgets) are at a premium.
Appeals to authority are always a good idea in any pitch. Even if your being silly in your video or trying to keep things light, you need some kind of backbone to give your product/service credibility. Referencing an expert or having someone with authority vouch for your product goes a long way towards proving it's viability. After all, if a rocket scientists designs something, you know its going to be pretty good and if 9 out of 10 dentists agree that toothpaste is good, it probably isn't going to make your teeth fall out of your mouth.
Emotional appeal -
Yes, this is an essential component of ANY effective video pitch. Maybe the most important. Even if you have a very technical product or service, you need to find a way to ground it in emotional stakes.
If you expect someone to voluntarily sit through a minute or more of your sales pitch (which is what they know it is), you need to give them a reason. The best and easiest way to do that is to give them something that entertains them. Make your video fun, and people will give you their time.
"But what about those businesses that just aren't very fun?” I hear you ask. Make it fun. It doesn't matter how dull a topic is, there is always some kind of angle to it that can be entertaining or interesting. If your business or service really is something that just can't be joked around with (running a mortuary for example), that's okay, there are other emotions you can play to. You can make something sad, you can make it scary, you can make it sexy (DO NOT MAKE YOUR MORTUARY AD SEXY), something. Just make sure you're providing some kind of flavor that will get people's attention.
The ask -
Effective video pitches have to make a pitch. There are all kinds of high-profile flops in marketing history that have resulted in all kinds of attention, but never made a sale. Super Bowl commercials are notorious money sinks that are often over produced into total nonsense that never makes an impact. Remember RadioShack? One year before they went bankrupt for good, RadioShack wasted millions on a splashy Super Bowl ad with a bunch of '80s icons and former stars ripping apart one of their stores. Seems grim in retrospect.
Good video ads ask the viewer to buy, or at least provide another direct step a viewer can take. This is the old "call to action” you hear about so much in online marketing. It might seem cynical, but if your ad is driving conversions, it isn't helping you.
Putting the pieces together
Take a look at some of the most effective ads out there, things like GoPro's "Fireman Saves Kitten" (currently sitting at over 35 MILLION views), or even long running TV commercials like Apple's "Mac vs. PC" series. Think about the way they use the elements of an excellent video pitch. The kind of emotional appeals they make, the comparisons they use, the way they make their ask.
Some are very direct, the Mac Vs PC version is basically a trip down each point like a checklist, hitting pain and promise points (PCs are clunky, virus prone nightmares while Macs are miracle machines), metaphors (goofy doufus compared to cool young guy), while managing to be funny and hit all kinds of stats and figures that demonstrate authority. On the other hand, GoPro's kitten video just hits you straight in the feels and never lets up. It is a very raw and direct example of what GoPro's cameras can capture in the right place and the right time.
Don't be afraid to play with the different elements and lean on some more than others depending on your product and tone.
Now that you know what goes into making a good video pitch, apply those ideas to your own product. Think about how you plan to Frankenstein your own video script. Which parts of the anatomy is your product/service best suited for?
- What pains does your audience have? How can you solve them? How will this make their life better, their jobs easier?
- What kind of metaphors make sense for your product? Is there an easy comparison you can make? How can you represent your product in a non-literal sense and why would your audience care?
- Do you have have any great stats or data to point to for your product? Any testimonials or endorsements you can use to establish authority? Can you show your product solving a problem in action?
- How can you make an emotional connection with your product? What's fun about it? What the different ways you can take it? Give people a reason to watch your video!
- And finally, what is your ask? Do you have a link to a sales pitch right on the video? Do you have a link back to your site? If you don't have a clear next step, think about why that is before you start scripting.
Once you have the parts you need in mind, the scripting process is that much easier. Follow these ideas and you might just have the next viral sensation on your hands.