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Citizen Filmmakers Hold Power For Corporates

Article date: Mon, 27 Jun 2011 14:03 GMT

Nicky Unsworth at the UKFast Video Nation round table

Big brands are being taught lessons in engaging with the consumer by amateur videomakers with a knack for making big-hitting films for the web.

The rise of the "citizen filmmaker" - who is taking advantage of the increased accessibility to production equipment and distribution methods - dominated the agenda at the 'Video Nation' round table debate held at the head offices of hosting specialist UKFast.

Panellists agreed that they are leading the way in the growth of online video and threatening traditional video producers who are slow to react to a fast-changing market.

Nicky Unsworth of advertising agency, BJL Group, said: "I think we can see that with more and more ad campaigns recently - making the commercial video feel like a user-generated video is incredibly popular. The latest Disney ads that give the impression that parents are filming their kids' reaction with a hand held device is a good example. User-generated content is definitely playing a bigger part in the advertiser's portfolio.

"It's a complicated picture really because a lot of YouTube content, for example, is generated purely for entertainment rather than with commercial rationale in mind but the lines between the two will undoubtedly blur a lot more as time goes on."

Brian Barnes, film producer and MD of Activideo added: "Until technology became available at reasonable cost, you associated professional production with glossy camera shots. Now being professional is about being creative.

"Technology has been so democratised that it means everyone can produce video. It's a positive thing because new talent can come through and there are no barriers to entry. In the old days, you could spend £300,000 on an edit suite and you were in business because others couldn't afford to do that. Now, you can even edit on your phone - there has been astronomic change in terms of access"

Barnes cited a road safety campaign, portrayed as being filmed on a mobile phone, as a good example of an effective use of video where the quality of device is irrelevant.

"It's so emotive and so effective at connecting with the viewer emotionally. In fact, the low quality device actually makes it more impactful."

Panellists agreed that the prospect of "going viral" is the main driver behind many commercial videos. How to achieve that level of popularity, though, sparked lively debate.

Laurence Murphy, a lecturer at Salford University said: "A successful feature film starts with a well-crafted script a good viral starts with a well-crafted idea. It's got to have that creative spark that it can build upon."

Barnes added: "It's creativity, something new and engaging that stimulates people enough to respond. It's got to spark that user engagement."

But Unsworth pointed out that some of the most successful commercial videos are a result of a well-thought-out campaign driven by experienced and creative professionals.

"Good virals normally have a shock factor or something funny and they usually tap into popular culture. But it takes effort and a lot of strategic thought. They're very clever but it's not easy to do."

She issued a warning to firms planning to include video in their marketing strategy.

"I think businesses and brands have to be very true to themselves - you can't tell a story convincingly if it isn't in your brand DNA. For a video to have maximum impact, you want the story to carry on, for consumers and the broader public to get involved. But we've all heard horror stories of brands that haven't been true to themselves then consumers get involved and there is a big backlash.

"Businesses shouldn't go into it lightly. It needs preparation and investment of time."

Byron Evans, presenter and owner of Wallop Video, presented statistics that showed there is still a market demand for high quality, professionally-made films.

"The most viewed videos of all time on YouTube are music videos. That shows that those Hollywood-esque, polished videos still have huge reach and demand."

Evans suggested the packaging of a video played a significant part in its potential to "go viral". He said: "It's not just about putting it on different networks, it's how you label it and what tags you give it. It's a precise art that needs to be mastered before you can stick this amazing piece of work out there and get the world to embrace it."


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