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What video marketers can learn from TV

Written by Dan Gable on Monday, 11 January 2021. Posted in Sales & Marketing

According to Dan Gable, ambitious video creatives can benefit from understanding why shows such as The X Factor have been a roaring success for many years.

What video marketers can learn from TV

According to Dan Gable, ambitious video creatives can benefit from understanding why shows such as The X Factor have been a roaring success for many years.

There are many different ways to make marketing videos, but things can get complicated very quickly. However, this process can be simplified if you treat each video as being made up by three distinct elements: ‘Format’, ‘Content’ and ‘Call to Action’. Each performs a different role and you need all three. 

Let me illustrate this by using the TV show The X Factor as an example. The ‘Format’ is the shape of the show, such as judges, auditions, back stories, live shows and ultimately the voting. The X Factor is a competition but the format is also the look and feel of the show, down to the smallest detail.

The ‘Content’ is the acts themselves. Although these keep changing, they all slot into the ‘Format’ of the show. People tune in to watch the acts, but it’s the ‘Format’ that creates the competition, drama and familiarity. It adds context to the acts and makes you care more about them. It is the competitive element which makes the viewers analyse the acts deeper than they would otherwise do.

As for ‘Call to Action’: In the case of The X Factor, it’s asking people to vote. It’s a simple request by the presenters who read out telephone numbers which relate to each act. These numbers are displayed on the screen and viewers use them when casting their votes.

Now imagine watching a show like The X Factor if the entire programme was simply about a ‘Call to Action.’ It would be terrible. However, this is what some people do when they create marketing videos. The whole video is simply focussed on asking viewers to buy a product or purchase a service. It's nothing more than a sales pitch and little else. It describes why you should buy a product, and is not very interesting at all.

So imagine watching a show with no format? It would be a completely different programme every week. Sometimes there would be judging, other times not. On some occasions there would be two presenters, other times just one or maybe none at all. There would be different rules each week and therefore no consistency. It would be chaotic. You just wouldn’t look forward to watching it, because you have no idea what you are going to get.

Making each episode would be like starting again from the beginning. There’s no structure, therefore difficult to know what might work with an audience. And ‘yes’, you’ve guessed it, many people do this when creating their marketing videos. They treat every video as a completely new piece of content, with no established structure in place. These are so difficult to get right and you’d have to find a new audience every time. They lack familiarity and would struggle to generate viewer loyalty.

Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of your videos as episodic content. Make them shorter, cheaper and more frequent. Create a simple format and then change the content. You don't need complex shows like The X Factor (which has a great and successful TV format). Keep them simple, such as a daily or weekly tip, a short interview, maybe even a brief tutorial. You can fine tune your format until it works really well. Experiment with visual style, graphics, music and duration. Tweak it until it feels really engaging.

Once you’ve developed a successful format, you have an asset that keeps on giving, time and time again. Keep your theme and branding consistent, but change the content. Your videos should inform and entertain, while commercialising the content with a brief ‘Call to Action’. In other words, create episodic branded content as opposed to just sales material. 

Do this right and people will look forward to watching your content. They want to be entertained and informed. They do not want to watch another of those annoying sales videos. Shows like The X Factor do not even try to persuade viewers to vote, because viewers have already bought into the format. In fact, the show’s producers have to tell people not to vote, when watching the programme ‘on-demand’. If your videos are engaging, and there is a clear ‘Call to Action’, they have a much better chance of making an impact.

So perhaps it’s time to start embracing episodic video. Focus on keeping the format simple to produce. These days all you need is a smartphone, some imagination and the ability to edit. And you may just develop a successful online format which creates a new audience for your business.

About the Author

Dan Gable

Dan Gable

Dan Gable is founder of ShoutOut, the ground-breaking automated video creation and distribution platform. ShoutOut enables you and your franchise to create episodic branded video formats, with no editing skills required. You can then distribute them to your social media channels with just one click. During the past 35 years, Dan has worked on hundreds of TV programmes such as The Word, The Brit Awards, Big Brother and Top Gear. He also founded Sprat, a leading video production agency.

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