Don't Be Prejudiced Against Mobile Video

Desktop still rules.

In this article by AdAge.com, researches have concluded that Mobile Video spending by marketers will still be overshadowed by desktop video.

Anecdotally, I'd point out that desktop videos look much better, and are arguably a more easily-justified spend. But statistics from Facebook and Youtube conclude that they get far more plays from mobile devices than non-mobile, and 2015 isn't yet half-over.

This speaks to a disconnect between ad-buyers and consumers. From the article:

This year U.S. adults -- not the teens that are already considered glued to their smartphone screens -- will watch 39 minutes of video daily, on average, on their smartphones and tablets. That's the majority of the 76 minutes daily they're expected to spend watching video across all digital devices, which includes internet-connected TVs, desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.

Video marketing is (mistakenly) still in a TV mindset, according to AdAge, and it doesn't look like that will change much in the next 5 years.

Why You Should Have Started A Blog For Your Business Yesterday

Disclaimer: this is possibly the most meta thing I’ve ever written– and I’ve written films about making films. Okay here we go …

Data read, re-read, and thoroughly criticized, the verdict is in: If you fail to maintain a blog for your business, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunity. Beyond SEO, visibility, and establishing a brand, blogging is one of the most sincere ways to connect to your online audience.

It’s more about building trust than anything else. Blogging may seem mystical at first, but it's easy enough to jump into: write articles about a particular topic of interest, based on the niche of your business.

A blog de-mystifies your brand.

Case studies, historical information, and sharing data. It’s about telling a story. Your audience will stay engaged knowing how you got started, why you started, and the problems you have tackled to succeed. People are much more likely to engage with a brand that they know inside and out, especially when they find the business to be humble, transparent, and within reach.

A blog turns know-it-alls into experts.

If you want to be perceived as a leading expert in your niche, write and post articles in your blog on a regular basis. You’re already talking your friends’ ears off about these topics anyway. Putting things in writing shifts perceptions. Random information becomes organized and helpful, opinions become fact.

A blog connects you with new people.

You’re not going to hear from new people– and thereby new opportunities– unless there is something to respond to. It’s why I tweet all the time (which I’ll delve into in another article) Don’t be afraid to share your secrets. It’s actually beneficial to share everything you know. While your competitors are hiding away the same information, your audience will trust you because of your transparency, and ultimately go to you for your product or service as a result. It’s not just a post - it’s the start of a conversation!

A blog furthers your SEO. Obviously.

We don’t have to get into this. Search Engine marketing is still huge for a reason. Use those keywords, and use them often! Your blog posts will appear at the top of google in no time. Seriously. My poetry blog appears on top of several google searches without even trying. It’s because I update it every day.

A blog helps cultivate your voice.

The absolute best way to learn something is to teach it. The more you are forced to discuss your new product, service, or other issue within your niche, the more you hone that voice for your business. If you’re excited about a product or service, your audience will be too. If you’re serious about it, your audience will be too. It’s all in word choice.

A blog is pretty much free.

Besides word-of-mouth, what other marketing tool is as cheap as that?! Okay, you are committing time to your blog. It takes practice, but let’s be real: if there were a free solution with minimal risk to help grow your business today, would you do it? Yes– and you would have started it yesterday.

So why are you still reading this and not blogging?

Don’t expect immediate results. Remember, a blog is a long-term commitment that can (and will) promote engagement and growth. You have to stick with it to see results. And it’s helpful to utilize social tools like Twitter and Facebook ads to jumpstart engagement.

So go, write about what you’re talking about anyway.

And credit me in your first post :)

Are Ads Getting More Sneaky or Savvy?

The Post, The Atlantic, and now Politico.

In this recent article by Ad Age, it is revealed that Politico (a top news blog aimed directly at the Beltway) has officially hired a manager to create an in-house creative studio named "Politico Focus". It's a step that many corporations are taking lately, a smart step in the direction of the future of online advertising.

Better creative jobs?

It might be good new for creatives, because our jobs are more stable than ever living inside large corporations. But perhaps bad news for consumers, who don't like being tricked. "Native Ads" have been popular for quite some time, but they are generally produced by outside agencies, and often have headlines that sometimes scream THIS IS AN AD. With Politico and other top news agencies jumping into the creative arena, the difference between ad and content could soon turn a very cool shade of grey.

 

Native advertising is a form of advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears.

Why Some Comedies are Too Sad to Be Funny

I wrote and produced the short film "Leanne is Gone" in 2012. Here's the trailer:

I swear. I meant to write a comedy.

Okay, so you may not believe this, but the inspiration for this film was actually quite comical. Eventually, the script took its own path, and turned dark - too dark - to call it a comedy. It's impeccably directed, by the way, by gorgeous and talented artist Bryan Scott Cooper and it stars myself and talented actor David Hemphill.

To me, it's a film about forgiveness being the only path toward friendship. The film's title, "Leanne is Gone" refers to our lead character's sister, a woman who has just taken her own life. Her melancholic brother is Dylan, newly out of rehab for heroin use. Hilarious, right? The man he comes to stay with is his newly-widowed alcoholic brother-in-law, Sean.

Basically, the two men are in conflict, as each of them secretly blame themselves for her death, but blame each other outwardly. Both struggle with these hidden feelings. If they choose forgiveness, they could possibly connect and begin the healing process. If they go the opposite route, they may just end up killing each other.

Why was it too sad? Well beyond the very dark subject matter, the story ended up with very few (what I like to call) 'release' moments. Engaging stories are built on tension, and comedies are peppered with 'releases' - the moments you get to laugh.

When I added jokes to this script, they felt very 'muscled' and inappropriate. For instance, when Sean the brother-in-law is drunk and sitting on the floor, I initially had Dylan ask him - in the middle of an intense fight - to pee in a cup. Could be funny in the right situation, but they were discussing a recently-dead woman whom they each loved. It just didn't fit.

So am I writing a comedy or a drama?

Every comedy has tense moments. Every drama has light-hearted fun moments (If it doesn't, it's time for a rewrite). But it can be difficult to sort-out where exactly your story fits in. Of course some stories can't be categorized as easily, and are labeled "dramedies".

I've put together a check-list of sorts to figure out in which genre you may be writing. I'd like to disclaim that no story needs to be bound by genre, and good stories are good stories, regardless of category. Genre is most helpful in describing to others what you're writing, and of course the marketing of the story later.

It's a comedy if ...

  • You are laughing—a lot
  • The subject matter is exaggerated, but relatable to real life
  • Characters make a fool of themselves
  • At the end, you think 'that was fun!'

It's a drama if ...

  • You are crying. Or on the edge of your seat—a lot
  • The subject matter feels real and grounded
  • Characters seem like real people
  • At the end, you think 'that was intense!'

Why does genre matter?

Of course, you must set out to write a good story first. Have like-able heroes that take charge and are completely transformed throughout their journey, then analyze for genre afterward. There's no harm in deciding later. There is harm, though, in muscling serious stories into being funny, or vice versa. As always, be sure to let me know how it goes.

There Are No Boring Topics, Only Boring Content.

Welcome to Normal, Illinois.

I recently submitted myself for copywriting work at an Insurance company in Normal, Illinois (not kidding). If I haven’t bored you yet, hear me out. In a recent interview with the recruiter, she glanced at my resume and had to ask “why?”

What seemed like a no-brainer to me, I realized, might actually be a bit of a mystery to many. There is a simple way to bring a ‘boring’ subject matter to the forefront of content, (and possibly make it more exciting than the latest Mission:Impossible flick)

When I dive into subjects (big or small) I find many reasons to be excited by them. From subjects as varied as beef production to the NFL, there is always a common thread that keeps me passionate:

Questions.

Questions?

If you find out the questions your audience is asking, and maybe you’re asking yourself, you can come up with compelling ways to reveal your client’s business. We’re all autodidacts at heart.

Let’s stay on the subject of Insurance. I’d start by coming up with a series of questions I’d ask:

    Why do I need insurance?

    What are the alternatives to Insurance?

    Who invented all the rules and regulations regarding Insurance?

    Why should I even care about Insurance?

    Why am I being forced to pay for Insurance and who’s face can I punch for those co-pays?

That list didn’t take much effort to make. Just go through a ‘who what when where why and how’ regimen. Then, do a quick poll of those in your life representing your core audience; find out the questions they’re asking.

    How do I know I chose the right coverage?

    How much coverage do I need?

    What if I have no money left over after bills?

    Why can’t anyone write a damned policy I can understand?

Prove it.

Okay, so far this may still sound boring, but hang in there … these are real people with real concerns. If they’re spending time looking for these answers, why not spend your time providing answers on your clients’ site?

Forums and social media may also lead you to the biggest questions being asked. Hopefully, you can at least see the infinite potential in content ideas being raised here.

It will behoove you not to shy away from bizarre questions too, like Buzzfeed, the ever-popular click-machine. They recently answered questions like “How well do you really know Flo, the Progressive Girl?” and “What are the most odd body parts that are insured?”

There are no good questions.

Okay, first of all, not true. But maybe you are still lacking inspiration? Pratik Dholakiya, the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M, suggests these tools to help you come up with questions which are interesting to you and your audience:

“Use a random word generator to help cure your tunnel vision.
List questions as soon as they come to mind. Don’t filter.
You’re not doing it right unless some of the questions you come up with are completely absurd. (A bit of absurdity can work for viral content anyway.)
The best time to brainstorm is when you’re having trouble focusing. This is backed up by scientific research. Still more scientific research suggests that creativity is enhanced when you think about contradictions and embrace paradoxes.”

Back to that insurance client: the reason I gave that recruiter why I was interested? It was clear and present, after asking a few questions:

Insurance is important. It’s a chance for me to learn.

So grab those boring subjects by the balls, ask some questions, and turn those yawns into screams.

3 Ways Music Videos are Overrated

I directed a music video.

It was released this month. For having nearly zero budget, I'm rather giddy at the outcome. Watch The Breaking's "Future Fire" here:

The brilliant thing about making a music video on the cheap is the lack for need of sound-synching or continuity. This frees you up to shoot wherever, for however long, and stay creative on the fly.

In my research, I ran across a multitude of uninspired music videos. Often, I had to close them within a few seconds before I got a headache. (See Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” )

It made me wonder … why? Why is my eye drawn to some videos and not others? Why am I incredibly bored by some huge-budget videos, and intrigued by some of the cheaper ones? I didn’t want this video to fall into the former category, so I had some thinking to do.

I distilled what I was looking for down to three questions. Take note that none were “Do you have the best camera and lighting?”

So here they are:

Does it tell a story?

In “Future Fire” there is a character who is transformed. He starts one way, something happens, and then he makes a change. That’s all a story is.

Too many videos I saw in my research would start strong - a compelling character or visual - but then nothing happens to them. Nothing changes. Snooze fest.

Amazing cinematography won’t save you, either. For a great terrible example, look no further than Paris Hilton’s “Come Alive”.

Does it make a statement?

I don’t want to be preached to, but I also don’t want to come away from any piece of media without learning something. For future fire, we took a small statement we wanted to make, which aligned with the message of The Breaking’s song, and ran with it: There is no greater power than accepting you who are.

Don’t get me started on what most music video’s messages are. There are many that hit thier message spot on, and others that dance around it like they have nothing to say at all.

Example of what not to do: Bella Thorne’s“Call It Whatever”

Is it new?

This is a tough one. So many videos, like mine, have a limited budget, and an even more limited schedule. With one camera and a bunch of people willing to help, you must rely on innovative ideas. The makeup and art in the piece is what we went with - the character is born with an unusual tribal-looking marking on his hand, and it organically grows throughout the story (no - it’s not a tattoo - it just looks like one).

You don’t have to look far to see the ‘band-plays-on-stage with-brightly-colored-lights’ scene or the ‘Intercut-dance-routine’ routine. I don’t mind seeing these done, especially when done beautifully and well. I just also know I will crave something—anything—new.

Justin Bieber - bless his little unchallenged heart - wouldn’t dare give us anything new. Just watch his ultra-vanilla “Confident”.

If you want to see a video that breaks all these rules, look no further than perhaps the worst of 2014, Riff Raff’s "Dolce and Gabbana". While watching, you get a strange feeling that you’ve literally seen this all before, like he’s emulating a surprisingly-even-cheaper Robin Thicke wet dream.

So that’s it! Tell a story, make a statement, and do something new.