Art & Commerce: Don’t Try This at Home

Digital video may seem like good business, but hire a pro
The so-called digital age, with its flavors of streaming video, CDs and DVDs, offers unprecedented ways to make both you–the agency–and your clients shine. It also can create a shortfall between client expectations and reality.
Ultimately, as we saw a decade ago, reality will boil down to production values.
Without a doubt, video is enjoying a resurgence. In the early 1990s, many companies used videocassettes for a range of communications–from product demos to video newsletters. Then tapes lost favor because of the logistical problem of finding video players and monitors on site. Now, salespeople are discovering that the laptop loaded with Microsoft PowerPoint is a portable method of showing presentations containing digital stills, limited animation and embedded video.
We’re also seeing sales of DVD players skyrocket, with an adoption rate exceeding the historical rate of VHS. DVD-quality digital material is setting a new standard for video, as is the increasing amount of streaming video on the Web.
We’ve been here before. In the early 1980s, an assortment of companies became similarly enthused with the new potential of desktop publishing, fueled by the promises of Adobe PageMaker and even Microsoft Word for publishing their sales literature and newsletters. Surely, they could do it in-house for far less money than those high-priced ad agencies.
Back then, there were also the recalcitrant clients that elected to stick with professional designers and copywriters. They continued to maintain a higher investment and produce higher-quality materials.
In the end, in-house desktop publishing efforts suffered by comparison.
It will be the same with video, whether it is viewed via the Web or DVD disk. Agencies must stress to clients that quality will make the difference in how the client is viewed and assessed by its own customers.
With the barriers to delivering digital video being eliminated, the quality of writing, visual design and production values of the video will speak volumes about your client.
Most companies don’t expect their employees to bring in personal cameras to shoot photographs for the annual report or for Web site executive photos. Similarly, grabbing a consumer-level digital camcorder and turning it on doesn’t mean the average person can produce footage that will be taken seriously in a business context. Even though technology has vastly improved the quality of digital video recorded on these devices, that doesn’t mean the end product is automatically at a professional level.
Simply, consumer-level digital video is a whole different genre. Unless a company has experienced personnel who can produce professional videos, the answer is to use outside services. Only in the rarest instance will a homegrown product compare favorably with product created by agency producers skilled at delivering video via PowerPoint, CD, DVD or the Web.
Not every client will believe your pitch, but those who do will be destined to not repeat the mistakes of history. K