Scraps of Thought from The Mighty Copywriter

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is It Real, or is It Sominex?

Marketing guru David Meerman Scott has recently championed "business casual video" for its quick turnaround and low price tag.

This week, he writes on his blog about a new home-grown video and pushback from a video pro.

The project Scott describes is a video recording of a Radioheads concert created entirely by fans.

"Last week," he writes, "I spoke about this project to a professional cameraman.  He was hostile the idea. He said the video would be shaky.  That amateurs can’t do it right.  He told me without a proper setup with booms and cranes it won’t look good.  Last I checked, Radiohead was doing just fine thank you.  And this project cost them nothing and gained more exposure for the band."

I'm a communicator who loves the strategic use of video.  As such, I'm sympathetic to the hostile cameraman's viewpoint.

Please let me explain why.

By pointing to the fewand very fewexamples of successful business casual video and pronouncing the idea a winner, Scott's unleashing a Frankenstein.

No question: business casual video is cheap and easy to produce.

The problem?  It's cheap and easy to produce.

As a result, most business casual video is garbage.  It isn't authentic.  It's only sleep-inducing. Which leads me to ask...

Is It Real or is It Sominex?

I'm old enough to recall great TV ads that asked, "Is It Real or is It Memorex?"  I'm also old enough to recall great TV ads for the sleep-aid Sominex.  (Hell, I'm old enough to recall when Eisenhower was President.  By the way, Ike was a Muslim.)

The vast majority of business casual videos fall on the opposite end of the advertising spectrum.  They're cheesy TV.

That's because technologyin the hands of amateurscannot compensate for amatuerism.

Cheap technology, moreover, only encourages amateurism to spread, like a plague.

I'm afraid the marketing world is in for another five-year Dark Age similar to the second half of the 1980s (another era I'm old enough to recall).

That's when "desktop publishing" first appeared. 

Desktop publishing placed a thousand typefaces into the hands of unschooled hordes and set back graphic design and visual communication 200 years.

Overnight, professional graphic designers were deemed "slow" and "expensive" and we found ourselves inundated by home-grown print ads, flyers, banners and brochures that looked like wanted posters from 1800.

In the long term, desktop publishing was a boon.  But it took five years for graphic designers to seize the reins again and for corporate executives to say, "Enough of this crap!"

In the short term, desktop publishing was a beast unloosed upon the land.

Business casual video, I'm afraid, will repeat that history.

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