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The worst way to start a video ad project

One of the most common requests we get from prospects seems harmless. “Here’s a video ad my competitor has,” they say. “We want to make one of these for our brand.” This simple request has the potential to start the whole video engagement off on the wrong track.

The most effective video ads do not have a lot of comps out there. It’s scary to make something new or to put your own spin on an ad format, but game-changing campaigns only come from original creative.

In this episode of “Death to the Corporate Video,” Guy and Hope discuss why it’s harmful to start your project by trying to copy someone else, and how you should start your project to improve your chances of success.

Listen to the episode via the player, or read the full transcript below.


Guy Bauer: We have this kind of fear when we look around and go, I can't find anything that's similar to this. Is this a miss? Or are we onto something? 

Hope Morley: Hello and welcome to Death to the Corporate Video, a podcast with tools and advice for how to make B2B videos your prospects actually want to watch. I'm Hope Morley.

Guy Bauer: I'm Guy Bauer. 

Hope Morley: Welcome to the show Guy Bauer.

Guy Bauer: It's like an automated Guy Bauer. It's like welcome to the show Guy Bauer. How are you? Anyway? Hi Hope! 

Hope Morley: Hi Guy. Today on the show, we're talking about something that comes up a lot in our line of work.

Guy Bauer: We are going off the rails folks. Here we are now doing all Q Anon content.

Hope Morley: Please don't. Please don't turn it off. It's a joke.

Guy Bauer: Imagine it's always like that though. Like yeah. It's like a show about B2B marketing that suddenly flips to like, just crazy, whatever. Anyway. Okay. All right. Hello. We are non political. We are talking about. Videos, what are we talking, about? 

Hope Morley: We are talking about video ads. 

Guy Bauer: Oh, video ads. 

Hope Morley: Yes. So what we're specifically talking about is something that comes up all the time. Especially when we're talking to new clients for our agency. And we often get people who have decided that they want to make a video ad, they call us up and they've already decided what they want to make in terms of they've decided a video type and they often have an example of something that they want to make. For example, they've decided that they want to make an explainer animation and here is what our competitor has done. We want to make this. And we find that most successful projects do not start this way.So we wanted to talk about why this is a problem.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, I guess the, the rule of thumb that we've figured out is that the easier it is for you to find a comp, a comparative example, easier. It is for you to find a comp the less likely your spot will be exciting and new, right. And some, and something that people get thrilled about 

Hope Morley: And thus less effective.

Guy Bauer: Less effective, right. So that doesn't mean there's no comps, it just needs to be few comps. Right. but the fewer, the better, I think, because that's, that's how you can get to something truly unique and new and interesting. It is also risky. So why do people, I have this urge to say, Hey, let's do video ads.

Oh, you know what? Our competitor did these three, or maybe it's not a competitor, but another industry, you know, I saw Apple do these things. Let's do something like that. 

Why do companies do that? Hope? 

Hope Morley: Well, it's often not even let's do something like that. What I hear a lot is let, let's do this, make this, but for me. And I think they do it because as you were getting out a little bit, it's low risk because it's been done. It's really easy to sell up the flagpole. You can point to something for your CMO or whoever's making the final decisions.

It's safe. You know, it's not gonna offend anybody. It's gonna be probably moderately successful. So it's easy to get done and it's easy to get approved.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. But the thing that, and we did an episode about this, it's like the worst strategy you can do is say copied the competitor. So I don't want to step on that episode so much, but I think the, where we're coming at is. The lack of comps usually scares. It scares people like me and I'm I want to be creative, but there is this like instinct of, it's kind of like if you're in a mall at a food court and there's five restaurants four of them have lines and one. It's like, Hmm. You know, it's like, well, there, maybe there's a reason why there's no one at that one. It's human instinct to see safety in numbers and we've had to evolve that way for food safety and a bunch of other reasons.

And so that's why, that's why we have this kind of fear when we look around and go, I can't find anything that's similar to this. Is this a miss? Or are we onto something? And what I find more and more in my career is the edge between, is this great? Or is it bad?

Is actually razor thin. If you think about a knife, like microscopically at the very tip, there's not much surface area. Right. But as the knife goes down, the golf widens, you know, like the, the amount of material widens, think of that as that knife has kind of like that cross-section of a knife as creative. So the more novel and the more unique, the higher up you're going on that knife, meaning there's the gulf between good and bad is razor thin. As you go down that knife cross-section. You get to more where the, the difference between good and bad is a little bit more obvious, but the thing that you sacrifice as you move down is uniqueness, right?

Because it's not on the razor's edge, it's not on the knife's edge. Have you noticed? Sorry. I'm kind of rambling here, but, Like most new things are kind of ugly and weird. Like if you look at all Gucci's designs right now, they're like ugly, but I guarantee you they'll be cool in five years or something. 

Hope Morley: That's how art always is. Whenever you do something new, you think about like, when we look at impressionist paintings, it's like the least offensive form of painting and art for us. Like everybody loves impressionist paintings, like most popular part of the art Institute here in Chicago.

Universally decided that those are beautiful paintings, but when they were first released, They were controversial. And there were people who like those women don't look like people, you know, like old men didn't like it. So it's the same thing with any creative field when you're doing something new and different and revolutionary. Once you get to the point that it's universally accepted, that means it's safe.

Guy Bauer: So it's almost like as we move up the curve of novelness and the difference between good and bad and maybe even blurs, right. Cause if we take it to the impressionists, the people that saw those impressionists. They probably said it was ugly. Like it's ugly. 

It's bad. 

Hope Morley: And they thought that there was no craft to it. And they're like, you know, if you were a really good painter, you wouldn't be so blurry. 

Guy Bauer: That's so interesting. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And that's the thing it's really hard for corporations to make art. And that's kind of what we're asking our clients to do is come on, you know, like just be revolutionary with your very treasured marketing budget that you have to then defend and risk your job. You know?

It's like really hard.

It's really hard. 

And yeah. So that's why it's a, it's a scale. And it's not like a thing. Like there cannot be any comps because if there's no comps, then you are being avant-garde and that's fine. If that's your brand to be avant garde and you got money just floating around. Yeah.

sure do it.

But I think what our rule is, is the fewer comps you can find the better off you are, as long as you're comfortable with your creative. Is that what we're saying? 

Hope Morley: Yes. And it can be, you know, you can be a step beyond what your competitors are doing, so it doesn't have to be, a completely new and revolutionary way of presenting something but what we're saying is if it's the same as what everybody else is doing, if you can point to everything else in your industry, and there's a bunch of comps for what you're doing, that's going to be likely less effective because it's going to be less memorable and it's going to just be less creative 

Guy Bauer: If you get too conservative And look for too many comps, right then you're just, I mean, just the sheer number of comps means. Your work will be lost in the sea of similar. So it's like you have to move as far over on that knife edge scale or whatever as you're comfortable with. 

Hope Morley: And part of the problem with, you know, in the example that I started at the top of the episode of somebody coming to us say, This is what we want, is that they're often choosing the type of video or pointing to something before spending the time to do a proper strategy and creative step and planning really why they might want that.

and thinking about, just because something works for your competitor, especially if you're pulling something out of a different industry, they're doing something that's works for them for their specific use case and their specific product. If you're just pointing at that and saying, make me this, you don't actually even know if it's going to work for you.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Our rule of thumb. Start with a blank slate, tabula rasa, do not go into these campaigns with creative in mind, because what's going to happen is this is if you have a creative in mind, it's some bias or whatever, and even if you try to go through a proper strategy, you're going to make the strategy fit your creative. And you're going to like, you know, you're putting the cart before the horse and you'll do whatever it takes to get that rationale that your creative, your preconceived creative is correct. It's the worst way you can do it. And usually end, usually sometimes it can work out. But usually it ends in like mediocre results.

 What you want to do is start all of your video ad projects with a complete blank slate. Hope and I were working on a strategy yesterday and it's literally like 20, maybe not 20 it's, 10 pages of words. And then like a bunch of like other documents that we have to sift through. It can, that can be overwhelming, especially in your company when you're, you know, you've got so many people trying to tell you what to put in the video ad and everything. And we started going down a hole of like, just kind of randomly talking about all the different facts. And we were like, wait, hold on a second.

Let us just define before we even go into anything, let's just define the goal here. Like, why are we making this ad? And start from there. And when you simplify and you, you start from that, like from the building blocks point of view and not some creative solution in mind, what usually ends up happening is the creative solutions start coming like crazy because you're doing it in order.

 What you want to do to get the unique ideas is to start from just goals. Like what is the goal of this ad boost awareness of my blahblahblah. Okay. Well, what do we want to say to boost awareness? We need to say that we have. This kind of service. Okay. And who are we talking to? And it's like, it seems so basic. And we talk about it in every single episode, but the root of all of the best work is that kind of just starting at zero and piling up a strategy and building it on bedrock. Usually we find too is when the creative ideas come out of that bedrock that we've built.

There are few comps because few pieces of work have ever been produced for these unique circumstances. And it's hard to find comps. Don't let that be the thing that scares you away from this concept and towards quote unquote safety, where like, well, you know, I see all the other companies do this interview and B roll thing, let's just do that.

Hope Morley: Yes, exactly. When you start from that point of strategy, you'll often realize that, we're looking for, we like to call it like the messaging blue ocean, right. You're trying to reach people and show them what makes you unique and different and like how to get to these people who otherwise hadn't previously.

Often hadn't previously considered your company or your service. And part of the way that you can get to a blue ocean is by doing something a little bit different that catches their attention. Because we as human beings, we start to tune out things that are too similar to other things we've seen before.

You know, our brains are amazing, but they also can only hold so much. Things that are new and different, catch our eye and catch our attention. Things that are the same or within a pattern. We just kind of grouped together with other things that are in that pattern and they lose their, we lose our ability to differentiate between the things that are too similar, because we just don't bother giving it the brain power to differentiate them.

So by doing something slightly different. You're forcing your prospect's brains to give you a little bit more attention, to actually focus on what you're doing and potentially be a lot more memorable.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, potentially. I mean, in the end It has to be good and like I said, it's a razor's edge between good and bad, and it could actually be bad, but at least it's like, I mean, it's the truth. It's like, listen, your concept may be bad. But you'll never know. So just go for it. Um, no, but like, uh, it's better to play. It's better to play than not to play. 

You got to avoid the comps cause Yeah, you're right. People are mostly in system one thinking, meaning they're relying on heuristics and you know, like just going through life on a shortcut, trying to be lazy mentally.

So if you show them something that is very similar to everything else, it's not going to upset them, but their system one thinking like Hope said, just filter it out because it's been seen before. So you want, you got to avoid that and you've got to do something that sticks out, but not that's bad. And that's where I think you need an expert to touch like some kind of B2B video ad agency.

Hope Morley: Is that a thing you can find?

Guy Bauer: That's where you need a touch right. To ride that edge between good And bad and tilt the odds in your favor of being good and different rather than being bad.

Hope Morley: And the thing is like, we're B2B marketers, right? We work in B2B when we're talking about doing something a little bit different or something that you might risk, being bad, it's not going to be offensive, The risk of something being like, quote unquote bad.

It's just that it might be boring or it might fall flat, or, you might try to do something funny that doesn't work and that's, you know, bad, but it doesn't have to be like controversial to be on the knife's edge that guy's talking about. Just want to make that clear that we're not saying that you need to go out there and, make an HBO drama 

Guy Bauer: Although you never know, that could be right for you. 

Hope Morley: It could be. 

Guy Bauer: It's like really hard to resist the temptation of safety. Cause you know, the other thing too is it's really hard to.

Go into these projects and not know like what you're going to get. Okay, we're going to start a video ad campaign. Great. Fantastic. What is it? Well, I don't know. That's like really hard to pitch and that's why our suggestion would be to involve your stakeholders and take little mini steps, take little mini steps.

On the path to your B2B video ad campaign. So start with just, you know, it could be just a simple strategy. You create a brief and get their buy-in along the way. And that'll be how you can avoid the thing of, you know, having to put the cart before the horse and like come up with the idea before anything has been defined.

Hope Morley: It sounds so simple, but we wouldn't be talking about it. If I didn't get so many phone calls from new clients that are doing exactly this. 

Guy Bauer: And we love you new clients. We just want to help you. This is tough love. That didn't seem sincere. No, We really do want to help you. So like, we do want to help you. So. Yeah. Just, you know, like start from the blank slate and that's the best strategy to get to a new idea. 

Hope Morley: We're on a mission. The only way to put the final nail in the coffin of corporate video is to stop remaking the same thing over and over again. 

Guy Bauer: I'll close this out. I'll do it. All right. So, Uh, Hey, we appreciate you listening to this episode. If you have questions or complaints, you can direct them to Hope at hello at Umault dot com or reach out to U M A U L t.com.

We're also on all the socials but our biggest presence is on LinkedIn, I would say. So join us on LinkedIn and join the conversation. All right. And that was it. Thank you. Hope 

Hope Morley: Thank you Guy. And thank you listeners for listening today. 

Guy Bauer: All right now on to Q. 

Hope Morley: No.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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