Our Thoughts…

20 things you should never say to a video company.

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So you want to make a video. You’ve realized you can’t do it yourself. You hit Google and you find yourself a video production company. No matter who they are, you can guarantee they’ve seen and heard it all — so they’re used to dealing with some crazy requests. But there are some things you should just rethink before you say.

1. “You can just fix it in post, right?”

2. “Whatever you want is fine.”

3. “I have this Bitmap image, can you blow it up?”

4. “We need to film our CEO… but they don’t want to be on camera.”

5. “What can you do for $500 that is amazing?”

6. “What is your hourly fee to shoot?”

7. “My boss just asked me to get a quick quote to shoot a corporate video. Can you send that to me today?”

8. “I have an old VHS. How much to convert it to HD?”

9. “We just need you to film it. We’ll have one of our students edit it for us.”

10. “I don’t understand, it’s a five-minute video. How can it take a whole day?”

11. “How much to make us look like our competitor?”

12. “Come back to me with your pitch.”

13. “Can’t you just show up and see what happens?”

14. “It’s totally cool, I have a friend who knows somebody there and they won’t mind us filming.”

15. “The cops are totally cool with you filming there.”

16. “Can you just climb up that little scaffolding thing there and grab a quick shot of this?”

17. “So I just found out we have this amazing opportunity to capture footage for our project. The thing is tomorrow night. In Sudbury.”

18. “Do you do weddings?”

19. “I’m just not feeling it.”

20. “The imagery doesn’t have the right essence.”

Throwback Thursday: Vintage dating films

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Dating in the 50s: so complicated, you needed a film to show you how.

There is one thing old films about life as a teenager in the mid-20th century can teach us: teenagers have always been really complicated.

They say kids don’t come with an instruction manual. And by the time the hormones kick in, well, obviously parents need a little bit of extra support. And before the days when you could just toss a DS in their hands and hope for the best, there were actual instructional films to help teens get through those trying times so you didn’t have to look up from your newspaper and your secretly-boozed-up coffee.

Wait, what?

Anyway, this film is far too long for teenagers to pay attention to in the year 2014 (thanks, Vine), but here’s a summary: Woody wants to ask a girl out to a carnival. He wants to ask the right girl and then treat her nicely. He’s not sure if he should kiss her good night or not. A couple of times, this movie gets all Butterfly Effect-like and ponders what would happen if Woody goes down the wrong road.

The ridiculous simplicity of this video’s advice aside, the video is just a little refreshing when you think about it.

No, this isn’t a rant about kids these days wearing their pants too low and their Tumblrgrams and their hashbooks. But this is about an emphasis on respect and formality has been lost to the ages. There are some lessons in this film that may seem old-fashioned but are actually quite useful today: Not acting entitled to a date with someone, asking politely, showing respect to someone’s parents by getting them in by curfew, not just going in for a kiss at the end of the date (or just up and leaving — though that was actually kind of hilarious).

No, dating today looks more like this. How cringe-worthy.

Even for those of us whose first dates were in the 70s, 80s, 90s or 2000s, that first date was probably a nerve-wracking but exciting time. Even if we worried about different things on our first dates, we’ve all been down that scary road. On one hand, we never got an instructional film to help us know what to do. But on another hand, we never had to sit through an instructional film telling us what to do.

Side-note: Ann really, really likes cotton candy.

2014 Sunwing Vacations Campaign: Minimal concept, maximum feeling

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Sunwing Vacations' newest ad was a purely joyful experience for us to shoot.

Delivering on a brand promise doesn’t have to be rocket science.

When we were brought on to work with Sunwing Vacations for their 2014 broadcast commercial campaign, we all agreed that to create the most effective spots possible, we had to be focused — nothing crazy, no high-concept approaches, simply tight spots that are on-message and full of energy.

But of course, on-message doesn’t mean boring. We were thrilled with the opportunity to shoot this project on location at the luxurious, 5-star Royalton Punta Cana Resort in the Dominican Republic, available exclusively from Sunwing. Having the sun, sand and a whole 5-star resort at our fingertips already gave us the makings of a vibrant and exciting spot.

On set with Sunwing — not a bad place to be!

Commercials about vacations can sometimes come across as trying too hard — dream sequences, huge contrasts (Hey there! Your boring, desaturated life could sure use a tropical getaway!), long lead-ups. Working with Sunwing, we agreed that a straight up, direct approach focusing on their key differentiators would be best: a bright, energetic, fun vacation – something that memories are made of.

We like that as a campaign we didn’t get overly philosophical. That’s not to say that throughout the production we were not intentional about each creative decision; we spent hours and countless conversations working through each detail of each shot. Rather, we focused more on the experiences we would capture and less on selling a high-concept.

Mark and Roland getting intense on set.

Because of this focus, we were able to produce a series of spots that clearly communicate Sunwing’s brand promise: value, service, energy, joy, fun, vibrancy and excitement. Overall, it’s about experiencing the difference Sunwing brings to travel and vacations.

Sometimes the occasion calls for a more nuanced or complex narrative and there’s nothing wrong with that. But other times, a message is best served when it’s delivered directly, with strength and conviction (it also helps that the campaign licensed a rocking soundtrack).

More photos from on set

Who said work can't be a great adventure?

Who said work can't be a great adventure?

Shooting in a tight space. Shooting in a tight space onboard.

It was hard to keep from smiling in this amazing location.
The joy of capturing a great take.

How to recover when you seriously offend people

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Nicki Minaj's new lyric video has contained not-so-thinly-veiled Nazi imagery.

If people thought American rapper Nicki Minaj’s video for “Anaconda” was shocking, polarizing and intentionally provocative, surely they didn’t know how to react when her new video for “Only.”

While “Anaconda” was full of booty (mostly-nude booty, to be exact) and overtly sexual movement, “Only” is full of Nazi imagery.

And it’s not subtle.

(Warning: Some may find the Nazi imagery in the video disturbing, and the language in the lyrics is definitely not suitable for work).

Nicki Minaj's new lyric video has shocked many with the imagery.

Though Nicki Minaj has offered something of an apology for the video, some of her fiercest defenders have been extremely critical of the video, and of Minaj herself for going along with such a concept.

There’s been some insightful and academic discussions on it, but for many, they don’t feel like taking the time to listen to such pontificating — Nicki Minaj used Nazi imagery, and not even in a condemning nature.

It can happen to anyone (not just famous people)

Often, peoples’ careers never bounce back from a major offense. For some, it’s not just their major creative projects, it’s what they say in their private lives. When Mel Gibson showed a pattern of anti-Semitism, racism and sexism in the mid-2000s, he went from being seen as a respected actor and director who happened to be a little conservative to, well, a sexist, racist anti-Semite with a fraction of the star power he once held.

Similarly, Michael Richards, better known as Kramer from Seinfeld, saw a personal downfall when he lashed out at two black audience members with a shockingly racist and violent rant. Though Richards was profusely apologetic, no one was exactly forgiving.

No one is immune from messing up this way. Whether it’s by saying something that comes out the wrong way, or a taboo belief one holds that is exposed, a single line can shake up your social life and career.

It can range from small things — like telling a joke around the Kureg machine that crosses a line — to big things — like launching an ad campaign that ends up offending a marginalized community, even by accident (see: JC Penny’s “Hitler teapot”).

It should be simple to avoid — just think before you speak (or write). Will this offend someone? Will this hurt someone? Is there any possible way this could be taken the wrong way?

And just in case you didn’t think that, here’s how to best handle it.

Recovering from disaster

1) Offer a real apology. Apologize as soon as you are ready to. Don’t draw it out. And don’t put the blame on anyone else. “I’m sorry if people were offended” puts the onus on those who were offended, and everyone can see that. It’s basically saying, “I’m sorry YOU got offended.” Same goes with “I’m sorry you took it the wrong way.” “I’m sorry I said something that could be interpreted that way.” No, keep it simple and keep it about what you did. “I’m sorry about what I said.”

2) Promise to do better. Let your audience know that you still have a lot to learn (you do) and that you will do all you can to learn. Show that you have a plan to better yourself.

3) Reach out directly to the person or community you offended. Whether it means talking one-on-one to someone whom you offended around the office or it means bringing in a guest speaker to help your creative team know how the wrong things can have truly catastrophic repercussions, or even bringing more diverse voices onto your team, you need to face the issue head-on.

4) Show that you’ve learned something. This kind of thing can’t be conveyed in a Tweet, which is a huge problem these days — people are trying to make apologies through a series of 140-character statements instead of issuing an actual public statement. “I have [insert ethnicity here] friends and they said it was okay” seems like you’re trying to justify the act and are ignoring people of that group who didn’t think it was okay. Listen to the stories of people affected, and show that you’re trying to learn.

5) Move on, but don’t erase. Dwelling on the past is useless, but pretending it doesn’t exist is naïve. Focus on your new work, but if you’re asked about your unsavoury acts, fess up in a concise manner that shows you’re ready to move on.

Throwback Thursday: Coca-Cola’s classic Christmas commercials

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Coca Cola's association with Christmas is so ubiquitous, they actually designed our current Santa Claus.

There are two types of people in the world: those who sit in excitable anticipation awaiting the arrival of the first sign of Christmas, and those who don’t care.

This is not a blog post for the latter.

For some, the first sign of the festive season is the first snowflake to hit the ground. For some, the first sign is the arrival of the Sears Wishbook. With Halloween and Remembrance Day past, we can’t help but feel that there’s something a little Christmas-y in the air right now. (Maybe it’s the call for flurries here in Toronto).

For many, the start of the “holiday season” is when classic advertisements start to make their way to the airwaves. For years now, Coca-Cola is a brand that has been almost synonymous with Christmas. In fact, our current visual representation of Santa Claus is based off of an old Coca-Cola advertisement in which the illustrator used his own face for Santa.

Though Coke’s attention has shifted in the past decade to their beloved Polar Bear ads, this ad from the 90s has a bit of magic that humans can actually relate to.

Of course, as with a lot of nostalgia, sometimes when you no longer view something through the lens of childhood naivety, you find yourself scratching your head a little bit. But the wonderful thing about holiday advertisements is they bring out the child in you. This commercial seems totally magical within the context of Christmas, so much that you don’t even question any possible absurdity. A cold and dreary night simply springing to life as the Coca-Cola trucks rolled into town. What an event!

Even back when this commercial first aired, the idea was hoaky and overly sentimental. The days of people running out into the streets to watch something so mundane (especially soft drink trucks — “Hey everybody, it’s freezing outside, but rejoice! Our supply of refreshing, ice-cold Coca-Cola shall never run dry!”). It’s not a commercial that depicts life as it is but life as it should be, life as it was in the good ol’ days.

And that kind of schmaltz works at Christmas. At least, if you’re not a total Grinch.

Alex from Target and the epic failure to capitalize

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Alex from Target has been enjoying his overnight success.

Who is to blame (or to credit) for making “Alex from Target,” otherwise known as Alex Lee, @acl163/167 or #alexfromtarget famous?

Jury’s still out on exactly how organic Alex from Target’s rise to Internet fame was. But there’s a lesson to be learned from the meme, and it’s not from Alex himself — it’s from the start-up that tried desperately to insert itself into the narrative.

Wait, back up, who is this guy?

Alex from Target is Alex, from Target. He’s a good-looking teenage employee of the department store chain in Texas where someone took a photograph of him handsomely bagging household items – posting it on social media without his consent. It spread like wildfire, promoting young Alex Lee to meme superstardom along with legends such as Doge and the Bed Intruder guy. Lucky for whoever took the original snapshot, Alex doesn’t seem to mind.

Many of those who weren’t re-Tweeting, re-blogging or re-gramming Alex from Target’s photo to coo over his winning smile and perfect hair were still talking about Alex, about the absurdity of the Internet’s ability to make anyone famous based on no merits whatsoever (see: Banksy’s take). Even Target themselves, who have denied any involvement in the meme, have acknowledged it in a lighthearted manner.

Alex from Target is not particularly interesting as a person or as a meme — but then again, meme subjects rarely are. The fascinating thing about Alex from Target was the speculation surrounding the young Bieber-circa-2011 lookalike’s rise to fame. Organic? Orchestrated? Hybrid? And that’s when start-up influencer network Breakr tried to capitalize.

Where Breakr comes in

The day following the initial explosion, California-based “influence builder” startup Breakr decided to make the bold move of taking credit for the rise, claiming their move was an experiment to prove the power of the “fangirl” (we’re pretty sure they just mean teenage girls) demographic. They took to LinkedIn to brag about how they had a hand in orchestrating the whole thing. They claimed that the initial Tweet came from a Twitter user named Abbie (@auscalum), “one of [their] fangirls,” and “after spreading the word amongst [their] fangirl followers” (it’s not clear if they mean that they or Abbie are the ones who spread the word), they “added fuel to the fire” by spreading the word to bigger Youtube influences. Their end conclusion was that Breakr could build an individual’s following at an incredibly rapid rate.

Sound like BS? It most likely is, or at least a little massaged. Both Abbie and Alex themselves Tweeted that, like most of us, they have never even heard of Breakr before. Breakr later updated their LinkedIn to clarify that Abbie is not an employee, but a follower, who posted the photo at her own free will, and they simply decided to jump on the trend.

Lame.

So what have we learned from this?

So people know Breakr’s name now. Big deal. We don’t think this will translate into anything of significance for Breakr other than some eye rolls.

Their attempt to capitalize on a meme was not only poorly executed and transparent from the start, but in the end it just makes them look foolish.

Influence networking is still a young field with many skeptics out there who aren’t buying into the idea that a company can “create” an audience for you. And this did very little to help that.

While Alex from Target may have hit the Ellen Show last week, most people aren’t too bold in hypothesizing that he will be about as irrelevant as that kid who freaked out because his Mom cancelled his World of Warcraft account next week. You’d think Breakr would have taken that into account when trying to take credit for his meteoric rise.

Even if the experiment was simply to prove the power of the teen and tween girl audience, the whole thing seems futile. People already know that teenage girls rule the Internet — they made Justin Bieber famous (thanks for that one, teen girls). And Alex from Target may have been fun to watch rise, but he’s no Justin Bieber. Heck, he’s not even Grumpy Cat. There’s no staying power there.

Using seemingly authentic viral campaigns to boost your brand awareness is a pretty common practice right now, but you can’t just jump on something without thinking about it first — and that doesn’t just apply to those in the “network influencing” field.

Look at Di Giorno’s Twitter disaster in which they failed to know the context of the #WhyIStayed hashtag (to spread awareness about women who stay in abusive relationships amidst the Ray Rice scandal). Their explanation did little to satisfy those who saw it as making light of domestic abuse.

Remember always being told as a kid, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all?” Well, if you don’t have anything useful, intelligent or insightful to contribute to an online trend, just don’t say anything at all.

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