Earlier this year an attorney based in Savannah, Georgia produced what has to rank as one of the most cost effective commercials of all time. Originally broadcast on his local TV station during the Superbowl, Jamie Casino's ad went viral overnight and became a global sensation. It's easy to see why.
Mass communication was once the preserve of a privileged elite, but now anyone with a camera and a computer can become a broadcaster and reach a potential audience of billions. I've previously written about how technology is levelling the playing field and enabling high quality productions to be delivered on much lower budgets. Businesses, educational establishments, and public bodies are quickly waking up to the possibilities of video.
My company recently completed production on a short information film for the Eureka! Moment Scheme, which offers free advice and grants to businesses in the Midlands. The Eureka! Moment team had been looking for a way to communicate key information simply and quickly to businesses that weren't able to attend one of their many road shows, and video presented itself as the obvious solution. The film doesn't have the dramatic impact of Jamie Casino's commercial, but it gets the message across and has helped streamline the process for the Eureka! Moment, saving money and increasing the team's effectiveness.
Organisations aren't the only ones to see the potential of becoming video producers and broadcasters. High profile individuals are increasingly reaching out to audiences directly. Russell Brand has chosen to share his political views and thoughts with fans directly on YouTube. Without network oversight, he can ensure his message is communicated in his own words. Not even the most powerful talk show hosts have ever had complete license to air their unadulterated views.
The spread of video isn't limited to commercials and information films. Narrative filmmaking is the order of the day for many individuals and corporations. This isn't just a fad driven by marketing executives keen to fulfil a secret desire to become Hollywood producers. It's being driven by the fact that it's increasingly difficult to be heard above the sheer volume of video content being produced every day. With 100 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day, it's easy to see why people are looking for a competitive edge. For decades Hollywood has successfully convinced audiences to pay to watch its productions. People engage with good stories and good characters. They are willing to invest time and money to be entertained. Nike's short film, The Last Game, has been watched more than 70 million times on YouTube. It may not be the most sophisticated story, but it's engaging enough to have been widely shared.
The Last Game
If people engage with an online video, the reward isn't just time or money, it's advocacy. An engaged audience will market content, and if it strikes the right note, that content can reach millions of people overnight. Without an enthused audience, it can cost millions to market content. Hollywood studios will often spend as much, if not more, money marketing a movie than it cost to produce. The viral marketing that comes from genuine audience engagement can be worth a fortune.
In the pre-Internet days, it cost millions to buy a broadcasting licence, millions to build a network, millions to build and run a studio, millions to produce engaging content, and millions to market that content. Mass communication was strictly the preserve of the wealthy. Now all we need is a great idea and the money to realise that idea to a good standard. That budget can be in the thousands, a far cry from the many millions it once took to reach a mass audience. A great example of cost effective filmmaking is the video for Iamamiwhoami's T. Some silver foil, milk, great scenery, nice camerawork, and an engaging performer. The video has been watched well over a million times.
The ability to freely produce videos for a global audience is a relatively recent phenomenon and it's going to be exciting to see where we go from here. It's impossible to say whether the proliferation of content and the migration to online, on-demand viewing will ultimately lead to the demise or radical restructuring of conventional broadcasters. They have built their business models on sending programming out at a certain time and are constrained by national boundaries, which may increasingly prove to be a hindrance in a globally connected world. Whatever happens next, we can all have a lot of fun trying to reach the largest possible audience. One thing I can say for certain; if I ever need a Georgia attorney, I'm going to sledgehammer-wielding Jamie Casino.