14 March 2016 Video inspiration

What 7 Godawful Videos Teach Us About Corporate Video Production

Fred and Sharon show us how not to make a corporate video.There's a reason why training videos show you examples of terrible customer service.

Why online guides give you long lists of DON'Ts.

And why your mother taught you right from wrong by focusing an awful lot on the wrong ("don't lie", "don't steal" and "don't pull up my petunias").

It's because discovering what not to do is a great way to learn how to do something right.

That's why I decided to create this list of the worst corporate videos I could find on the Internet.

Yes, I trawled the web for the most slap-dash, unfortunate and just plain sad examples of corporate video production gone horribly wrong. It took me hours of pain and woe, but I did it.


So we could all learn from these videos, make our own videos better as a result, and spread the word so that none of these terrible sins are ever committed in the medium again.

May God have mercy on our souls, and let's dive in.

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1. Surprisingly Endearing Car Rentals

What Went Wrong?

Where do we start?

The gong noises, the awkward silences, the title at the beginning reading "WARNING: No actors were used in this video" which initially seems to make no sense but becomes painfully clear the longer the video goes on for?

All of these are bad. But the real pain in this promotional video is that it got so close to being alright.

There at least seemed to be a creative concept behind this video: use all the outtakes. Ever.

"We'll sound boring if we just say some dull spiel about the business. Let's forgo that, or even practicing our lines at all, by just filming a ton of outtakes and using those! Everyone loves outtakes!"

It's simply a disconnect between what the people filming the video found funny and what the audience cares about (it's probably not you fluffing your lines 3 times in a row).

But I have to be honest. I sort of like this video. It's got a lot of innocent charm to it. Yes, the green screen work is terrible, the editing is amateur, and they couldn't even find a clapperboard as a prop so resorted to using a cheap piece of clip art from MS Word.

But they did manage to get a few important points about the business across, in between all the outtakes. And they definitely succeeded at expressing the culture of the company and the personality of its employees.

Depending on the type of audience they want to encourage to come and rent their cars, this video could have served its purpose okay.

What Can We Learn?

Always remember that you're making your corporate video for your audience  not for yourself.

I don't care how outrageously funny you think that outtake is. If it doesn't serve the purpose of your video or appeal to your target audience in some way, it's not going in.

But this doesn't just mean you have to give your audience what they want logically. You have to give them what they want emotionally too.

See, logically Scotties' audience most likely wants to know that the type of car they want is available and that it gets serviced regularly to a great standard.

But they also want to feel a certain way emotionally before they will decide to rent a car. They want to feel cared for and looked after. They want to feel like they're in good hands and that they have nothing to worry about.

Your video has to do both: make your audience think a certain way, but also feel a certain way. It's the logical and emotional sides of your video content will make it successful, and ultimately encourage your audience to take the action you want them to take.


2. Agency or Brothel?

What Went Wrong?

Okay, I get it. Everybody wants their team to look cool and sexy in their recruitment film. But this is just... well, it's unclear from the video whether you're being convinced to apply for a job or visit a prostitute.

I think this is a classic example of an idea that sounds funny or cheeky in theory but turns out to be a train wreck in execution.

"Let's pretend to be super cheesy-sexy at our desks and get across how fun-loving and different we are!"

(Or maybe that really is how they act at work. I don't know.)

That's not to say this idea couldn't have worked. But there clearly wasn't enough love, care or time put into figuring out a winning execution to accompany it.

Instead, the filming looks rushed, the quality is poor and overall it just makes me think worse of this company.

Granted, I can't tell what the employees in the video are saying. Maybe they address some of these problems or add a different tone to the whole thing. Nor am I their intended target audience.

However, until I can find a Dutch translator my judgement remains.

What Can We Learn?

Remember that a great video is made up of 3 things:

  • an insight into your target audience
  • an idea, or concept behind your video, based on that insight
  • an execution of that idea (the creative approach of your video)

And all 3 of these have to be thought through for your video content to be a success.

Don't iron out an amazing execution without first laying the foundations with a solid insight and idea. And don't think you can come up with a great idea and then leave the execution to itself and hope it all works out (which is what happened in this case).

Also, never forget that a video is a representation of your brand and identity.

It will become part of your reputation. No, that doesn't mean videos all need to be super serious (if that fits with your tone of voice, audience, and the message you're trying to get across), but it does mean you have to think ahead when making them.

Whatever you create will be a reflection of yourself. Deep.


3. Oh Crappy Day

What Went Wrong?

I don't envy anyone who has been forced to sit through all 4 minutes of this disaster at an Ernst & Young recruitment day.

It's like everything in this video has been made to annoy the viewer:

  • The downright odd square aspect ratio of the film placed slap-bang in a wider video with the Ernst & Young banner running across the bottom of it.
  • The black-and-white cuts to "fly-on-the-wall" documentary-style shots of employees looking super happy at work.
  • The length.
  • The frankly painful lyrics, which cram 'Ernst and Young' into a gospel song (questionable?).

And it's not just the fact that everybody involved in this video seems to be having a thoroughly mediocre time (except from the heroically enthusiastic singer) which is the most annoying thing.

It's that it's unclear what one is supposed to take away from the video.

We can only assume the message is "Ernst and Young is a cool and awesome place to work", but the fact that these members of staff have been corralled into performing this literal song and dance against their will dampens the message somewhat.

What Can We Learn?

You've always got to be clear in the purpose of your video content, and thereby what your message to your audience is going to be.

Don't just think "we need to make a video for this recruitment event we're holding". Consider what you tangibly want to achieve with your video content. For example, do you want X number of new applicants to apply for your graduate scheme?

From there, your objective for your video should help you come up with your message.

But make sure it's based on your audience and has had enough thought put behind it. What will be interesting, useful, and fun for them? In this case, the message seems to be the rather flimsy "it's great to work here!" which isn't really backed up by anything else in the video.

Basically, you need to connect all parts of your video content and make sure they all make sense together as a cohesive whole.


4. Service is Selling, The Musical

What Went Wrong?

I can only assume this is what happens in every quiet Canadian shop on long Wednesday afternoons.

This video is sweet, enthusiastic, and generally inoffensive (check out the hilarious moment from 1:32 when "sell" is rhymed with "heck").

But I'm not sure it works in its intended role of training video. First of all, although the chorus "service is selling" is repeated enough times, it's never really clear what that means exactly or how salespeople are supposed to act as a result — apart from, you know, politely engaging with customers.

It also doesn't help that the whole thing is so funny it's hard to concentrate on the message.

(Although it definitely succeeds at being engaging, in the same way it's difficult to look away from a car crash.)

Of course, we're not seeing this video in context. It may well have been made to help stimulate further conversation about what makes a good salesperson or how to provide additional value to the customer. I can't believe I just said that about this video, but it's true.

Either way, it's hard to judge the merit of "Service is Selling: A Musical Training Video" without knowing exactly how it would be used.

All I know is that if I watched this as part of training, I would be too incapacitated with laughter to learn anything much of use.

What Can We Learn?

Focus on what you want your audience to take away from watching your video.

If you don't get that across, no matter how funny or memorable your video may be, there's no way you're going to achieve your ultimate goal.

You need to express your message clearly, although there are many different ways to achieve that, whether direct or subtle. All of this should be smoothed out in the creative concept behind your video before you start filming.

Also, keep in mind how and where your video content will be watched and used. That can have a big impact on what the final product needs to include, how long it needs to be and what it should look like.


5. An Absolute Catastrophe

What Went Wrong?

Ouch... this one is painful.

Start with an abysmal script, add some terrible actors and poor editing into the mix, and you end up with this abomination.

Apart from all that, I think in another life this video could actually do a good job of explaining the service it's trying to explain.

After watching it I'm pretty clear on what it was promoting, although I wish I could get my 75 seconds back and lose this urge to punch something.

So what's the problem here? Again, I think the real culprit is bad execution. If the script had been looked at before filming began, new actors hired and the editing tightened up, maybe this video could have been saved.

But in terms of the idea behind the video content, it's not terrible. A bit cheesy and clichéd, but I think a good execution could have made it work.

Just imagine how a snappy Apple video would have got the same point across in about 30 seconds in a funny, charming way and you can start to see the potential of the idea.

What Can We Learn?

If your video content rests on the convincing performances of actors, please please please hire good ones.

In fact, you need to pay attention to all aspects of the execution of your video, because everything adds up to make the final product.

Don't have enough experience or expertise to successfully execute your video yourself (as may well have happened here)? Then pass the job onto somebody else who does. You won't regret it.

Basically, don't skimp on the end stage of video production. Just because you have a great idea doesn't mean your video is in the clear.


6. This Soulless Cortana Ad

What Went Wrong?

This is an interesting example. On the surface, it appears to be a slick, smooth, well-shot and well-made little advert.

However, dig just a little deeper, and you'll find under the surface... not very much.

This short video from Microsoft is totally devoid of any personality, as safe as safe can be, and was almost certainly designed by committee.

It's a case of what I like to call all style and no substance.

I assume that the aim of the video is to increase awareness of Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant AI (their own version of Siri), and educate their target audience about a few ways that Cortana can help make their lives easier.

Based on the fact that pop group Clean Bandit is featured in the video, I'm going to go ahead and assume that Microsoft's audience here is young adults between 18 and 30.

However, the video has attracted quite a lot of ire from that very target audience. Here's a standard Tweet in response to it:

I think this happened because the video is so sterile, so careful and clearly set up. It isn't funny, it isn't charming, and it sort of makes you want to kick everybody involved in the shins. Which are all things that the target audience for this video hate (and most people in general).

What Can We Learn?

Your target audience call the shots on everything. Every decision you make about your video should be made for them. After all, they're the ones who have to watch the thing.

Make sure you know your audience inside and out, so you can appeal to them — in this case Microsoft assumed that their audience would enjoy a humorous ad featuring a popular new band, but didn't consider how the corporate and fake feel of the video could turn their audience against them.

And for goodness' sake, don't be afraid to inject a bit of real personality in your videos.

Otherwise you'll come off as bland and uninteresting as poor Cortana here.


7. Fred and Sharon's Movies

This video is so bad that initially I was convinced it was a hoax.

That is, until I did some digging and found out that Fred and Sharon are real, honest-to-goodness Canadian people who spend their time making these atrocious videos.

Not an attempt at a viral sensation. Not the feverish imagining of a couple of comic actors. Just two people trying to promote their business.

There's nothing to learn from this video. Just watch, enjoy, and never ever make anything like it.


How Do I Make Sure I Don't Screw Up?

Well, you have a desire to do better than the examples you've just seen. That's a great start.

The thing is, the corporate video production process is actually pretty straightforward once you get to know it.

Basically, you need to put some proper thought and planning in place before you dive headfirst into video.

That includes thinking about basics like:

  • Your objective
  • Your target audience
  • Your core message
  • Your creative approach

If you do that, you'll be ahead of 90% of corporate videos out there. The videos we've just seen prove it.

Where to get started? Download our Checklist to the Corporate Video Production Process for 9 key steps to allow you to stand out from the competition.

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Lydia Cockerham

Written by Lydia Cockerham

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