Nat Wilson

Nat Wilson

I want to write a bit about how content and presentation work together and when informed by an understanding of your audience can lead to the creation of an engaging promotional film.

Often content and presentation get intertwined and I think it's worthwhile to take a minute to extract the two.

The content of a film is what is being said - e.g. 'here's our amazing product, and here's why'.

The presentation is how it's said. By 'how' we mean everything about the look of the film - the style of script, how the film is cut, what the background looks like, whether the contributor is looking down the lens or at an interviewer, what the contributor is saying, whether there is music, etc, etc.

An effective promotional film combines both good content and good presentation in a cohesive film that your audience are engaged by. But what is 'good' content and what is 'good' presentation? Well, it's subjective, and it's defined by the third and most important part of the equation - the audience.

The audience for the film will either be receptive, or not, to your content. Unless your audience are receptive to your content, they'll never be engaged by your film. For example your film is selling a car - if your audience is a collection of people who have just bought a car, or maybe people who don't have a driving licence then they're never going to be receptive to the content and engaged by your film, no matter how on target your presentation is.

Let's say that your audience is a group of people who are in the market for buying a car. This is good - we've got past first base - we have an audience who are receptive to your content. Now we need to ensure that the message of your film is conveyed most effectively, this is where the presentation comes in.

What demographic is our target audience of potential car buyers? Let's say that it's younger people looking for their first car. OK, so the approach might be to major on the look of the car and it's entertainment credentials.

As a result the message of our film might be 'buy our car because it looks amazing, it's got a fantastic stereo, it's got Bluetooth connectivity and it'll earn you respect from your friends'. Now we know what the audience and the message is, lets think about the presentation that might best convey this content to this audience.

The answer is again subjective, but one approach could be based on the fact that the audience are likely the 'YouTube' generation. The people they follow and find cool are YouTube stars, the films that they like are often dynamic with fast cutting. There is an edginess to the films that they like which has it's roots in low budget amateur production but which has been adopted as a metaphor for 'new, stylish, refreshing, non-conforming'. The content of the film should primarily be the car - it's dynamic in itself and it needs to be seen to be stylish. The palette for the film uses bright primary contrasting colours. The audience likely won't hold an interest in the film for more than 2 minutes, and that's OK, because we can say what we need to in this time.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of how this film might shape up, but I'm not going to go too far down the road of defining what the presentation should/could be because I think it's more enlightening to explore what it should not be. 

I think we can safely say that we don't want the film's presentation to feature a static camera position and a person talking to camera, with fewer shots of the car itself, an edit which features no fast cutting or dynamic shots, and a conservative colour palette made of blues and greys. If the film had this presentation then the film's message would never get through, it wouldn't be believable, the audience would turn off.

But ..... if the film's audience were fleet buyers, then the content might be about the reliability, the safety features of the car, and the cost of servicing, and in that scenario the conservative presentation defined above could work well.

What does this all mean? 

STEP 1: Audience defines Content

STEP 2: Audience + Content defines Presentation

Firstly think about what content your audience are receptive to and define your message accordingly. Secondly think about what presentation your audience are receptive to and use an appropriate style that your audience with find engaging and that will be in keeping with the content of your film.

Here's another quick example of how audience informs content and presentation: We're often asked how long a promotional film should be. Our standard answer is that 2 minutes is around the maximum before people start to loose interest. Whilst this is absolutely the case, think about what is at stake for the audience of the film. If the product you're selling is a new ball point pen targeted at a broad audience of potential buyers then maybe there isn't much at stake for each potential customer - keep the duration to 2 minutes. Maybe however your film is pitching to sell 2 million ball point pens to a single retailer.  In this scenario a lot more is at stake - potentially the career of the viewer if they make a bad decision.

When the stakes are high you can afford to make a longer film - your audience will still be engaged.