Branded video trends 2018: content and strategy

Steven Croston, Phil Blundell, Tereza Urbankova, Toby Low, Andrew Smith and Martin McKean share their thoughts on this year's innovations


Branded video trends develop at terrifying speed. Brands, governments and charities have been early adopters of moving image technology ever since film was invented, never more so than now. That envelope will keep getting pushed.

So what do industry leaders think we should look out for in 2018? How will creative film and tech blend?

We put together a panel of 12 wise people: in-house communicators, agency heads and tech specialists to cover as many bases as possible. To our relief, no-one backed VR.

The focus here is on content and strategy. Part 2 emphasises tech and data, and our industry coverage tracks more trends.

A health warning

Steven Croston, Head of Visual Media, BPSteven Croston

The era of the self-writing, self-shooting, self-editing, -composing, -grading, -animating director is upon us. With the technical quality of digital production being so high, ostensibly from a single laptop, there’s an opportunity commission vast quantities of nice-looking production at a fraction of its historic cost. But there’s a health warning. What looks like it should have cost £100k to shoot and grade but lacks the skilled and long-experienced editorial input of an experienced film-maker is unlikely to affect one’s audience with any degree of sophistication. There is a balance to be struck for production companies: editorial prowess and faultless production management combined with cost-effective production and post with no loss in production value at a competitive price. Perfectly achievable.

Clients often perceive precious little difference between user-generated content and professional production. Indeed, the messaging captured in UGC is often more pithy and authentic than what can become over-sanitized ‘corporate’ commissions. Ignore UGC at your peril. Production companies who offer clients simple, effective (and cheap) processes for presenting their UGC in its best light will flourish.

Less time is more

Phil Blundell, Executive Director, The Edge

Phil BlundellThe ability to emotionally engage viewers via the power of moving images is undisputed. However 2018 will see one trend continue to shape its effectiveness. Time. Or rather the lack of it.

In today’s online world, there is a voracious appetite for moving image content. The sheer volume and diversity of content available via streaming channels and social media is infinite, meaning time is now a rapidly shrinking commodity for your target audience. Realistically this gives you just one shot at telling your story. So cleverly grab their attention from the very first frame, then limit your story to just 60 seconds.

Do this and you will join the growing trend of brands, governments, charities and news organisations doing exactly this. Time. Less is more.

Branded video will be front and centre

Tereza Urbankova, Head of Communications, Amec Foster Wheeler

Tereza UrbankovaIn 2018 we may see more videos used on companies’ website homepages to introduce a brand, which is an excellent way to establish that initial relationship with all types of audiences. Explaining what a company does in a creative, compelling way leads to clear understanding of the personality of the brand and that may ultimately result in higher conversion rates, better targeted recruitment and improved awareness. We may also see more background videos on websites (see an example here); this approach can also have a profound impact, evoking a certain mood and defining the viewers’ impression of the brand the moment they enter the website.

Make it regular

Toby Low, Partner & Managing Director, MerchantCantos

Toby LowWe are seeing clients looking for cost effective ways to undertake regular video communications. This is probably nothing new – but the client voice is getting louder.

The other thing we see all the time is clients looking for us to help them get their video content in front of the right audience. If no one is seeing your films then the ROI is pretty low! Clients are savvy as well – just showing them big audience numbers is not enough. They want to see their target audience getting the message. If you can’t help them with that then you start to look a bit old-fashioned.

Rise above the swamp

Andrew Smith, Creative Director, A-Vision

Andrew SmithToo much marketing appears to want to try the new rather than invest in a good idea. With video, particularly in the corporate sector, a similarity of look and approach has developed. This manifests itself in a heavy use of stock video and low fi After Effects animations / infographics. In 2016/17 a lot of clients invested in this kind of execution, effectively investing in a swamp of brand messaging that looked awfully similar.

The more discerning clients in 2018 will actively find approaches that do not look the same and stand proud of that swamp. It will be a quick win for many corporate who realise this. Branded video will be a dominant trend for many years to come, so it’s all about getting it right.

Budgets need to be sustainable

Martin McKean, Filmmaker, Writer & Creative Director

Martin McKeanBudgets are being squeezed so production companies are pressuring freelancers to drop their rates. While this might help them retain their margin in the short term, it’s not sustainable.

More and cheaper films with faster turnarounds. While fewer £80k – £150k films are being commissioned, the number of £15k – £30k films is going crazy because clients need content to fill lots of different channels.

In a world awash with content, the ability to tell compelling stories that cut through the noise is more important than ever.

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