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"If it were up to me, I wouldn't have a meter."

— M.L., Toronto, Canada

Tools AND Talent

Despite the fact that word processors are ubiquitous and make it easy to write and edit, they don’t magically transform “users” into Ernest Hemingway. Being a great writer takes talent, practice, diligence, an unusual ability to observe and discern what language will be interesting to readers, and—if you are lucky—an excellent editor.

At a recent meeting with some of the best utility marketing execs in the industry, the discussion turned to the use of video. One person for whom I have tremendous respect commented how incredibly affordable video is now, naming an extremely low figure. I tried to suggest to my assembled colleagues that there is a big difference between user-generated content using a cell phone video app and a Hollywood movie. The former may have an important role to play in customer engagement, but there is value in having professional directors, editors, lighting and sound specialists, and writers who understand the content.

Good production values add to the viewer’s enjoyment of a video and while rough or raw capture techniques can be used creatively (think “Blair Witch Project”), it takes skill and knowledge to craft a compelling story—especially when the subject matter can be perceived as boring to the target audience.

Your local wedding videographer may have a great eye and a good camera but without sufficient content knowledge, it’s difficult to draw out the best succinct quotes from subjects (especially non-actors) during interviews and assemble clips together in a way that both feels authentic and tells a compelling story.

It’s easy to capture people’s attention with a cute puppy even if the sound, lighting, camera work are poor and there is no narrative thread. It takes a lot more skill to interest the average person in something they usually ignore.

Here are a few of my personal favorites from big ad agencies. They may not be cheap but they are very funny:

Digs
This piece by Schematic for Reliant Energy won the 2012 Griddie Award from the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid.

All Powerful
This series of ads from the Atkins Agency for CPS Energy (a muni from San Antonio, TX) are worth watching.

Ridiculous Waste
DDB Canada was the agency for BC Hydro’s PowerSmart campaign

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