Video Will Not Render SEO Obsolete, But Will Change The Way We Do It

In The Beginning There Was Marketing
Anyone in business who has any interest in using the Web to further his or her business is well aware of “search engine optimization.” Not a day goes by that my email in-box isn’t loaded with information on how to get the best search engine results, and not a week goes by that a client or potential client doesn’t request that their website be not just search friendly but search engine fanatical.

For some time we have been preaching the importance of delivering the marketing message and that your message should not be corrupted or distorted by techniques aimed at attracting search engine robots while driving away real people who may actually be potential customers.

Now I realize that in many circles this attitude is considered outright heresy, but hopefully there are a few marketing types around that understand websites have to deliver more than miscellaneous random eyeballs; websites have to deliver a message that is memorable, understandable, useable, and if you’re really good at your job, information that can be incorporated into your audiences’ belief system.

With that in mind we were pleasantly surprised when Google the primary target of this SEO obsessive compulsive frenzy of technical slight-of-hand announced that they were instituting Google Video Ads and to add a little icing on the cake, they purchased YouTube adding to their already considerable investment in Google Video. Somebody at the big “G” thinks video is a viable Web-medium even if the purveyors of search engine fool’s gold would have you believe otherwise.

The list of companies, including Forbes, Amazon, Wyeth, and Ford, delivering Web-audio and Web-video grows daily and we are not just talking about major corporations. Small companies are using multimedia to get the edge on their larger competitors who still have their heads buried in the search engine optimization sand.

Acknowledging All The Issues

In developing our campaign to promote the use of Web-audio and Web-video as an effective method of delivering marketing messages over the Web, we identified four key issues that would have to be addressed:

(a) We had to demonstrate that website design was about delivering the marketing message and not just search engine optimization.

(b) We had to demonstrate that even small and medium-sized companies could afford professional Web-audio and Web-video and that it wasn’t cost prohibitive.

(c) We had to demonstrate that professional Web-audio and Web-video required more than just the ability to use a video camera and that professional multimedia story-telling required a unique set of creative skills and technical ability not often found in-house in most businesses.

(d) We had to demonstrate that the development and production of creative multimedia marketing and professional webmedia content had to do with talent and experience, not size. These were the challenges that informed all our subsequent decisions.

The Concept

In order to make people pay attention to what we had to say we needed a concept that was both familiar and edgy. Sure we were sticking a finger in the eye of all the search engine optimizers but you can’t be afraid to make a strong statement if you want people to sit-up and take notice, especially if you are fighting a tidal wave of misconception.

The fact that we were telling people that delivering your marketing message on the Web using multimedia was more important than search engine optimization was enough to make what we were doing controversial, but we also needed a vehicle that allowed us to present the opposing point of view. What we needed was a recognizable style that demonstrated our ability to deliver a memorable, comprehensible, useable, belief-altering message in the medium we were promoting.

Since we primarily use Macintosh computers for all our work and only use PCs to check for compatibility, we thought we would pay homage to the brilliant Mac commercials running on television. The format worked for us because it allowed us to create two characters of our own that would present opposing points of view over a series of videos that would comprise the campaign. We knew that some people would react unfavorably to our using such a familiar format but we figured it would demonstrate how even small but talented production companies can deliver high quality multimedia Web-based marketing on tight budgets.

A Market Primed and Ready

Our efforts in advocating the power of using the human voice and image to deliver marketing stories over the Web was finally getting through to companies who were fed-up with the cost and ineffectiveness of continually chasing the holy grail of search engine optimization. Company presidents and marketing managers were starting to listen, starting to realize there was another way. This campaign was aimed at pushing these business executives to act on what they already knew: good marketing is about delivering the message, not keyword density.

Preproduction, Production, and Post Production

We wanted to make sure we had a distinctive sound by composing our own signature theme music and creating our own cast of characters with a distinctive message promoting the concept of multimedia. In fact these planned web-commercials really don’t sell anything, all they do is make people aware that search engine optimization is not the only thing they should be thinking about when they are developing a website or webmedia campaign. In short, the medium was the message.

The use of Web-audio and Web-video is the best way to implement this kind of marketing presentation. We sat down and started to write and before we knew it we had eighteen scripts each featuring a different issue in the search engine optimization versus multimedia controversy.

The next step was finding the right actors to play the part. Whereas Web-audio allows us to draw upon a vast number of voice talents across North American, video is much more limiting, especially if we wanted to keep the cost down to a reasonable amount. Even if we were prepared to blow the budget on actors, we knew our clients wouldn’t, so it was important to demonstrate that we could get the job cast at a sensible cost. The casting proved to be an interesting exercise of frustration and humor. We had all types of applicants ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous to the outright bizarre, but ultimately we were able to find two fine young actors who understood exactly what we were doing and who took to the parts as if they were written specifically for them.

One of our greatest assets as a firm is that we do everything from concept to implementation, including writing, videoing, editing, graphic, motion, and website design; but if you want to produce a campaign at a sensible price you still have to be careful you don’t write overly elaborate scripts that require multiple sets, locations or hard to acquire props. That said we still had to find a cute dog we could trust on set, links of various kinds of sausages, a hard to put together toy, and best of all a real straightjacket from an interesting website that specialized in rather strange items of clothing.

The shoot itself went extremely smoothly and we ended up shooting all eighteen videos in less than two days. We assumed some of the videos that looked good on paper just wouldn’t translate to the screen, but to our surprise every one of the scripts worked. We knew what we wanted to say and weren’t afraid to say it, even though we were flying in the face of conventional wisdom.

While Josh Bader our Director of Photography was digitizing, color correcting and editing the raw footage, Simon Bader our Director of Audio composed a number of theme music compositions to choose from for our signature sound. Once all the pieces were put together into a series of finished videos, we were ready to implement the campaign.

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