Des Paul
Des Paul 10 April 2014

Compelling Content Beats "Clever" Every Time

There are no rules on what makes content 'viral' or compelling enough for people to share. We are bombarded daily with new bits of content that have become massive youtube hits and they don't have a consistency in production, style or even appeal, it is a combination of factors that will drive growth, some of which are controllable but not all.

There are no rules on what makes content ’viral’ or compelling enough for people to share. We are bombarded daily with new bits of content that have become massive youtube hits and they don’t have a consistency in production, style or even appeal, it is a combination of factors that will drive growth, some of which are controllable but not all. 

If you are producing branded content and are hoping to achieve some significant numbers or engagement, then knowing your audience is imperative. That doesn’t mean making a film that appeals to everybody but at least tapping into a targeted area will help in every stage of the production process from concept to uploading the final file. 

Simple concepts that are well executed have more resonance – if it is complicated to the people who are creating it, then it will be much more of a challenge for audiences to buy into to it. 

We were recently awarded an IVCA Award for a film we made for Nissan, which has had nearly 2 million views, so this would be a good example to use on the subject of creating compelling content that viewers actually want to share.  Nissan produce high quality digital content all the time, and we wanted to deliver a film that showcased the 370Z Nismo, which is a limited edition car that nods to Nissan’s rich motorsport history. We brought in a long standing friend and colleague Iain May to work with us on the initial concepts. Iain is best known for his work as a Director of Photography on Top Gear and therefore immediately brings a wealth of experience in understanding how to shoot big, stunt based pieces. 

Our feeling was that digital content for a lot of manufacturers were either too much like a TV ad or in many cases a victim of overly complicated concepts, so we were looking for something that was easy to explain but would have impact. Iain had finished shooting a wingsuit film earlier in the year in the Alps which has some of the best driving roads you will ever see, and we drew up a simple race narrative from there. Our thinking at every stage of the process was about how or why people would watch this kind of film and we canvassed opinions internally and externally to get a handle on what people would find interesting about watching a car viral but also more importantly we wanted to get an idea of what would make them click away if the film appeared as a pre-roll.  Nissan Wingsuits was simply pitched as a man vs machine race in the Alps. We knew that the wingsuit flying alone is incredible to watch and the car/ race element would be an added thrill. 

Our background in commercial broadcast media led our creative thinking, and we tested different narrative options pre-shoot to see which direction was getting the best response.  In its simplest form we played YouTube clips of wingsuit flights to people who we knew didn’t know or care about extreme sports or cars to see what their reactions were, and everybody was blown away by watching a guy in an inflatable wing flying feet away from a cliff, so if we could present this in the right way, the viewers would hopefully watch it, watch it again and potentially share. 

The agency and Nissan greenlit the idea around a year ago and we then started to assemble the core production team led by producer Grant Wardrop and director Nigel Simpkiss, both of whom have a pedigree in automotive content with their features and commercials. 

When we recce’d the location and met the wing suit pilots we looked at performing the main jump from a cable car which had never been done before, and was a reference to the Bond film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ which had Bond on the same cable car. The thinking was that the whole film had a Bond quality to it and also filming something that hadn’t been done before would be a potential talking point.  We spent a sizeable amount of time watching wingsuit films, big hitting extreme sports and car videos on YouTube to form a view on what worked and what didn’t. Our agency client has a much deeper knowledge of the extreme sports world than us, but this wasn’t about making a niche film, it was about making an amazing film with wingsuits that would appeal to as many people as possible, and our conclusion was to move away from the POV camera led footage that seemed to be the norm. We found two of the best flyers in the business, one of whom is one of the best air to air cameraman I’ve ever seen and invested in cinema grade aerial camera setups, all because we wanted to blow the audience away with every shot. 

Our director Nigel was the single most important person in delivering all of this theory, against time, budget and weather pressures. It is down to his experience that we managed to capture everything we needed on the 3 day shoot in the Alps. It’s worth mentioning the wider team we had, each of whom had a major part in ensuring we were able to shoot without any incidents at all. We were confronting risk at the highest level with many aspects of this idea, not least the fact that wingsuit flying has a horrendous fatality record. 

I think that having a gut feel is important when thinking about how to reach audiences. When I worked in commercial radio and music television, we could have all the research in the world, but you knew when you heard a hit record or saw a video promo that would be massive, and it’s the same with digital content. Big pop records have always had a memorable hook, and for us the hook in this film would be the wingsuit footage combined with the breathtaking shots of the car. 

Throughout the edit process we were focused on audience impact and trimming the fat out of every shot, and it is amazing to think that we had footage that took over 3 days just to ingest into the system and reduced it to 120 seconds. The initial edit had the wingsuits flyers getting into the cable car and jumping out, but when we compared this against the shots from the helicopter of them at the top of a mountain on the edge, it had much more visual impact so we cut the cable car sequence out – which was a shame but overall our feeling was that we needed to focus on visual impact and keep the race element pure – the cable car was an unnecessary luxury. 

Music and sound design were added to lift the film and create the sense of suspense we were aiming for at the start. I’m always of the belief people are time-poor and have to be drawn in to watching content, and the first few seconds will make to break the viewing time, so the music score was important in doing this especially as we had an on-screen disclaimer for the initial few seconds.

The film was signed off and delivered to Nissan in September. Our preview feedback was very strong so we were confident that people would watch and hopefully share as we had tailored the edit to balance so it wasn’t too car focused, and showed wing suits in the most exhilarating way possible. The film has clocked up around 2 million views and become Nissan’s biggest piece of digital content in reach and vindicates our audience focus. 

To read more about the work of Want Some Media, visit:

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