NB: This is a guest article by Tamara Lohan, chief technology officer and founder of Mr and Mrs Smith.
Mr and Mrs Smith has spent the last six months creating high-quality online videos of our boutique hotels – 10 to start with, 790 to go.
Daunting, but we’ll get there.
We were determined to produce something more engaging and in tune with our values than the usual jerky video show-arounds, so we took a slightly different approach, including interviews with chefs, designers, owners and concierges, so we could offer both an informative, usable overview of the hotel to viewers and a personality-led insight into the machinery behind the scenes.
Done well, video can be the best online experience you can have – as long as the content you provide is rich, engaging and smoothly delivered.
For us, it was a great way to build on our brand credibility and enhance consumer trust, with the ultimate aim, of course, of driving conversion.
The advantages of having video content are pretty clear now, but there’s also the future to consider. One of the biggest advances in video is Smart/Connected TV, whereby video content is plucked straight from the internet to the set-top box.
All the big beasts (Samsung, LG, Google and others) are investing in this technology, and it makes sense to be prepared for the moment when you have the opportunity to send timely, seasonal, interesting and targeted video content directly into people's homes – without the middleman interference of a TV channel or the costs and limitations of a production company.
- Although costs are coming down, video is not cheap. You need to budget for:
- Hosting and streaming
- V/O actors (if using)
- Scripting (if outsourcing)
The quotes that came in from external companies were prohibitively expensive, so we did what we always do, and brought the whole project in-house.
Our editorial team produced the scripts, we hired a three-man crew – director, producer and cameraman – and sent them off to 10 of our London hotels – with a camera, a tripod and a trackway, all of which fitted into a small case.
Pre-production was a headache; most of the videos were planned without site visits because we already knew the hotels – or thought we did. In hindsight, it would have been better to visit first and make sure the rooms we could get access to were the right ones.
As it happened, we had a single day to film all of the footage we could possibly require at each hotel; we had to plan scripting to match the shoot; we had to make sure we could find the right personality to interview, and that they were available on the day.
Then, of course, there are guests checking in and out, maids cleaning, lobbies abuzz with staff and visitors – all of whom needed to be avoided or presented with a release form if they stray into shot.
Post-production brought its own hurdles. To ensure variety, we had to choose two voices, one female and one male, who would complement each other and give the right tone to both the hotel and the Smith brand – not an easy task.
Voiceovers are tricky to get right as they tend to elicit a stronger emotional reaction in viewers – if they react badly to the voice, they can react badly to the hotels that voice is describing. We found two husband-and-wife actors – a real-life Mr & Mrs Smith – who fit the bill.
We had to match and license the music: thanks to a partnership with Ninja Tunes, this wasn’t as hard as it could have been, but beware of licensing yourself – it can be a lengthy, convoluted process.
Then we were into editing: selecting shots, cuts, speeds and overlay graphics. If you haven’t logged each of your shots and don’t know exactly which room is which, this can be a real nightmare.
Ten things we wish we’d been told beforehand:
How to raise/make money
- Research every site you want to get your videos on.
- Shoot in HD.
- In the voice over, don’t mention years, months, etc – it’ll date rapidly.
- Make sure your script allows for natural speech rhythms – the more read-throughs, the better.
- Log everything you film so you can find things when you come to post-production.
- Create HTML5 versions for iPhones and iPads.
- Embed your branding on the videos so if others embed them they remain easily recognisable.
- Make sure you can share them easily.
- Set up a YouTube channel. You can personalise it – see the Smith YouTube Channel.
- Get them on Facebook.
- Find a sponsor and offer them something original. We partnered with Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum and decided that, rather than bunging on a pre-roll advert, we’d properly engage the brand and shoot each hotel bar’s mixologist shaking up a rum-based cocktail as an extra. The result is some engaging short films, which represent both Appleton Estate and Smith perfectly.
- Get the hotels to contribute – offer joint ownership of the videos with the hotels if they help towards the costs.
- Bring the production in-house – you have far more control over the end product (although perhaps a few more hiccups along the way) and you protect yourself against the endlessly spiralling costs of external providers.
- Run advertising on video pages – this can be done for you via an advertising agency or find an advertiser yourself.
- Share in revenues from content syndication.
And, of course, conversion should go up, and eventually video will have paid for itself. Smith’s videos have only just launched, so it’s early to tell whether they really do drive conversion. Time will tell…
NB: This is a guest article by Tamara Lohan, chief technology officer and founder of Mr & Mrs Smith.