This is a sneak peak of a case study written for a book. It unfolds the ragged garment of outsourced marketing video production.
If you read this, you will:
- Understand the philosophy of “Collaborative Compromise” – because video content creation is expensive, you need to find a way to reduce the cost
- See it applied it to a case study of a real client because that gives it meaning
- See seldom shared real numbers behind the videos
YouTube, Google and most digital platforms, reward quality video content.
Wild Pursuit collaborated with Justin Sandmann, to write this case study on collaboration between video production and marketing.
by Justin Sandmann and David Peake
As the thirst for private education in South Africa keeps multiplying faster than rabbits on a caffeine high, the battle for market supremacy has become more and more heated. To overcome this challenge, Holy Rosary School, a well-established private school in Johannesburg, South Africa, needed to drive excitement and interest in their school brand and ultimately improve enrollment at the school.
With a limited marketing budget, the school needed quality video content that would showcase the school and the values it stands for. That’s when David Peake of Wild Pursuit online marketing approached me, Justin Sandmann of Sandmann Productions. David chose to work with my team and I because of my storytelling vision. It was important for David that I would be willing to collaborate on achieving his marketing goals so that together we could achieve his client’s goals. For me, it was David’s open authenticity and calculated approach to effective digital marketing that made me want to work with him and his team. I wanted to work with an agency that appreciates the value of good video content, and not just see video as a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘quick-fix’.
From the get-go, David and I knew we were going to work well together. We had an alignment of core values, enabling trust to be built between us while also fostering a safe space for creativity. We were both aiming for a higher purpose with the school. We didn’t want to just solve the request in front of our noses. We wanted to set things up for great work in the future.
The Philosophy of Collaborative Compromise
We came to agree on how and where value would be created. We understood where ‘smart short-cutting’ would save budget while having the least detractive effect, a term we dubbed collaborative compromise. The phrase appears a little negative, but here’s why. Creative people want to make epic stuff. We aim to make the shiniest shiny thing. Anything less than our absolute best is excruciating. There is nothing that eliminates creativity like telling a team to aim low or to give up on a creative vision or worse still, ‘pull it back’. It’s a surefire way to turn the vibrant kaleidoscope of imagination into a grayscale snooze-fest. Creatives are either aiming for the stars or not doing the task. We called it collaborative compromise because we acknowledge that it’s sub-optimal. However, together we can make it a creative challenge to choose which elements we really need and which can be less than perfect. In order to have those big open spaces for unlimited creative work in the future, we need to be patient but still effective. And that’s exactly how this story played out.
Collaborative compromise must be linked to a vision of future creative freedom. It’s essential that you understand that you cannot constantly live in a compromise because it will kill your creative power. You cannot let go of chasing epic. In contrast, if all you do is chase epic, you have less chance of getting there. To find a good fit for collaborative compromise we don’t look at the client’s budget for a project. We look at their potential to have budget growth over time.
It was vital that David and I cared about each player in the value chain – that all players have a win-win. It also required a level of vulnerability between us. We shared ideas, secret hacks, and techniques to mutually aim for a great return on objective (ROO). Collaborative compromise led us to the discovery of a modular approach to video creation. (More on that further down.)
Aiming Higher for the Brand Video
When used effectively, good video content is an extremely persuasive tool for brand awareness and engagement. We both set out to create video content for the school that was greater than just focusing on getting more bums into school seats. It had to have meaning while still achieving great value per cost. The video content had to be in the form of a story, to drive emotion and engagement, and motivate a reason and excitement for parents to book a tour of the school.
To address the client’s challenge of communicating how unique the school is, David and team focused the core messaging on Holy Rosary’s Hidden Curriculum, which was transforming something from intangible to an understandable ‘benefit’. The objective was to show potential school parents that, while attending Holy Rosary School, their daughter wouldn’t just get a great quality education but also become a strong independent woman, grounded in good moral values. To make this marketing message hit home like a sledgehammer in a pillow fight, it had to tap into parents’ hearts and emotions faster than a kid can find a cookie jar!
And thus started a three-year journey with David and his client, Holy Rosary School. From the very outset, David handed me a budget so tight it could make a pair of skinny jeans look baggy! However, at Sandmann Productions, our approach has always been that of a sustainable farmer, not a hungry hunter, always opting for the long-term gain in building relationships over time. Turns out, we stumbled upon something that hit the sweet spot for both of us. Rather than showing low budget work out the door, we decided to get creative! We focused on collaborative compromise. We balanced the time, quality, and cost of each project, and evaluated how best to apportion the budget. There’s always going to be some give and take from the client to the agency, as well as the creative. As we developed our process, we learnt that you need to let the client in on how you’re planning to keep costs down. (And the reasons why.) If they are on-board, it sets the right expectations and reduces conflict. Collaborative compromise is a principal that needs to be openly discussed through the whole value chain.
Understanding a Modular Approach to Video Content Creation
Our modular approach to video creation starts with identifying which module(s) we would want to design to empower re-use in future videos. Creating a consistent style through a ‘template approach’ stops the needless editing of completed modules. This means we leverage off already approved designs for repeatable elements and thus free up time for the video creation process. An example of this was creating a dynamic logo animation once-off and then re-using it in all future videos. When applying the modular approach to a video, one breaks up the video into self-contained ‘chapters’ or modules that can be interchanged, added or removed as needed. This allowed for re-purposing and customising future videos, without additional costs. It’s this idea of reverse engineering. Finding out upfront, from the client, what the end result or deliverables are, and then solving in reverse which modular sections will work in future videos. These re-usable modules then get extra creative care as they are now higher value. It is like building a 3-in-1 LEGO set. You get to re-use the same LEGO pieces to build 3 completely unique items.
Fast forward two years and the moment finally arrived for something spectacular. The school needed a big brand building video and they picked David and I for the job because our trustworthiness rating was higher than a cat’s curiosity level. The school was ready to take a much bigger step in terms of budget, with the commissioning of a School Corporate Video – which we nicknamed the Hidden Curriculum video, and which we base this case study on. This project was roughly 4x larger in budget than the average video that we had been producing. As this was a bigger project than before it meant that we could leverage some existing modules and spend extra time on producing the new parts of the video.
Collaborative compromise has no space for egos. One example of this is we added David’s photographer from his team to join us on the day of filming so we could piggy-back on the video shoot, and get updated photos for the school’s website. The collaborative benefit of this was that the photographer and I could work together, both buying into the bigger picture of getting the best possible content for the school. The fact that we were diverse in our thinking, and viewed things through different lenses (shameless pun used intentionally) meant that we were able to get superb photos and video content of the school. Something which we wouldn’t have been able to achieve individually. With each carefully composed shot, our mission was to capture the essence of a nurturing and secure educational space for children. We aspired to create an inviting narrative that would resonate with prospective parents, igniting their hopes and dreams for a brighter future.
As we produced this next big video, we were already planning on how parts of it could be re-purposed in the future. This modular approach ultimately gives the client ‘more bang for their buck’ and means we can ‘do more’. It was also critical that these chapters would still collectively keep the same narrative and story thread throughout, so that they didn’t feel disjointed or out of place. The result was a corporate video that revealed Holy Rosary’s Hidden Curriculum in an authentic, distinctive way.
Video Ad Performance
But video without exposure/promotion is like a neon sign in a cupboard – dazzling but unseen.
Behind the scenes, David and his team worked smart to give that video effective online exposure. And guess what? It did exactly what we’d planned, like a well-trained ninja fulfilling its mission with pixel stealth.
These are the total stats for all the ads the school has run from Dec 2022 – Sept 2023:
- They were all very highly targeted adverts. We achieved 157 569 impressions, 6 745 views.
- To say it differently: If the video adverts were “DVD’s”… almost 160 000 people saw the “DVD Box cover” and almost 7 000 people watched the “DVD”.
- Of the 7 000 people who “watched the DVD’s” 1 308 like what they saw enough to go visit the school website. By digital marketing standards for this scenario these are good results and all a part of us driving a much bigger picture of positioning the school as a sought after premium private school with a heart and a sense of uniqueness.
Regarding the big Hidden Curriculum video specifically:
- YouTube Ads are typically skippable after 5 seconds. To retain viewers past this point, you need to have targeted the right person and shown them a very interesting video. View time (for an advert) after 5 seconds thus shows how effective your video is. The Hidden Curriculum video we produced had an average view time of 2 min 25 seconds.
- The total video length was 4 min 45 seconds, which means that people dropped off after 51% of the video. But in the case of this video, 2 min 25 seconds is exactly the point at which the primary school chapter/ module ends with a go to website and book a tour Call To Action. The remaining “less watched” part of the video was designed for prospective high school students and since the advert targeting settings were not aimed at them, it makes sense that people dropped off the video at the start of the high school module.
- We spoke to a very big agency about our results, to give some context to our project. They typically spend R1m in a single month for a campaign and aim to deliver a cost per view of R0.50. On a good campaign they achieve a cost per view of R0.32. They have huge scale to drive optimization and efficiency when running such big budgets. We were able to deliver a R0.26 cost per view off the back of our strong video for the school.
- For the Hidden Curriculum video, we were able to get 2 589 highly targeted people to be engaged with the video and hence the school… driving the emotional brand positioning messages. This resulted in a total combined view time of 57.7 hours in the minds of our target audience.
- YouTube/Google and most digital platforms, reward quality video content with lower cost of “ad space”. So, because we had such a good video and very clever targeting, we could achieve these results off a tiny spend. (R400 in total.)
- The video cranked up excitement and interest in the school and played a vital role in improving the school’s enrollment. ]
Here is the Hidden Curriculum video we produced:
With the resounding success of the corporate video after its three-year build up, we have these great learnings to share.
Sharing our know-how with each other
It was imperative that David and I understood each other’s disciplines, how our two worlds interact with each other and where the overlaps are. I taught David what my cost levers were so that he could also help drive the projects in the right direction. It was my openness and willingness (which at first wasn’t easy) to share these cost levers that made it safe for David to share some of his cunning marketing thinking. David could then deploy it in a cost-friendly way.
Instead of us fighting over the production costs, we would rather work smarter and only ‘spend big’ in the big impact modules. David could build on my vision as he built his, all in the context of the school’s vision, so that together, we could all get there.
Values alignment was our secret handshake, the unwritten agreement that we would trust each other and not take advantage through knowing the other’s trade secrets and creative hacks. With the right amount of strategic planning, David and I overcame many obstacles in creating effective video content that contributed to the school’s growth.
As Winston Churchill once said: “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” Using tools like reverse engineering, the modular breakdown of a video in the planning phase of video production allows for a much smoother and productive workflow. Using collaborative compromise ensures win-win, and of course, marketing material that is greater than the sum of its parts.
5 Common Mistakes with Video Content Creation:
- Poor planning. Most videos will live forever on some sort of digital platform, so think carefully and clearly about what message and content you want to put out to the world. Also, plan ahead and see which modules can be reused in future projects.
- Quoting/ costing incorrectly. Understand the value of your time and effort, as well as the value of your client’s brand that you are working with. Provide detailed cost breakdowns with clear terms and conditions.
- Being complacent. It’s easy to fall into a rhythm when churning out videos, especially under tight deadlines. The pitfall is that videos can tend to look and feel the same. Unless you are Wes Anderson, this could be a problem. Step out of your comfort zone, learn new skills or software, or try different techniques to keep your content fresh.
- Not remaining objective. Being the creative creatures we are, it’s practically in our job description to take things personally. And yes, we do tend to pour our hearts, souls, and a dash of unicorn sparkle into each and every video. But always remember, this video is not for you, it is for your audience. Ask yourself, “What kind of editing style, music, and animation is going to resonate best with the viewer?”
- Flying solo. As creatives, we can be a tad ‘territorial’ – you know, like a ferocious squirrel guarding its stash of acorns! But I’ve learnt over the years that when you collaborate with others, pitting their strengths against your weaknesses and vice versa, the result is way better than if you did it yourself.
Quality Video Production Drives Success
Videos are such a core part of marketing success, when done well. We love making marketing that matters. To infuse core messaging and marketing strategy into a video with good story takes a special group of people who understand all the variables involved. We hope that you will go on to find and build your own video ad and content creation team.
This would not have been possible without the Head of Marketing, Kenda Knowles and Executive Head of School, Deon Oerson and the broader school leadership, being open to client-agency collaboration. Thank you Holy Rosary School for being our “client”.
If you’re looking for a ready-made team that knows how to collaborate with each other and you, then reach out and let’s start a conversation.