Avoiding Cheesy Corporate Videos

No matter your budget or marketing goals, one of the cardinal sins of video marketing is producing cheesy, laughable videos that do more harm to your brand than good. Fortunately, avoiding cheesy videos is not mainly a matter of budget and spending, but creativity and professionalism. Here are some tips for avoiding the dreaded cheesy corporate video:

  • Never use too “on the nose” dialogue. A good example of a cheesy setup for a video has two people in a room, one facing a dilemma, the other watching. Let’s call them Victim and Commentator. Victim spills red wine all over the carpet after dropping her glass. “Oh no! If only there were some easy way to remove spills quickly without staining.” Commentator replies, “Gee it’s funny you should mention that, because now there is exactly such a product” as he pulls out a cleaning supply product. Maybe cue some dramatic voiceover as both actors smile into the camera. Why would anyone think such a concept is good? I have no idea, but you’ll still see these cheesy infomercial-style spots on TV occasionally and they are downright unforgivable.
  • Avoid too many graphical effects. Well placed graphics can enhance a video immensely, but text that rapidly rotates as it flies into the frame just screams old B-movie. In general, editors should avoid using about 80% of the stock “free” graphical plugins on many editing systems. The best graphical templates are not included for free with your editing system, especially if the editing system is an off-brand, cheap solution rather than a professional non-linear-editing system. A lot of the filters and image manipulators are also cheesy, so be careful when using any of them. There is a fine line between “cool and edgy” and “cheesy and amateur.” Walk it carefully.
  • Casting non-actors in situations requiring professional acting talent. If you don’t have the budget for professional casting and actors, avoid choosing a concept that requires quality acting. You can achieve a great, professional corporate video without any need for actors by just using interview commentary or voiceover, both of which are vastly cheaper. If you try to have company staff or friends and family play roles, which should be done by actors, the results are going to be laughably amateurish in most cases. Even most people calling themselves actors cannot act well, so if your concept needs actors, hire a director who has experience evaluating talent.
  • Using 4:3 aspect ratios in a non-ironic way or having an obviously “video” look. A lot of old-school professionals still shoot work that looks straight out of the 1980s and has the old TV aspect ratio of 4:3 to match. Why would anyone make work that looks dated and pretend they are a professional videographer? Again, I have no idea, but I see quite a lot of hokey video work sent to me when we post looking for new videographers. Camera technology is extremely sophisticated now, so even high level hobbyists should have the technology to shoot video that looks crisp and clean (even if they can’t light their shots or frame their subjects properly).
  • Spokesperson or company employee looking at the camera. In my experience, addressing the audience and looking straight into the camera is a recipe for cheesiness. It reminds me of clicking on a link for more information about something, then suddenly being bombarded with a long sales pitch in video form. “Let me guess, you’re concerned about your health. You’ve come to the right place. I’ve spent the last 20 years in an Ashram in Southeast Asia learning about the hidden secrets of medicinal plants. For just $29.99, I can change your life forever. One bottle of these highly concentrated medicinal plants can extend your lifespan by up to 17 years if taken three times daily for the rest of your life. Want to know how? Keep listening and I’ll show you 5 ways you can restart your energy levels and unlock your hidden potential!” See where I’m going with this? The speaker drones on and on without ever really achieving a purpose. Frankly, having someone looking directly at me during a video is more unsettling than it is inviting. It also is a guaranteed “hard sell,” which is, well, a hard sell in today’s video landscape.
  • Special, time limited offers and repetition of key information. The point of a video is mostly to sell products and services, but people don’t want to feel they’re being sold on something. They want to feel they’re being educated on a new opportunity or an exciting service they never knew existed. If you have an obnoxious voice repeating something like, “Once again, that’s $20 for your first order or $50 if you order three! Act now, this offer won’t last long,” your target audience better be retired senior citizens because young people simply don’t respond to such obvious sales tactics. You only have a short period of time to engage your viewer, so focus on the key benefits and value of your product or service. If people are interested, lead them to the next step but don’t be pushy. Do you want them to visit your Website? Are they already on your Website, so you want them to purchase the product? Decide what comes next, then end the video with a call to action. Repeated calls to action throughout a video are distracting and hokey. If you must, keep your Website address on the bottom of the screen throughout the video, or a phone number, but keep it subtle.