Our season may be over, but our In Focus Series continuesThis month, we sat down with Micki and Tony, co-founders of production company, Branding Shorts. Read below to hear how they begun their own company after years of working on Madison Avenue, their guiding company principles and what’s in store for later this year.

Branding Shorts was founded on the idea that short branded films are a powerful marketing tool. What had you seen in your previous careers that led you to have such a strong belief in short form video?

We are a married couple and advertising/marketing veterans, who in our previous careers, saw a need in the market for short, branded videos that could help businesses grow.

MICKI: As a movie lover, I really believe video is one of the most powerful mediums to engage, to move, to deliver a message, to create impact, and to seed change. In my past life as a Madison Avenue SVP Creative Director, developing global campaigns for Coca Cola, P&G and many others, creating 30 second “movies,” illustrated how a good story with a strong emotional hook could have a positive effect on a brand, its employees, and audience. For example, one of my ad accounts was P&G’s Scope Mouthwash–at the time it was a dry brand that focused on the negative (bad breath), but when our team repositioned the creative, we changed the emphasis to the positive with a unique selling proposition in the form of mini romantic comedies that culminated in a kiss. It was a successful campaign that had a positive impact on the brand’s bottom line.   

In my many years as a Madison Avenue creative, working on the biggest brands in the world, was good training to create solid creative, beginning with a human insight or truism about a target audience and finding a message that connected with them. With only thirty seconds, every scene has a purpose. There’s no room for fluff.

TONY: I’ve worked for some of the largest companies in the world including American Express in marketing and business development roles. In my roles, I always ended up creating an opportunity to write and produce videos to help accomplish business objectives. And the reactions or results for the videos were always beyond expectations. Seeing these results led me to believe in the power of short form videos to help connect, engage, persuade, and drive the behavior of audiences for any business or organization.

Today, Branding Shorts produces videos for companies across the country; from local businesses to national brands and organizations like American Express, Rockefeller, the American Cancer Society, Pilgrim’s, Celgene, Lawry’s the Prime Rib and many more. We are honored to be recipients of 24 industry awards, including 12 Telly Awards. We are equally honored to be selected as Judges for the Telly Awards.

You are some key principles that guide your business? Could you share a couple of them and how you came about creating these?

When we first started Branding Shorts in 2008, we were applying what we knew from our big brand Advertising/Marketing experience to our videos. But as we grew, creating videos for local and national brands with teams across the country, we needed to outline some guiding principles to keep us and our teams unified in approach. Here are a few:

1) Begin with the end in mind. We start out by listening. Asking questions. What does the client want the end result to be? What do they want the video to accomplish? What action do they want the audience to take? Taking sufficient time up front to figure out the end result will prevent issues down the road. One advantage of being a smaller agency is our ability to adapt quickly and move nimbly, especially if a client makes a shift in the middle of a project. When you’re a much larger agency that’s sometimes difficult.

2) Authenticity. Even though videos are often used to promote a cause or business we never want the audience feel they are being sold to. We want to engage them and create an emotional connection. We want the folks speaking in our videos to be genuine. Speak from their heart.  We work a lot with real people and developed a few techniques that help them to open up and shine, including some Tony learned from training at Chicago’s Second City Theater.

3) Message-driven creative. Since we take videos from creative to production, we are strategic in our approach and pride ourselves in developing bullet-proof creative. Which means we start with a strategy, work with our clients to find the single most important key message and develop a script or outline that carries that message, making sure every scene is to push that message forward.

4) Cost-effective execution. Regardless of the size of a company or budget, we offer creative solutions to create a compelling video. Before we begin production, we plan up front what the client might want to use the footage for down the road. Planning this enables us to maximize the shoot day, accommodating for future videos. We also have a patented product called Branding Shorts Express, which allows anyone, anywhere to upload content through our website portal, pick a soundtrack, and get a professional video created from their content by an experienced editor.  

Whether it’s a small or large client, we find a way to creatively tell a story within a client’s budget.

For example, a small men’s underwear company (Melangefit) came to us with an assignment to create a social media series of videos around their men’s underwear line. But they had a very small budget. So, we got creative and developed a big idea for their various needs (sports, business, leisure) and a campaign hook: “He’s got a pair.” Using stock footage, music and product photos, we created a fun, memorable campaign. In fact, we extended the idea for a holiday promo using Santa “has a pair” which won a 2019 Telly Award.   

When kicking off a new project with a client, how do you help them to marry/translate their brand needs with a compelling video story?

Before diving into a project, we set up time with our client to go over what we call our “Creative Development Questions” which helps us align on the video’s purpose, target audience insights, desired response, and brand message. From there, we create a script which weaves the message into a compelling story especially crafted for a specified target audience. Even though we develop a pretty tight script, we do leave room for spontaneity and “magic nuggets.” We build this blueprint to make sure we’re all on the same “page” before production. In my ad agency days, we used to say we don’t want to go to the “how come” meeting. It’s about starting with bullet proof creative that’s on message and begins with the end in mind.

Here at The Telly Awards, we have seen a consistent and substantial increase in the quality and quantity of branded content entries. What are your thoughts as to why more and more brands are turning to this medium to share their brand stories?

We think there are a few reasons. First it’s more economical than ever before to create polished, professional video. In the past, it would take a full crew and post production houses to make a professional video. A very costly endeavor. Today, with digital cameras, gear, and affordable editing software, just about any business can have their own video without breaking the bank.

The avenues to showcase videos continue to grow as technology evolves. It’s not the old days where people just watch ads on their TV.  In today’s mobile world they’re also on their phones, laptops, tablets, in addition to taxi screens, ferry boats, at trade shows, and so many more places.

As we often tell our clients, “nobody has an attention span anymore.” So you need to engage them quickly. And what better way then a medium like short videos that can not just be watched but easily shared. In fact, we have seen a stat that over 90% of people who watch a video on their phone share that video with others.

Having said that, we see a lot of work that’s beautifully shot and edited, but without a relevant story or message—the most important element for a video is to drive results. Story with a message. Told in the most visually economically way, where every scene drives the message forward in a compelling way.   

What’s coming up for Branding Shorts this year?

One of the things we’re looking to this year is producing original content. We have a number of intellectual properties we plan to start developing in the coming year, and are currently seeking partnerships to kick off production.

We’ll also continue to leverage our strategically based crews in cities across the country like Chicago, NYC, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, etc. to provide our clients with a national footprint and ability to create powerful videos economically.

And we’ll continue use the power of video to help causes local and national to raise awareness and funds. Whether it’s Pet Rescue organizations, the American Cancer Society, or local issues, we’ll use our resources to help make a difference.

So it will be a very busy and fruitful year ahead.