Liven up video with B-roll footage

‘Talking head’ videos can quite quickly get a bit boring, which is reason enough to use cutaway shots. This means that instead of staring at an interviewee’s face, we hear their voice while watching more interesting action — what we call the B-roll footage — that is relevant to what they are talking about.

For the nerds out there, the term B-roll comes from the pre-linear film editing days, when two separate rolls of film were used to create effects such as fades. When linear editing came in, the rolls were replaced with tape decks – but the term ‘B-roll’ stuck and became associated with the footage extraneous to the main interview or subject of the film.

Besides breaking the monotony of watching someone talk, B-roll has two other important advantages in corporate video; both of which will help you use video more effectively to get your B2B marketing message across.

1. B-roll simplifies editing
In the world of corporate video, especially for video case studies, you often have interviewees who aren’t used to being on camera — so you may need multiple takes to capture what you need. Even when that isn’t the case, it’s highly unlikely that the person you’re interviewing will deliver their lines word-perfect every time. They might stutter, give an answer they don’t like, or sneeze.

All of which means: your footage will contain lots of unusable takes among the good ones. Editing these out can make your interviewee look jerky, and that’s where B-roll comes in. Because the interviewee isn’t on screen during a cutaway shot, you can make any edits without affecting the look of the finished video. Besides cutting out poor takes, you can cut out parts of a good take, even words from a single sentence, to keep your video short and snappy.

Get some tips on preparing video interviewees in our free ebook.

2. B-roll adds to the story
Done right, B-roll isn’t just relevant to your story in terms of subject matter, but conveys the character of people and places, or the emotion involved in a scenario being described. When writing, we use the principle: ‘show rather than tell’ (eg, don’t claim to be innovative; give examples that show your innovation). One of the reasons that video is so powerful is that you literally can show things, rather than (or in addition to) telling your audience about them.

For example: take this B2B video we produced for Lightspeed.

It’s about a modern, trendy restaurant. The B-roll footage helps to convey this character – you see cutaway shots of the hustle and bustle of London, the smart interior and lighting, and the sense of sophistication that pervades the place. And of course you get to see Lightspeed’s software in action. The B-roll doesn’t just make the video look nice; it actively supports the B2B marketing job your video is trying to do.

Getting your own B-roll
There are two ways to get B-roll footage:
• You can purchase stock footage from sites such as iStock or Shutterstock.
• You can have your camera crew shoot it.

Both have their advantages:
Shooting your own B-roll footage allows you to include your interviewees in the footage if relevant — to see them in action. And if you’ve already paid for a crew to be on location for the day, there may be no additional cost, or only a small one.

Stock footage, on the other hand, can give you shots that are difficult to get yourself, like a time-lapse or the view from a helicopter. And if your video logistics call for a special trip to film B-roll, stock footage may be cheaper.

Planning for B-roll
Whatever you decide to do, it’s worth making sure that you plan a B-roll shot list before spending any time collecting it.

Consider the people you’re interviewing, and what they’ll be talking about. What might you want for your cutaway shots? Note your ideas down so you can use time (and budget) effectively in capturing (or buying) all the B-roll footage you need. You can always capture (or buy) other things on the day, if inspiration strikes. And besides saving time and money up front, your video editor won’t have to spend hours sifting through useless footage.

See 3 more tips for corporate video shoots here.

Don’t do innovative marketing just for the sake of it

Do you worry that you’re not being innovative enough with your B2B marketing? You’re not alone if you do; research by Accenture indicates that many marketers worry that they aren’t being innovative enough to deliver.

We’re worried too, but mainly because the value of ‘innovation’ seems unquestioned. Unless we define ‘innovation’ as ‘whatever works best’, we think it’s odd to simply assume that ‘traditional’ can’t drive growth and only ‘innovation’ will do.

Give ‘em what they want
Going back to first principles, as marketers we exist to help sell stuff to customers. That means we need to be doing things that customers are interested in. We need to be in the places they’re in, saying the things that will resonate with them.

Now, that might mean you need to turn your marketing on its head and start “actively driving the disruptive growth agenda”, to quote Accenture. But it equally might mean that you just need to really hone your value proposition and messaging so that you’re saying things that your audience simply can’t ignore.

Assess the value of innovation
Don’t get us wrong — we love innovative B2B marketing ideas as much as anybody. We get that most audiences respond to creativity, to ideas that are clever and different. And the strategies suggested by Accenture make perfect sense, because they focus on meeting customer needs and delivering outcomes that matter to customers.

That said, we’d caution that innovation needs to be backed up by solid customer insight and business reasoning.

Innovative B2B marketing concepts are often expensive — if not financially, then certainly in terms of your time as you climb a learning curve, win over internal audiences and overcome objections from more conservative colleagues. That kind of effort shouldn’t be entered into unless you’ve got good reason to believe it’ll work.

Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget when your boss is staring you down in a planning meeting and you feel like you need to impress.

Back to basics
So the next time you’re sat at your desk, wondering what you’re going to do to shake up your marketing efforts and deliver the results the business demands, ask yourself: do you need to come up with a bleeding-edge, ahead-of-the-curve marketing agenda? Or do you first need to make sure the basics are covered really well?
• If your assets are uploaded as PDFs, are they optimised for search engines?
• Is your content engaging?
• Are your email campaigns up to scratch?
• And so on.

A foundation for innovation
Of course, looking after the basics isn’t nearly as exciting as blue-skying the next paradigm shift in your content marketing.

But given how stretched marketers are, activities that can deliver relatively large improvements compared to the effort required — such as covering the basics — seem to make sense.
And of course, once those basics are covered, when you do find an opportunity and a need to be innovative, your efforts will likely be that much more effective.

Emotive storytelling — what can we learn from John Lewis?

It’s that time of year when talk in the office turns to the perennial subjects of the weather — will it ever get better? We doubt it; Downton Abbey — will Lady Mary manage a smile this series? Definitely not; and the John Lewis Christmas ad — how will they ever top last year’s? We have no idea but we’re certain they will.

But it’s not just their Christmas ads that are sprinkled with the kind of magic that has even our most restrained colleagues dabbing at their eyes. Take this summer’s advert for… wait for it… home insurance.

Normally, insurance adverts have me searching for the TV remote to change channels — and not just because it’s such a dry subject. Insurance adverts seem invariably to speak to all the things that can go wrong in the home, which (as I’m sure parents will agree) isn’t something I enjoy being reminded about.

The Tiny Dancer ad pretty much dispenses with all of that, and instead paints a picture. And just like the Christmas ads, it has all the elements required to provoke an emotional response: a heartfelt tune to whisk us back to our childhoods, cute kids, an aspirational lifestyle and just a hint of sadness or — because this is insurance — mild peril. You can find out more about the thinking behind the ad with this behind-the-scenes video.

So what does this have to do with engaging our B2B customers? Well, the principles are pretty much the same. You may not want to use endearing children, fluffy animals or Elton John to hook your audience in, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a human angle to help your audience relate to what you do and increase their emotional attachment to the brand. The great thing about this kind of emotive storytelling is that you can let your imagination run riot — think of all the things that your products and services make possible around the world, and somewhere in there you’re almost certain to find a story that touches your heart.

You could even take a surrealist look at your services, like Sungard’s How to Move to the Cloud/Survive a Zombie Attack infographic did. Like John Lewis’ ad, it touches on a very human story (the fear around moving to the cloud) and smoothly connects that with a story that its audience will likely be familiar with — and although a zombie attack is extremely unlikely, the mild peril (again) that courses through both stories compels the reader to act in a way that a dry brochure could never achieve.

Another great example is Xerox’s Chief Optimist campaign where they got together with Forbes magazine to offer a magazine packed with customer stories. This is not just one story but a series, interwoven with tips from Xerox executives. It was extremely successful, achieving an interaction rate of 70% and achieving more than $1 billion in sales.

If you feel inspired to get writing, you may want to have a look at a story we once told about storytelling, or this how-to blog post about the Hero’s Journey. Or why not let us know what you think makes a great story by commenting below, tweeting us or posting on our LinkedIn page?