John Carter
John Carter

The retooling that the pandemic made necessary has lessons to teach us about what the essentials of communicating really are.

For me, after 30 years of writing, producing and directing ads (over a thousand of them) and movies, the prospect of retooling was daunting.

My first attempt at adapting to the new environment was a fully remote production solution, “2800 Dollar Video,” which was focused on eliminating the mystery from producing ads, as well as the cost and guess work clients face when trying to tell a simple, effective story to a buyer.

We created a pricing chart that allowed clients to pick a production value on a scale based on every aspect of production from script to approvals to delivery. So a client could pick a sample or similar ad, look at the individual components they were getting at that price point and get to a price right there without all the back and forth, proposals and guess work.

It didn’t catch on.

Why not? This is critical and is a “Covid Silver Lining.” We kept trying to include onsite production. Instead of saying that we would produce an ad with existing media (the client’s photos and/or video, a zoom interview, stock photos and video, titles and effects), we included a camera crew within the model.

Fast forward to a full-service “virtual event” we serviced a year ago. We produced all the video programming from product demos, the virtual expo, the ads, the promotional video for the event and the content for all the sessions. We never sent a crew anywhere and we dealt with companies and individuals needing and providing content all over the US.

All the clients seemed happy. Their stories were told accurately and visually. That’s what kept coming back to me—that all we have to do as video producers is to get that story told accurately, visually and quickly.

With that knowledge in hand, I started to break down the commercial video process in order to find a workable remote solution for the “new normal.”

My conditions included: a price point under $2,000, quick turn a-round, easy file sharing, easy approval, affordable changes and a collaborative process for clients in multiple locations, and in real time.

Then, we created a portal that explained what to do (in one minute), provided video examples with each price point, provided a 10-minute questionnaire (critical), facilitated easy booking with a producer, handled the messaging and sharing of media assets in one call of 30 minutes or less, and delivered the ad on an approval portal for the client or team to provide collaborative notes—real-time for full transparency.

Then, there was the problem of coming up with a script. However, experience taught us that if the questionnaire is effective and the consultation call is handled properly, no script is required! Asking the right questions and having an experienced producer at the helm kept us within an hour of changes.

You might think that artificial intelligence can do this, but you’d be wrong. There are great tools out there, but it takes a human to tell a human story. Computers are still better at Math. I call this a “producer assist” model. The client needs to put in a little effort but just enough.

Perhaps the most important thing we learned is what clients DON’T need and when they need to spend more money within our offering. That’s where that consultation call comes in—and why it’s critical to the value and the solution.

The end result: We think we reached a good solution, and so do clients from a regional construction company to the world’s biggest non-profit.

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John Carter started his career as a PA in Los Angeles in 1991. Since that time he's produced successful Hollywood movies, the first national point-of-purchase ad network, and content for major brands, government agencies, non-profits and hundreds of small businesses. He can be reached at john@potomacdigitalgroup.com & www.24-hourvideo.com.