Choosing A Video Partner—From Freelancers to Specialized Agencies

Posted by Jeremy Wingle on September 20, 2018

There’s little to argue with when it comes to making a case for the place video has in a modern marketing mix. According to a recent study by Cisco, by 2021 82% of all Internet traffic will be represented by video, and 2021 is right around the corner! While a vast majority of content will be represented by video, not all video content is created equally…and I do mean created—for brands, creating video content efficiently is all about picking the right approach and the right team for each project.

Depending on the goals of your brand, there may be various types of videos that you need to produce.  As such, it’s important to use your resources strategically. The areas of expertise represented by your in-house team will play a big role in how content is created for your brand. Does your brand have in-house creative talent, technical production talent, and strategic talent? What are your long term ambitions and expectations for video? These days there are several viable options to consider when developing a video project.  Review the following options to learn how to choose the right partner for each asset of your overall video strategy.

The Freelance Videographer

The first option you should consider is a freelance videographer. This might be a person with a camera and a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. This could be a proficient video jack-of-all trades who can handle all aspects of production from shooting to editing and post-production. Depending on the skills of your in-house team you may also consider a freelancer who specializes in one particular aspect of video production to supplement your internal resources.

A freelancer can be great for smaller scope projects where budget and time may be limited. This may be a good option if your marketing team has the bandwidth to manage development, direction, and logistics. A freelance videographer is typically best suited for a video with straightforward visuals, light editing, and simple graphics. This type of video is probably one component of an overarching campaign and you may just have a small tactical need that you are searching for someone to deliver.

Freelancers are great for plugging in with your existing team, and the good ones are capable of executing without a ton of direction. If you are just dipping your toe in the water of creating video campaigns this option can be a great place to start. Freelancers may not be the best fit for projects that have a lot of complexity such as a project with multiple locations, lots of talent, and complex motion graphics.

The Production Company

If you find yourself building out teams of freelancers from the ground up and struggling to effectively project manage internally, it may be time to consider working with a production company. Rather than cobbling together a team that perhaps will be meeting for the first time on set, a production company provides a more cohesive project-based solution.

A production company typically provides services such as project management, shooting, editing, graphics, sound design, color correction, and finishing. They usually have a skilled team and access to the equipment necessary to scale up a project quickly and comprehensively. Production companies can vary quite a bit in scope depending on their particular focus. For example, some production companies may focus solely on post-production. Others may provide a full-range of services from pre-production treatments and storyboards all the way through to a final video. Production companies may excel in a particular style or genre such as comedy, tabletop, or documentary-style.

Depending on their capabilities, a production company may not be the best fit if you need assistance in prescribing a video strategy and developing creative concepts. Typical production companies focus heavily on beautiful visuals and may lack deep expertise in copywriting and concepting in a marketing context.

The In-House Team

This is a good option for very large brands that have an ongoing flow of video projects to create across multiple sub-brands or business units. In-house agencies can be a good fit for brands if they have the resources to hire a wide spectrum of talent across many strategic campaign disciplines. In addition to recruiting high level creative talent they will need the resources to maintain production equipment, gear, and software for a variety of situations.

An in-house team is going to be closer to the action, know the strategy, understand the culture, and be well equipped to create work that resonates. However, there are drawbacks as in-house teams can be tough to keep together for more than a couple of years.  By keeping all of your creative thinking internal you lose the benefit of an objective third-party diagnosing your brand’s position and competition within the market. A recent example of the inherent risk of bringing your creative video work entirely in-house was demonstrated by Pepsi’s tone-deaf Kendall Jenner ad.

Much like a freelancer, an in-house video team can be a valuable resource for more straightforward, small footprint projects. Perhaps you are equipped with a few multi-talent videographers who can shoot and edit. They can quickly be deployed to capture brand stories as they are happening, but depending on the skills and size of your team they may have trouble keeping up with demand across your entire brand.

The Traditional Advertising Agency (AOR)

In the traditional content creation model, the advertising agency, specifically a brand’s Agency of Record (AOR) rules the roost in terms of developing video (or broadcast TV) advertising campaigns. The AOR would do all of the target audience research, prescribe a strategy, develop a creative approach and then work hand-in-hand with a production company to produce spots. In this scenario the agency may have a preferred production partner or offer a few options for a brand to choose from. This method of producing campaigns is still applicable but may not be fiscally practical for every campaign and every individual video project that your brand may need. This model, due to the nature of the players, can be very costly and time consuming.

Recent years have seen the advertising agency model morphing into a variety of different formats including a rise in agencies that are more specialized in a specific discipline or target market. As the industry is evolving, agencies are bringing production teams in-house and production companies are hiring creatives to be on staff. Agencies can be found in all shapes and sizes as the media landscape is rapidly changing—focus on finding an agency with the expertise and specialization your brand needs to lead you to video success.

The Media/Publishing Company

In recent years media companies or publishers like The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and The Atlantic have created internal content creation agencies. If a specific content channel is a really great fit for your audience then it may be worth considering partnering with one of these platforms to create entertainment-based branded content. This can be an effective approach for reaching unaware prospects with top-of-the-funnel awareness content that is specifically designed to compliment their natural viewing habits.

Depending on your message and objectives, this is likely not a one-stop-shop for all of your content creation needs. If you are using video throughout the buyer’s journey, the media company option may not be equipped with strategic and creative solutions for every application your brand needs.

The Video Agency

For marketers who need end-to-end expertise to create a complete video campaign a video agency may be the best fit. Video agencies offer specialized services in core video-focused disciplines that go beyond just production skills: target audience research, video campaign strategy, creative, production, post-production, distribution optimization, and analytics. These fundamental services are still broad and a particular video agency may have deeper and even more specialized areas of expertise within each of these categories.

Video Strategy: Producing video without a video specific strategy is like baking a birthday cake with a key lime pie recipe; while both are delicious desserts, the end results will be quite different.  Though a video agency typically doesn’t offer overall brand and marketing strategy, they should be able to plug into your existing strategy with a video strategy designed to support your brand aspirations. Depending on your brand’s business objectives, video may be a primary driver of engagement, but in order to be effective it typically needs to be supported by other marketing assets. Determining exactly what role video will play for your brand and creating really rich, relevant content is key to engaging your prospects.

The primary attributes of a sound video strategy include audience insights, video placement in the customer journey, desired outcomes tied to key performance indicators, key messages, product/brand value proposition, and brand differentiators. For more detail on this subject, check out 5 Cornerstone Questions to Answer Before You Create a Video.

Video Production: While there are many different tactical approaches to producing video content, a video agency offers a seamless, creative and strategic approach to production in a marketing context. Building upon the video strategy, creative concepts are developed to empathetically connect with your target audience and achieve your strategic objectives. A creative environment that nurtures collaboration between your brand’s advocates and video agency creatives is crucial for creating the most impactful video work possible.  This concept is discussed more fully in Bridges to Somewhere: Saturday Night Fever, Physics & Connecting with Humans.

Crafting the best messages for video requires creative and production expertise that is abundant at a video agency. A great video agency will not only provide staff creatives and producers but will have access to a vetted roster of creative and production talent to enlist at a moment’s notice depending on the needs of a project. While the approach of any given project will vary, a video agency will have production expertise in copywriting, project management, directing, casting, cinematography, editing, sound design, music, color correction, and finishing, etc.

Video Distribution: It is crucial to understand where a video fits into the customer journey and it’s important to have this in mind when it comes to pushing out your finished video. Choosing the best channels and placement for your video content is vital to meeting your audience in the places they are already frequenting online. Optimizing the performance of your video is a living and breathing organism. A video agency also offers expertise in best utilizing your video to create engagement with your audience with a video distribution strategy.  Learn how to use owned, paid, and earned video strategies to cut through the cruft.

A Note on Vertical Specialization

As moving quickly to create content becomes an even greater priority, agency partners with market-specific pattern knowledge can be a huge advantage when it comes to working with efficiency and agility. Whether your brand is focused on finance or technology, finding an agency familiar with your market, competitors, and audience can get you up and running quickly on a new project. When choosing an external partner it’s important to find an agency that understands your industry and has experience overcoming similar challenges for other clients.

In conclusion, marketing teams come in many different varieties and there are many important considerations to keep in mind when looking for video strategy, production, and distribution solutions. While you may not need an end-to-end partner for every video project, it can make life easier to be engaged with a partner that is in tune with your overall video strategy from front-to-back. An objective third-party perspective can be invaluable for keeping current on the latest market trends and spotting things you may be too close to your brand to see. Some projects may call for enlisting external guidance the whole way through a project and some projects may call for a more plug-and-play approach.

When it comes to creating video content it’s all about picking the right approach for your unique circumstances.