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Two Videos, Same Business. But Only One Intrigues

It’s not often we get a chance to compare two videos purporting to do the same thing for the same business, but thanks to my friend Andy Goodman, we can.  Andy publishes a great bloggy-kind-of-newsletter for non-profits, and has kindly given me permission to steal some of this month’s cover story.

Lifelines for Youth is a non-profit that helps formerly-incarcerated youth. Naturally they are interested, as are all non-profits, in raising money.  They commissioned a video to help.  When it didn’t help enough, they commissioned another one.

Take a look at the videos below– you only need about 30 seconds of each.  Here’s the game:  Figure out which video worked better, and why:

Same kids, same need. Yet one pulls you right in, one makes your eyes glaze right over.  As I hope you’ve guessed, video 2 worked better.  It helped Lifelines for Youth meet its annual fundraising goal in just four months.  (Note to marketers:  Show these videos to the next person in your company who says that video is a commodity, and anyone can do it.)

The secret to video 2’s success?  Intrigue.

The first video lays out a simple problem in a linear fashion.  These kids are in trouble.  It starts delivering facts from the very first second, with all the emotional heft of a do-it-yourself tutorial.

In the second video we have no idea what’s going on for the first 3o seconds.  It’s all questions: Whose voice are we hearing?  What does the reading mean? Why are these people smiling?  What about those tattoos?  Rather than being confused, we’re intrigued.  We’re propelled forward through the video by the spoken word and we pay rapt attention– because we want the answers.

There are other reasons this video works, of course.  Andy has more background on the hows and whys of developing it here.  But if you remember only one lesson from this great piece, let it be this:  To get people involved in your video, don’t give answers.  Raise questions.

Intrigue us.

Video 2 was produced by The Department of Expansion.  Judging from their website, the quality of this video was not an accident.


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Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman, president of LA-based Custom Productions, Inc., is a prolific producer, writer, and director, known for over 200 diverse media projects. He is also the author of the best-selling book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck," taught globally from middle school to graduate level, and available in 9 languages.


  • @fwoodbridge says:

    Strange, but #1 hooked more than #2. Perhaps because I'd already watched 1 and knew what the story for 2 was going to be?

  • Raquel says:

    Thanks for the 2 video comparisons. I'm currently working in a NGO for disabled children and we were thinking of making a video in order to raise awareness. I will show the videos to my co workers and hope we can learn a lot from this..

  • adamg says:

    I would guess that even the "making of Fly" #2 is very interesting and not bogged down with math problems like: this is 5 minutes? it seems like 20- to astonishment: this is 7 minutes it just started!! Inspiring ! Saying: We will give you our story! Thanks

  • Ken Haedrich says:

    Steve – One of the things I (continue) to like about your posts is your emphasis on telling stories, rather than buying the "right" equipment. I appreciate that. It gives hope to a fellow who barely knows which end of the camera to peer into…but who still wants to tell a good story. I think there are many folks out there who would like to use their cameras to tell stories, but get bogged down in the minutia of cameras, mics, lights, recorders, lenses and the like…until they feel paralyzed. I know because I've been there. Thanks for reminding us that it's STORY that comes first.

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