To make a remarkable online video, break the rules!

I love rules! Following them can keep you productive, appreciated and safe. But sometimes you want to go beyond being “productive,” and create something that flat-out expresses who you are, even if other people don’t appreciate your efforts and you cross the yellow line of safety. Sometimes you need to break the rules. That’s unusual in the jittery corporate world, so it’s worth casting our eye on a rare example of this wild breed.

To do so we’ll cross the ocean and travel to the hills near Lyon, France. Only a click away, of course.  Today, we’re putting a video from Artprice under the Seeing Your Story microscope to find out how it works. It shouldn’t work, because it stomps several sacred rules of online video-making all to hell. But it does work–at least it did for my wife and me. We watched it through to the end, all 23 minutes and 46 seconds of it.

I like putting images in these posts, to tempt your eye. So here’s Artprice’s video player. But I’m not going to make it work–yet–because I want you to finish reading before you watch the video. (Psssst, the real video player is near the bottom of this post.)

Image of Artprice's video player

Artprice bills itself as “the world leader in art price information,” with millions of works of art, and much more, listed in their monster database. Assuming you’re interested in art and are a potential customer, how should they beguile you into signing up, at least for a free trial?  With a short, punchy video, right? In this case, wrong.

Before you look at their video, here’s a list of some rules and how they broke them:

  • RULE 1: Keep it short. This video introduction is not 2 minutes long, as it “should” be. As I mentioned, it’s almost 24 minutes long!
  • RULE 2: Hit the viewers right off the starting block.  Vive la France! This video begins with lyrical shots and minor-key music.  The first human voice doesn’t pop in for fully 51 seconds. And even then it’s as nebulous as only a French voiceover can be: “The story of Artprice is above all a human adventure, an extraordinary artistic adventure.” Wow!
  • RULE 3: Keep it simple. Are you kidding? This is from the land of Descartes, Sartre and Foucault.
  • RULE 4: Avoid long interview shots. And if you must have long interview bites, cover them with lively shots of what they’re talking about. Not here, though. Yes, some shots are covered, but other talking heads keep on yakking.
  • RULE 5: If you’re marketing something, have a call to action. Especially at the end of your video.  Artprice, in its contrarian way, concludes its show with a bite from the boss: “I believe we are at the beginning of an extraordinary story that will stretch right across the 21st century.” This is followed by self-conscious video snapshots of staffers. “So who needs a call to action?” they seem to be saying.

And yet, Artprice is un grand success, with over a half million daily page views.  It’s impossible to say how much of the traffic is due to the video, but I believe this rule-busting production has some positive clout. Please watch as much of the video as you’d like, then read on and see if you agree with my conclusions. When you click on the player, it will open their webpage in a new window.

Image of Artprice video player, to be clicked on

Here’s why I think the video works, in spite of breaking so many rules. Do you agree with me? Do you feel differently?

  • The Artprice video recognizes its community and plays to them. Since visitors to their website are interested in art, they’re surely used to strolling through museums and galleries. They’re more interested in experiencing works of art/movies/videos than getting through them as quickly as possible.
  • All the cues in the video reach out to this audience. The setting nails this from the opening shots. The building that is the HQ of Artprice is itself a work of art–a controversial work of art, for that matter. It’s a staggeringly original building, and it establishes the artistic authority of Artprice.
  • Every sound bite reinforces Artprice’s seriousness and credibility–and there are lots of lengthy bites.
  • All the staffers interviewed look like characters in a French movie. Depending on your POV on French cinema, this is either charming or pretentious, but what they have to say is pretty impressive: Artprice has compiled over 100 terabytes of information, including dope on more than 115 million works of art, etc., etc.
  • The music and the elegant dolly shots make the whole production feel more like a feature film than a corporate video. I’d say this is a plus for an art-loving crowd.

Camera lens, with photographer in backgroundAt this point you probably think I’m going to recommend you break the rules when you make your next online video. But I won’t–just the opposite. I think you should follow the 5 rules near the top of this post, and you’ll have a better chance of crafting a successful video. However, if you have a lot of self-confidence and some skill to back it up, and you have a vision that refuses to be bound by the rulebook, by all means go for it. Contrary to the cliché, rules aren’t meant to be broken, but in your case, maybe they are. Good luck!

P.S. When you make your next rule-obeying or rule-breaking online video, let me know about it. Thanks!

4 Replies to “To make a remarkable online video, break the rules!”

  1. Thanks for the comment. I now know that there isn’t the hard and fast rules for the 2 minute video. You’ve said it all…

  2. Thanks for the comment. I now know that there isn’t the hard and fast rules for the 2 minute video. You’ve said it all…”you still want to make sure that the video isn’t longer than it needs to be–it’s natural length.”

  3. Thanks for letting me know about your video. When you know that your target audience is motivated, then there’s no need to make the video really short. Of course, you still want to make sure that the video isn’t longer than it needs to be–it’s natural length.

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