On 9 November last year, the Department of Health brought together
government ministers, local councillors and care professionals from
around the UK for its ’Quality Protects’ conference. Aimed at
transforming the lives of children in care and children in need, the
event was launched at Kensington Town Hall in London with a powerful
video entitled Listen.
’The effect was electrifying,’ says Angela Law, managing director of
Hawkshead, the company which produced the film. ’Rather than looking at
all the official processes and reasoning, we enabled youngsters within
the care system to speak directly through the camera to people they
would never otherwise meet and tell them what they thought was missing
in the current system and what they wanted.’
This is just one example of how a straight-talking video can really hit
home. But, with all the excitement surrounding new methods of delivery
for visual communications, is the future for the corporate video
The interactive strengths of CD-ROM and DVD, coupled with their
flexibility and adaptability to other media such as e-mail, the internet
and intranets, makes a 20-minute company sales video seem old hat. This
position appears to be strengthened further by the advances in
webcasting and the potential for training and motivational packages
delivered by digital television.
’While other communication techniques have evolved, what we have come to
call corporate video has stood still. It has not reflected the
technological advances in our industry,’ says Nick Lamb, managing
director of Crown Business Communications.
Lamb believes that a large number of visual communications professionals
are not passing the financial and creative benefits of technological
evolution on to their customers. ’This means that our industry is
offering clients an obsolete product, which not only cannot return its
investment cost, but cannot deliver real instructional or motivational
value to an audience that expects something better,’ he says.
This is an extreme view but it underlines the point that corporate video
has had to go through a huge readjustment since the early-1980s.
Organisations are making shorter, more flexible packages targeted at a
In addition, companies want their footage to work much harder, with
material being edited for external news and promotional purposes, and
recycled for internal training and motivational exercises.
However, the content and style of videos has also had to change to
reflect the shift to a less didactic management ethic. ’In the past
organisations tended to a have a very closed leadership and video was
used in the same ’the oracle has spoken’ kind of way,’ says Beatrice
Hollyer, specialist corporate consultant at Medialink. ’Now to be
effective, video has to reflect that organisations have transparent
channels of communication, so the style is much more dynamic, open and
This is also influenced by the increasing visual literacy of audiences,
used to the changing fashions of TV news presentation, docusoaps, pop
videos and computer games. To create truly emotive programming, video
producers are moving away from voice overs and highly-scripted concepts
to reflect the working culture in more subtle ways.
Technology specialist Lewis PR for instance, produces snappy fun films
as an entertaining way to explain what the company is about to potential
new clients. And recently, Medialink created an innovative video for Hay
Management Consultants’ company-wide end-of-year meeting.
The company chose to have no script, and allowed the story to be told by
staff members and clients to the whole organisation gathered in one
But, while technological advances may mean that delivery on video
cassette may become obsolete, it is highly unlikely that the traditional
concept of the linear film will disappear with it.
’There are other weapons in the armoury such as DVD, CD-ROM and
intranets, but the emotional power and art of telling a linear story is
demonstrated by going to the cinema and watching TV,’ says Philip
Blundell, managing director of The Edge Picture Company, whose internal
customer services video for Tesco won the 1999 PR Week award for best
Indeed, it is easy to get carried away by the technological wonders of
delivering flexible, tailored video to the desktop, and forget that used
appropriately, the linear video has its own particular strengths. It can
take an audience through the sequence of a narrative, explaining actions
and consequences and, equally as important, make the viewing experience
a shared activity.
Entitled Every Customer Offered Help, the Tesco video acted as the
catalyst for discussion at a series of training workshops with checkout
staff at all 700 Tesco stores in the UK and Ireland. The Edge decided to
use the story of a day in the life of a young checkout girl, with a
strong visual concept and a soundtrack by The Corrs.
Such initiatives also highlight that video remains an effective
communications tool for the many organisations whose staff have no
access to hi-tech data delivery. Companies which need to negotiate the
logistics of a large disparate workforce operating around the clock,
still view video as one of the most direct, easy to use media for their
According to Wayne Drew, chief executive of the International Visual
Communication Association, corporate video remains the production core
of his industry. The sector has a projected turnover for 1999 in excess
of pounds 595 million, with future growth predicted at 11 per cent.
By contrast, projected turnover for internet-based business-to-business
visual communication activities is around pounds 140 million, with a 55
per cent projected growth figure for 2000. And for other interactive
media - software, hardware and multimedia production - the 1999 figure
is just under pounds 270 million with a ten per cent projected increase
However, Jacaranda managing director Katy Eyre believes that focusing on
the platforms for delivery is not the issue. ’It’s important to remember
that the internet, and all the new interactive media are just tools
within the communications armoury,’ she says. ’What we are really
looking at is a knowledge and asset management issue, and different
solutions suit different organisations.’
Although the company has its roots in providing video communications for
clients, it has recently completed CD-ROM and web-based projects for
clients ranging from the Arcadia Group to the Kingfisher Group. For over
a decade, Jacaranda has also produced linear business TV programmes for
The Body Shop on a monthly basis. Sent out to all the different
franchises worldwide in their local language, these were originally
delivered on video cassette. ’Now we have set up an on-line database
system where using a password-protected intranet site, all staff can
access and use the 12 years’ worth of company footage,’ says Eyre.
But while many remain loyal to concept of the linear video, others can
hardly wait for the new opportunities that digital media promise. Jeremy
Redhouse, director of Redhouse Lane Communications predicts that in six
months to a year, the technical problems of producing broadcast-quality
moving pictures on the internet will be ironed out. ’The prospect of
videostreaming on company intranets and extranets means we are on the
verge of a revolution for using video in business,’ he says.
While the timescale may be optimistic, it is true that the potential for
real-time communications is enormous. Company meetings and announcements
can be broadcast live to staff at their desks, along with financial
results to investors and suppliers. Shareholders may no longer have to
travel to attend AGMs, participating on-line instead.
While desktop media users will in essence become their own programme
editors, deciding which chunks of video and information serve their
purpose best, this brings its own challenges. ’It is going to be
difficult and we need to start thinking and planning for different
demands,’ says Jim Wilson managing director of Creation
Integrating data with video will involve engaging viewer’s intellects as
well as their emotions, but there are also issues of viewing habit.
For example, programmes for VHS are generally shown in special
circumstances and given an introduction and a context.
’With desktop delivery, we will need to think about how we set up and
present programmes, so that they can stand alone,’ says Wilson. ’Also
the only interactivity will be with the machine, so there needs to be
some capacity for bouncing around ideas.’
But perhaps the greatest challenge is that video to the desktop will
almost certainly test most PC users’ attention spans. This means that
with a more modular approach, video segments will need to be concise,
inspiring and punchy enough to stop users clicking off and missing the
But it seems safe to assume that corporate video will survive for the
foreseeable future. Using the desktop will provide huge opportunities
for personalised communication with audiences, but there will still be a
role for the emotive power of the cinematic video experience.
KINGFISHER KEEPS EMPLOYEES ON MESSAGE
The Kingfisher Group, which owns Superdrug, B&Q, Comet and Woolworth’s
in the UK, and Darty and Castorama in France, has experienced a number
of internal and external changes. A year ago, to catch up with Dixons
and Currys in the electronic retail stakes, Comet introduced a new
pricing policy, and last June Kingfisher made a bid for Asda.
As part of the communications package for explaining such challenges to
internal and external audiences, Kingfisher turned to Jacaranda to
provide a range of video solutions. ’With the increasing globalisation
of the retail business, visual communication is playing a vital role in
conveying a consistent and powerful message across the organisation,’
says Kingfisher corporate communications manager David Baird.
In December 1998, Jacaranda produced a number of videos covering
internal communication, including an historical review of the company
for a senior managers’ conference. Although commissioned for a specific
event, this video has since been used for internal and external
presentations throughout the company.
Further film projects have included a video package to support
Kingfisher’s bid for Asda, and a company profile, which was shown on a
loop at the three main party political conferences last autumn.
Jacaranda has also created two internal training videos and a series of
Kingfisher’s most recent senior managers’ conference kicked off with an
insight into the future of retailing, featuring changes in shopping
experiences around the globe and interviews with international
A second film followed this up with vox-pop interviews with customers
around the world giving their reactions to the shopping revolution.
Jacaranda has helped Comet motivate its staff into helping change the
company’s cuture. Comet now has a monthly business TV programme and a
video showing staff and customer perceptions of the business, developed
as part of the training for implementing its new pricing policy.
Kingfisher and Jacaranda have extended this programme of activities, by
introducing a recruitment film for the retailer’s management development
scheme and developing a complementary web site. Here, interested
graduates can experience a taster of the video and request brochures and
further information on building a career within the group.
Jacaranda is also pulling all Kingfisher’s corporate videos into one
on-line database system.
’This means all the communications staff at head office can use the
linear video programming they have generated in a more creative way, as
a living archive,’ says Jacaranda managing director Katy Eyre.