Video helps extend campaigns' reach

Brands across different industries are recognizing the value of a diverse video strategy.

Mars, whose Snackfood division makes M&Ms, Mars candy bars, and other candy brands, wanted the opening of the newly renovated Dove Chocolate Center of Excellence in Elizabethtown, PA, an expansion with a $70 million price tag, to be a major event.

“It was important because it was furthering our commitment [in the US] to manufacturing in the local cities that we've been invested in for decades and furthering our commitment [to] the premium chocolate category, [which] is growing by leaps and bounds,” says Ryan Bowling, PR manager for Mars Snackfood US.

With about 130 people in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 29, including the media and community leaders, the PR team handling the campaign surrounding the center's expansion used video to make the event more than just a one-day occurrence.

“The topics [discussed at the event] are evergreen and are not bound by time,” adds Bowling. “It'll help give us legs as we continue to further [our] message into '09 with the additional assets that we're going to be pulling out to the public.”

For some campaigns, the use of video, both online and on broadcast media outlets, expands the reach of a campaign that would otherwise be restricted by time, space, or language barriers. Broadcast PR firms, who are witnessing the continued transformation of their industry, are adding to the strategic uses of the video they produce and distribute.

In addition to filming the actual event, Mars and its PR partners, Brand Building Communications (Dove's AOR since January 2007) and Medialink, shot b-roll of the chocolate-making “bean-to-bar” process. Vignettes from this footage aired during the event and a complete video package, including both event video and b-roll was distributed in a multimedia news release (MNR) and to internal audiences who would not be able to attend.

“It was obviously a limited one-time event and we wanted to be able to reach the country and an international audience with our messaging,” says Kelly Lynch, SVP of business development and operations at Brand Building Communications. “By creating the pre-video package and actually packaging the event, we were able to reach an extremely large audience.”

The video received more than 145 placements. B-roll footage was distributed to the four local broadcast stations in attendance and made available on a satellite feed for interested broadcast outlets unable to attend. Medialink also distributed the footage on a local and national level, with regional pick up, including local ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX stations. And the video effort laid the foundation for ongoing PR efforts.

“We developed a video that not only talks about the opening,” says Bowling, “but talks about Mars' expertise in cocoa science and the bean-to-bar story which is more and more going to be important as we move into 2009 to provide more insights into [this] story, not only at our plant, but the cocoa growing regions around the world.”

Video is also a way of better engaging your various audiences, he adds. Certainly, the Willy Wonka-like images of chocolate being made at the new Dove facility are enticing to just about anyone with eyes and a sweet tooth. Computer game maker PopCap Games, also used video to tempt a global, multilingual audience with the promise of entertainment while playing the latest iteration of their popular puzzle game, Bejeweled Twist.

“It's a fun and engaging game and a lot of that fun is based on the visuals,” says Garth Chouteau, senior director of PR for PopCap. “You can convey the fundamentals of the game much more effectively in video [across different languages].”

The Bejeweled Twist video, which features colorful shots of the game being played, was shot without a voice-over or other speaking. It aired at a launch event in Seattle on October 27, is posted online on the PopCap Web site  and was distributed through an MNR.

“In days gone by when you were trying to use a satellite feed to reach China, Japan, Europe, [etc], you have to spend a lot of money on satellite time [and] you've only got a certain window… to pull down the information,”  says Bev Yehuda, VP of products at MultiVu, which worked with PopCap on the MNR. “The route that [PopCap] took, they were able to have the release in multiple languages and the video could be embedded.”

The video also appeared in a 60-second loop on outdoor screens in Times Square and Las Vegas, which are fixed locations, but have a longer lasting consumer takeaway.

“The objective for the outdoor [screenings] was to celebrate the launch of this game… in prominent ways and places that it would be hard to have a presence in,” says Chouteau. “You're [promoting it] in a place and on a platform that, to the average consumer, looks and feels like a billboard but has so much more to offer. Even at a subconscious level, part of what [people] are taking away is this is an important or major product in its category.”

Video is also being used strategically for much more serious campaigns as well. This November, the March of Dimes commemorated the sixth year of Prematurity Awareness Month with the goal of using its PR efforts to build awareness about premature birth as both a common and serious issue; bring attention to the factors that cause premature birth, such as a lack of health insurance, and assess the severity of the problem in each US state; and mobilize people to sign an online petition seeking more research and support for the issue.

Staples says that while African-Americans have the highest rates of premature birth, Hispanic women are having the most children. As such, the video component was in both English and Spanish, directing viewers to the organization's English and Spanish Web sites.

“Video is becoming a way that people learn about health issues,” says Doug Staples, SVP of strategic marketing and communications at the March of Dimes. “We recently put up a bunch of new educational videos on our site and YouTube, recognizing that not everybody wants to read a brochure. And the market that we're talking to [with] our videos is mostly in their 20s and as time is going on that generation is more oriented towards video.”

Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions, the firm that produced the video, says across the spectrum of audiences, video is gaining enough prominence so that no group is left behind.

“Video is … at the core of how Americans consume information,” says Simon. “The biggest adjustment [for multilingual audiences] is speaking in-language… [But] broadband Web penetration has really cut across the minority demographic. Basically the only subgroup that is under-represented is the very poor who don't have broadband access, though their numbers are increasing in public places like libraries… There's really no demographic group that's under-represented.”

The video was successfully placed on more than 600 Web sites. Simon's firm has worked with the March of Dimes for some time, and attributes some of the campaign's success this year to more aggressive pitching to Web influencers, which leads to more exposure on the Web.

“One of the big pieces of the evolution is the recognition of earning media on the Web, which goes a step beyond a [MNR],” he says. “That's actually pitching Web media to get them to cover the story directly, providing them with multimedia elements and that includes video, even customized video in some cases. As PR practitioners, you have to be looking at touching all of those elements and have social media content that can be shared.”


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