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2 February, 2021 • 5 min read
While UGV is by no means new, it’s emergence in the business landscape has grown rapidly to reflect the demand for authenticity in marketing and communications. Over the last six or so years, companies have begun to dip their toes in the waters of user generated content and started to experiment with different formats.
Then, in 2020, the unprecedented circumstances of the global pandemic that saw many countries implementing nationwide lockdowns put our digital infrastructure to the test. Families were separated, friend groups dispersed, and swathes of employees were forced to adopt remote working practices as the norm.
More than ever, it became essential for organisations to foster a sense of community through their internal and external communications.
Naturally, many turned to user-generated video as an avenue to amplify employee stories and authentic customer experiences. As such, certain key approaches to user generated video have become the most commonly used formats in this space. These include:
Raw fully aggregated UGV content
In some cases, it’s the raw, unfiltered footage captured and shared on social media that can be the most powerful in communicating a message. This format requires no brief; there is no script, direction or production team - the content is created by an individual “in the wild” and used by the brand to illustrate a campaign. A great example of this can be seen in Burger King’s recent campaign for their delivery service.
Never one to shy away from bold content that gets people talking, the fast-food company scraped social media for videos taken by customers in their restaurants. The result was a tongue-in-cheek, completely unfiltered compilation of the chaos of late nights in Burger King - drunken fights, jousting with traffic cones, naked ordering, napping at tables, washing under a water dispenser - all the antics the British public is familiar with.
Instead of pretending this aspect of the culture didn’t exist, they made the decision to own that element of the brand by leveraging existing content that fans had shared to create some humour. Finally, the ad closes with a message that the audience can relate to: ”The best of Burger King without the worst of Burger King.”
Crowd sourced narrative
In some cases, a little briefing goes a long way. Crowd sourced narrative goes a step beyond raw aggregated footage; it provides a loose brief to a group of contributors and empowers them to bring their own unique take to the table. Video crowdsourcing has soared in popularity this year, and this format is greatly facilitated by video collaboration software like Seenit; it encourages larger groups to co-create a piece of content and elevates voices from a range of backgrounds.
Every year, entertainment giant ViacomCBS hosts an event designed to bring employees together to volunteer for local communities across the world. This year would be a little different considering the circumstances. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, ViacomCBS were determined to persevere with their goal of making a positive impact on the people and areas where they live and work. To this end, the company used UGV to energise communities with authentic messages from employees across the globe.
Virtual events are not necessarily easy, as different employees have different needs and set-ups when working from home. The company had to innovate and to rethink what it means to give back to the community, but from a virtual standpoint.
Members were asked to share their thoughts and plans for Community Day - but the directions that followed were open questions, enabling employees to speak freely about the causes closest to their hearts. As exemplified by ViacomCBS, this format allows for interpretation of a brief and elevates employee stories from different backgrounds, age groups, and cultures. Despite the challenges of a globally dispersed team working from home, Viacom’s Virtual Service Day was a huge success: employees from 24 offices and regions came together to achieve a total of over 10,000 hours of virtual good, engaging over 100 organisations in the process.
It goes to show that creating a safe space in which employees feel comfortable doing so couldn’t be more paramount to strengthening your organisational culture and setting the tone for the entire business landscape.
This creative takes the concept of briefing to the next level, empowering individuals by giving them the support necessary to produce high quality user generated video content. In a recent documentary, Seenit worked with the BBC to capture the student experience.
The theme of the documentary was freshers week, as seen through the eyes of the students themselves. To make this a reality, five uni students were provided with training necessary to document their first week of university through their smart-phones.
Ahead of filming, students were invited to the studio in London, where they were taught the principles of storytelling and given advice on what to film and how best to capture their experience. The result was inspiring to say the least: a video collage of unique stories and moments of courage from real people; an immersive insight into the highs, lows, fears, and hopes that would give would-be students an opportunity to see behind the promos to the real experiences of those embarking on a new journey.
Breaking the fourth wall
A technique used in comedy films and series’ such as BBC Three’s Fleabag, breaking the fourth wall is an acknowledgement within the video of the imaginary wall that divides the subject and the audience. In some cases, the subject will address the audience directly, turning to the camera and speaking honestly - in others, the subject will simply acknowledge the intention of the video such as a marketing campaign to immediately build trust.
This concept lends itself well to UGV; it can add humour, promote authenticity and pull the audience into the story, just as high-quality bike manufacturer Specialized showcased in a recent campaign. Their ad begins with a phone call between two presumed members of the marketing team discussing the campaign, in which one of them suggests sending bikes out to customers and asking them to film their first test ride. It’s no secret that people are generally distrustful of marketing - so what better way to disarm the audience by addressing the fact that their campaign strategy is a risky move?
Immediately, the fourth wall is broken as the two discuss the potential of the campaign going very wrong as part of the ad itself before launching right into the videos shot by the customers themselves.
Combining professional content and UGV
Another example from HSBC:
UGV can be powerful as a standalone, or it can be combined with professionally shot content to seamlessly string together a narrative and amplify a message. This was done exceptionally well by Nokia, who brought to life an ad campaign that centred around our networks of loved ones, team mates, support systems and supply chains during the Covid-19 crisis.
The campaign pulls together authentic content from smartphones as well as professionally produced videos into a moving piece that captivates the human side of their brand beautifully. Where video producers used to big-budget campaigns would never have originally contemplated UGV as an avenue due to the lack of production value, Nokia have demonstrated the power of combining both formats in going beyond a company’s product to showcase what lies at the heart of the business - its values.