Brands big and small, new and established, are heavily investing in Instagram influencers to market their products. This has opened up a relatively new market for the working videographer, and here are my top seven tips to the production of Instagram-friendly video ads.
Brands from Asos to Zara are committing an increasing amount of marketing budget towards "influencer marketing." The return of investment in this kind of marketing has proven to be prosperous for brands, so it’s not surprising that influencers are commissioning high-quality video production for their ads to look as slick as possible on their grids.
Know the Limitations
Let’s start by talking about limitations. For now, Instagram videos are capped at 60 seconds, 15 seconds for Instagram Stories. The other limitation is our ever-decreasing attention span. Latest research suggests you’ve got about three seconds to make an impact from a sponsored post so your video needs to engage your audience quick.
Unless you’re lucky enough to be creating sponsored content for influencers in the 1 million-plus followers category, then there will be limitations in the budget available for a one-minute sequence. You’re probably looking at a half day shoot by a team-of-one, although this varies.
Know Your Client
Make sure you are clear on the brand identity of your influencer. Are they big into a health and well-being message? If so, then what kind of health and well-being? Is it gym routines, protein shakes, and washboard abs? Or is it meditation, yoga, and mindfulness? This is the message their following have brought into, so your content needs to feel at home on their feed.
Also take time to find out why the brand has chosen the influencer to market their product. You are coming in to use your expertise in video production to bring these two brands together. The influencer will want the product placement to feel on-brand with their Instagram profile, while the brand will want to create an engaged audience by making followers believe the influencer would use, wear, or consume their product. The better you understand the deliverable message, the easier pre-production will be.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
This tip isn’t specific to this type of video creation, and there is no shortcut to being prepared. When choosing a location, find out if there are any restrictions or limitations with using that space. If it’s a public park, do you need permission to film? If you want to film in a coffee shop, phone ahead and have a chat with the boss. Smaller, independently-owned locations are generally easier and free, especially if it’s for influencer content.
Work up a shot list to maximize your time when shooting so you can get all the important shots in the can before experimenting. For one-minute clips, there won’t be too much, if any, narrative, but don’t assume this means you can just turn up and shoot reels of stuff. You’ll pay for this in post when you're forced to sort through hours of footage. Do all the hard work before you start filming. This will make production a lot more enjoyable for everyone involved and provides the client reassurance in your professionalism.
Don’t be afraid to send out a call sheet if there are several people involved in your production. They don’t take long to put together and provides everyone involved a single source for all the key information rather than scanning through WhatsApp group chats.
When filming in most cities, using public transport is generally easier to get around to multiple locations in a single day so be efficient with packing only the gear you’ll need for the shoot. Check out an article I published recently on my gear I pack as a team-of-one filmmaker. When I need extra light, I bring along a Rotolight AEOS two-light kit that I can just about carry myself along with my Manfrotto Roller Case.
This one goes without saying, but make sure you bring a friendly and positive energy to the production. Try not to get rattled when things don’t go your way. Instead, stay sharp and think on your feet. There are lots of good videographers out there, so make sure you add value to the experience of working with yourself by making it a fun process. If everyone feels positive about the production and the work is good, then you’re more likely to work with the influencer or the brand again.
Shoot With Intent
With just one minute to work with, it’s all about impact and engagement. I like to shoot with creative transitions in mind to add production to the final video. Shots like reveals from behind obstacles and long gimbal shots work well.
Don’t be afraid to break the fourth wall, particularly when shooting fashion. It’s a great way to engage the audience quickly, and chances are influencers will be comfortable working with the camera.
Make sure you shoot the sequences that feature the product’s key selling points. If it’s a sports hydration drink, you’re going to want to shoot some vigorous exercise, the consumption of the drink, then a demonstration of a recovered and happy athlete. With these three shots you can tell the story of the product quickly, where the three clips separately don’t get this message across.
Use pre-packaged templates to add a slickness to your production while saving time in post. Motion Array is a great source for Adobe Premiere Pro CC templates for this kind of work. There are a host of creative transition templates, and even some very effective, stylized edit packs that literally require you to drag and drop your clips into placeholders in the software. In reality you’ll need to work out how these work and bring in just parts of them into your project, but once you get used to the way they work in your timeline, you’ll save tons of time in adding polish to these short videos.
The power influencers carry to reach an engaged audience has created a market for good quality, short format video which is an ideal medium for videographers early in their careers. This can become the gateway for bigger commercial work, so make the most of the opportunity by being prepared, friendly, and most importantly, concentrated on shooting for the creation of impactful video content.