In recent years, the line dividing corporate video and traditional television advertising has blurred. Often what’s ostensibly an advert couldn’t run in a traditional ad spot. And though some would argue that a corporate video promotes the business, while an ad promotes the product or service that business provides, that distinction looks shakier by the day. Working out where corporate video ends and advertising begins is tricky, then, to say the least.
Despite this, you know a great corporate video when you see one. And the criteria by which you judge a corporate video remain the same as ever, even if the technology has evolved and media channels have proliferated. Storytelling, cinematography, editing, acting, sound and design all apply. Avoiding cliché is as important as ever. A bit of irreverence goes a long way. And of course, in this over-caffeinated, content-saturated and altogether distractible era, we must always place a premium on the viewer’s attention.
But corporate videos also have contexts. The company that offers flatpack furniture will have to think more creatively than Apple or Nike. But that doesn’t mean the sofa-sellers and mattress-merchants can’t make superb corporate videos. Nor does it mean that their more inherently exciting counterparts can’t create something truly original and striking.
So with this all in mind, we set out to find and break down some of the best corporate videos around.
It’s clear from the get-go that this 2014 video by IT security and services provider risual isn’t your garden-variety corporate vid. Conceived and produced by Aspect, the video invokes the idea—accepted even within the industry—that IT can be perceived as, well, a little less than glamorous. In amusing documentary or even “mockumentary” style, using employees rather than actors, risual explains exactly what it does. But it also shows through its approach what can be achieved without a big time commitment, expensive kit or any real cinematographic or narrative complexity. The key to the success of risual’s video is boldness, self-awareness and intelligent scripting.
This video or the communication software company Slack, plays like an episode from a comedy series. It tells the story of how Sandwich, the video team who made the video, were converted to the Slack cause. Despite the whimsical tone—reflected in music that sounds as if it was taken from a Woody Allen film— there’s an authenticity to the video for the simple reason that those interviewed are real people working at every level of the business. This is typical of the Sandwich approach. “We basically invented the modern explainer video”, they write on their website. Vox Media might disagree.
There’s nothing “stock” about this powerful video from Storyhunter, directed by John Ryan Johnson. Everything about it oozes creative cool, from the music to the locations. It’s a reflection of the creative types the platform serves. And those creative types will be reassured to see that all the footage is original, diverse and high-quality: it was shot not by a video production company, but by 17 filmmakers in 10 countries. As for the narration, here’s a great example of how powerful a voice can be. Pinning down what makes a great voice isn’t easy, but you definitely know one when you hear one.
There’s no point pretending that there’s anything wrong with exploiting the power of celebrity. It works. Ride-sharing company Lyft drafted in DJ Khaled as part of a series in which celebrities play the role of cab drivers and this video is pure entertainment. Lyft has been building its brand image through pop culture, and for this video it worked with the studio Alldayeveryday and director Alex Richanbach, who’s known for his Funny or Die shorts. Beneath the surface of this clip, there’s a suggestion that Lyft drivers are affable, cheerful and chatty. And, since we all know that celebrities tend never to drive themselves, Lyft is making a subtle claim to power: if it can get a celeb behind the steering wheel, what can’t it do?
“Ecommerce solutions” hardly sounds sexy, and Shopify knows it. So with this corporate video—one that has much in common with a feature-length documentary—it chooses instead to put on display the resilience and passion of the small business owners that make up its target audience. There is an underdog narrative here: a certain rawness, despite the sleek cinematography. The people featured here are fighting for themselves and for their families. Crucially, the brand uses real stories, told by real people, and keeps itself out of the spotlight until the very end. In doing so, it hints at a kind of understated, behind-the-curtain brilliance.
“What are girls made of?” asks Nike in the first of three videos designed to shatter gender stereotypes by invoking them and then subverting them. A young girl sings to a packed auditorium of men and women in evening dress, only to be interrupted by the entrance of a skater, dancer, kickboxer, track athlete. The action rises as the child hero of the story takes confidence from each new arrival and changes the lyrics of her song to describe what girls are, in fact, really made of—to the confusion of the crowd. This is powerful storytelling, made all the more effective by a striking aesthetic. And it’s a story that reflects a wider, societal coming-of-age. Here Nike captures the mood of the moment.
If Nike confronts gender stereotypes with girls and women in mind, Axe rolls up its sleeves and takes on toxic stereotypes of male behaviour. Opening with an arresting statistic—that nearly three-quarters of all men have been told how a “real man” ought to behave—it uses point-of-view shots to ask the kinds of questions men are forced to ask themselves because of rigid gender norms. The music is mostly ominous, at times sounding like the thudding of a heartbeat. The blending of voices puts the viewer in mind of racing thoughts. Made in 2017 by Amsterdam-based video production company 72andSunny, this is a brand awareness video that deftly reflects Axe’s stated purpose in its latest incarnation: to “redefine what it means to be a man”.
This promotional video by bone china producers Dibbern may be on the long side, but it works beautifully. Here, the quality of the video reflects the quality of the brand. Footage of verdant forests, pouring rain, dew-coloured flowers and rushing water is interspersed with shots of finely crafted teapots, plates and cups, as well as the sophisticated machinery involved in their production. An understated but tasteful musical track reflects the quiet industry and focus of the craftsperson, as well as the elegance of the final product. This video comes courtesy of the Hamburg-based video production company 27 Kilometer Entertainment GmbH, and it’s a good one.
In this clip, put together by video production company Supermarché and walking the tight-rope between corporate video and advert, Google identifies and focuses on a problem every person has—and gives us its solution. Within this video there’s humour, variety, and an understated soundtrack that stays well in the background and makes way for dialogue. And there is a certain self-confidence implied in Google’s neglecting to tell the viewer at any point in this product video exactly how Express works.
Commissioned by Los Angeles County Museum of Art for their first annual “Art + Film Gala”, this six-minute video gives the viewer the “brief history” of artist John Baldessari, called the “godfather of conceptual art”. The film is amusingly self-aware, and the music suggests urgency while the mellifluous narration of musician Tom Waits, which entails repeatedly saying the words “this is John Baldessari’s …” acknowledges that this history must necessarily be brief. Only part-way through does the narrative slow down and then, as if again recognising the need to be terse, accelerates to its end. There’s something very funny in the way a six-minute “history” chooses as its subject someone whose lifetime output was prodigious. And there’s something very impressive about it, too: the makers pull it off.
Like many genuinely disruptive businesses, Harry’s has a good story. So why not not take advantage of it? It would be against the brand’s modus operandi to complicate things. This amusing two-and-a-half-minute video begins with the birth of its founders and ends with a room full of Harry’s employees over-celebrating. This goes beyond an “about us” video: the real thread that runs throughout the clip is all to do with relatability, since almost all men have to shave. The founders humanise themselves, make fun of themselves, and position themselves as down-to-earth, men of the people—quite the opposite of the shadowy figures who run what they dub “Big Razor.”
And we would be remiss not to mention one of our own contributions, which emerged from our collaboration with Chinese media group Hantang Culture. Hantang commissioned content for Fashion Insiders, a series of short portrait films featuring leading fashion personalities and institutions, from brand founders and visual artists to couturiers and fashion icons. We worked closely with Hantang to produce, film and edit a number of videos in the series including this one, on fashion illustrator David Downton, and we like to think it speaks for itself. Our aim was to capture the essence of one of the most skilled and interesting people in the world of fashion and present that to the viewer in a way that reflected his personality and influence.
So there you have it: 12 of the very best corporate videos around. It’s a list that proves that in the right creative hands and with a good video production company on your side, any brand, large or small, glamorous or not-so-glamorous, can produce exceptional corporate video.
That’s a wrap.