The Evolution of Corporate Video

by Michael Endy
There’s a magic to motion pictures that no other medium can match. From silent movies and newsreels to prime-time TV and blockbuster hits, video and film are part of our common communication vocabulary. The emotional response video produces, the strength of its storytelling capabilities, and its ability to communicate information clearly make it one of the most powerful communication tools in our arsenal.

Video today is a different animal than it was in the 1980s, when portable production equipment and inexpensive video cassette players helped fuel the growth of corporate video. From the beginning, companies used video to communicate their messages, sell products and train employees. While this still holds true, much has changed:

Video now allows for greater interactivity and integration with other media. Viewers are exposed to a wide range of video quality, from what is produced on cell phone cameras to high-definition TV. Cable, Internet and satellite providers deliver hundreds of specialty networks to our homes, catering to ever narrowing niche interests. Distribution through YouTube and other web-based outlets is almost free. Programs have become shorter as attention spans have shrunk. The cost of high-quality production gear has continued to decline. With all of these changes, there’s more video produced today than ever before. Video remains the medium with the highest impact. According to Nielsen, consumers are watching more video than ever—not only on television, but also on computers and mobile phones. And YouTube has become the fourth most popular web site in the world.

According to comScore Video Metrix, more than 168 million U.S. Internet users watched nearly 26 billion videos online during September 2009—an average of 154 videos per viewer. And just over 10 billion of those online videos were seen on YouTube. In other words, more Americans are watching online video each month than watched the last Super Bowl, which had the largest ever audience in the U.S.: 151.6 million viewers.

Let Consumers Do the Talking
Smart marketers realize the power of YouTube and other social media sites and use consumer-generated video to create brand champions out of anyone with a video camera.

Honda is using the power of video and social media to promote its brand with testimony from loyal fans. Honda lovers are encouraged to “share the love” and post videos on YouTube explaining why they love their Honda vehicle. Proud Honda owners share their stories through video and connect with other Honda lovers on Facebook. Honda’s program, titled “Everybody Knows Somebody Who Loves a Honda,” has more than 250,000 Facebook fans and has connected nearly 3 million people who share a love for Honda cars.

Integrating Video
Video today rarely stands alone, but rather is a key part of many integrated communication programs. Wherever it appears—in the back seat of a taxi, on the side of a building, on a cell phone or on YouTube—video can break through the clutter of a thousand messages to reach its target. Video can jumpstart a social media conversation and can spread virally across the Web.

Many of today’s corporations have found innovative ways to use video:

Dentsply is a global company that designs, develops, manufactures and markets a broad range of products for the dental industry. When CEO Bret Wise rang the closing bell at NASDAQ, the organization created a 10-minute video to educate investors about the company, its products and mission. Thanks to digital editing technology, the company was able to repurpose many of the shots from the video into a series of related programs to meet a variety of communication goals. A two-minute version of the video played on the famous NASDAQ board in New York City’s Times Square. A seven-minute version premiered at the American Dental Association’s annual meeting, and another showed general audiences how Dentsply improves the lives of people around the world by “creating healthy smiles.”

The Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center educates students about making healthy choices through live presentations in their York, Pennsylvania facility. To reach students who can’t travel to the center, they developed The web site features video embedded in online educational programs that engage and interact with participants and increase the entertainment and educational value for teachers and students. The center also features video on, a site for educators looking for video content. As a nonprofit looking to increase revenue, the center discovered through research that members are willing to pay for access to video content that meets educational standards. Video-based, virtual lessons—accessible only to premium members—are currently in development.

Giant Food Stores, one of the leading supermarket operations in the U.S., stages media-rich annual business meetings to celebrate past achievements and motivate managers for the coming year. In the past, Giant inserted a few video programs into the day-long event. The 2009 meeting, however, featured 14 short HD videos plus graphical presentations fully integrated into the day’s program on a 20 foot-by-120-foot video screen, supported by multiple projectors and a computerized control system. The scale of the event created a new kind of excitement for Giant employees.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Video
Used effectively, video engages the audience, draws them into a story and perhaps changes their point of view.

The emotional power of the medium helps viewers retain big ideas, but that same quality can hinder the retention of details. Video is a great tool to motivate or call people to action. The trick is not to overload the message.

When developing video, keep it short and simple. Focus on one or two messages you want your audience to remember. If you can keep your presentation short and focused, you’ll have a much greater chance of success. Integrate print materials or web copy with your video presentation to deliver more detailed information.

Corporate video has evolved and survived dramatic changes. First and foremost, it’s a communication tool. Today, communication professionals understand how to integrate video with a wide range of other media, such as interactive exhibits, video on demand, mobile platforms, multimedia events and web applications, to name a few. And when we need the unmatched power of motion pictures, there is still nothing like a high-impact video production.


Michael Endy is director of integrated programs at JPL, a strategic, integrated communication company in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He leads a team of writers, producers and consultants who develop and manage integrated communication programs and campaigns. E-mail Michael at