In the past 12 months, the fashion for short, repeating videos on corporate sites has gone from unusual to mainstream. Jason Sumner highlights the best uses of this still emerging feature, and points out some pitfalls to consider as the trend spreads.
So-called looping videos – short, usually soundless clips that play automatically on web pages – have been a positive development for corporate sites. When done well, they are eye-catching, stylish and add visual interest; they help draw readers into accompanying magazine-style material; and, for the moment, signal that a company is innovative and in touch with modern web trends.
Leading media sites such as the New York Times have been experimenting with video for some time to add impact to stories. It is encouraging to see that corporate website designers have by and large taken this thoughtful approach (with a few exceptions), as opposed to gimmicky, GIF clickbait that is so prevalent on Twitter.
Over the last 12 months, we’ve been evaluating the best companies in the world at digital corporate communications for our latest Index of Online Excellence (scheduled to be released next week). We have seen the fashion for looping video take off during that time; so we thought it would be a good time to point out a few of the best examples so far, as well as highlight risks as the feature gains even more traction.
Verizon – getting the home page moving
Verizon, the US-based telecoms giant, uses a vertical carousel to automatically scroll visitors through a series of banners on its corporate home page, most of which use looping video. There are a variety of styles and subjects – covering responsibility, careers, innovation. My colleague David Bowen has pointed out before that the ‘moving eye’ video is one of the most interesting uses of the feature – literally ‘eye-catching’ (see below). On the whole, Verizon’s creative and actively edited approach is worth emulating.
Estee Lauder – a landing page with talent
Estee Lauder Companies, the US cosmetics manufacturer, also uses looping video to good effect on its corporate home page, but the most unusual use of the feature is on its ‘Talent’ (careers) landing page. The banner is a grid of looping video clips, in monochrome, showing a diverse range of employees in mid-interview. A jobseeker already interested in working for Estee Lauder and landing here would likely find it hard not to click on at least one of the profiles.
Maersk – appropriate balance
The Danish transport conglomerate’s looping videos fit seamlessly with the site’s polished visual style. Maersk limits the number of videos it uses, which makes them stand out more. When we checked the site this week, it was using looping video on the home page and only two of its six primary section landing pages – ‘Business’ and ‘About’. In the case of the landing pages, the theme is shipping and transport, a theme that lends itself to stunning imagery, as the Maersk site proves.
The cutting room floor: staleness and cliché
The best looping videos use good practice principles for any type of visual – variety, originality, appropriateness to the rest of the site’s look and feel and sharp editing.
The risks for looping video are the flip side of the above; and I would categorise the main ones at the moment as staleness and cliché.
BASF and Facebook – when should a good video be changed?
At some point even a great image goes stale, and the same goes for looping video. Some sites avoid the question by changing up their videos frequently, but for others perhaps with less budget and time, the question is harder to answer.
BASF, for example, has had the same looping video on its home page for several weeks. It depicts a man (we assume an engineer) inspecting a server stack. There is a lot to like about it on first watch – it is brief and on point (the feature being promoted is about a super-computer), and unlike many other looping videos, it ‘ends’ with a close-up of the server lights flashing, rather than starting again.
I happened to have returned frequently to BASF for my job in the last few weeks (reviewing the site for the Index), and I was thoroughly tired of it after a while. However, many, if not most, visitors to corporate sites are new and will not linger on the home page for long. So the balance is how much you will bore returning visitors versus impress the new ones. There is no right answer.
Facebook is another example – it has had the same looping video (also featuring servers) on its sustainability microsite for more than a year, raising the question of whether it can or should be retired.
Netflix – careers clichés
It seems odd to talk about cliché for such a relatively young feature, but we have noted a few already (servers and wind turbines are on the borderline, for example), but a certain kind of Careers microsite video may already qualify.
The Netflix careers microsite is one example (and probably not the worst) of a ‘type’ – wide shot of the workplace, followed by employees walking and talking; in meeting rooms; ‘collaborating’ next to walls, etc. These are beginning to look like they came from an agency cookie cutter.
The conventional ‘corporate video’ is a fertile ground for visual clichés, so it is interesting that looping videos so far have avoided most egregious of these. That may reflect the attention being given currently to making them stand out.
As they become easier and cheaper to produce and attention moves to the next new thing, then over-use and corporate clichés, as with more conventional types of imagery, will become bigger dangers not to be repeated.
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