Online Banking Videos Don't Have to Be Boring

What’s right for TV isn’t right for online video.

January 9, 2014

Between the complexity of the subject matter and a desire to project an image of professionalism and trust, banking can be boring.

But online banking videos shouldn’t be.

So say the creative minds behind the award-winning series of animated videos produced for IC Federal Credit Union, Fitchburg, Mass.

The $489 million asset institution developed its first-ever such targeted campaign in 2012, enlisting the advertising agency James & Matthew + Co. to capture the fancy of Gen Y.

The six-video series, which yielded more than 700,000 views on YouTube and increased credit union membership among that demographic 51% over two years, stays true to agency partner Jim Pond’s first commandment for the platform: What’s right for TV isn’t right for online video.

“It’s not like TV, where you have a captive audience,” Pond says. “You can’t just repurpose TV efforts for online.”

Keep these five insights in mind when developing your next online video concept:

1. Choose your audience

As Abraham Lincoln said, you can’t please all of the people all of the time—so don’t bother trying.

Instead, target a specific demographic and cater to their tastes. Aim to create a product that viewers can’t wait to share with their friends on social media.

IC Federal “really understood that if you make something that appeals to everyone, it appeals to no one, and it does nothing,” Pond says. “They knew the market they were going after, and they were kind enough to give us enough creative leeway to actually execute for them.”

2. Entertain while informing

The agency dressed up important credit union messages in irreverent and culturally relevant packaging.

One video (above) featured a steady stream of bleeps over “The ‘S’ Word” to satirize Gen Y’s reluctance to discuss the benefits of saving.

Another illustrated the benefits of life insurance—especially in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

“Financial videos are not typically noted for their ‘entertainment factor’ and sometimes a more serious approach is necessary,” says Pati Maguy, marketing specialist for IC Federal. “When targeting a specific demographic, however, you have to take the time to consider what it is that will not only grab their attention, but hold their attention while viewing your video. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

3. Captivate immediately

Studies show that people’s attention spans for online video begin to drop off dramatically after 60 seconds—but a sizable number get turned off in the first 5 seconds. So, focus on making a good first impression, and don’t save your best material for later.

“When you look at online video—not specific to the credit union or financial market, but pretty much everywhere—you have a massive graveyard of failure,” Pond says. “The primary reason most things are horribly unwatchable isn’t because they’re produced incorrectly or didn’t have a good initial idea, but simply because they don’t hold the viewer for any given length of time.”

4. Push the envelope before pulling back

To get the most of their relationship with an ad agency, a credit union should put as few limitations as possible on the front end of the creative process, because generally speaking, increasing risk increases the reward.

Remember, there is a safety net: You have the final word on the final product.

“Originally, the ‘S-Word’ script was far more filled with innuendo and incredibly risqué,” Pond says. “Our job as an advertising agency is to take our clients to very edge of their comfort and have them pull us back a little bit.

"A great thing about IC Federal is they had courage to allow us to do multiple revisions on the script and eventually send that video out there.”

5. Don’t go half-way

It’s not easy to make good online video, but many organizations refuse to invest the proper planning and resources, figuring that having clips of some sort on their sites is better than not having any.

That thinking generally produces lousy content that no one watches.

“There are many ‘dead’ videos taking up cyber space, providing no value to the intended consumer, that ultimately prove a total waste of time and money,” Maguy says. “If you’re going to take the leap and put yourself out there for the world to see, then it’s best to take the time and money to do it right than to publish a few low-end videos for the sake of exposure. In the end, you will find yourself among the best.”