How NOT to explain ‘simple’


Ordinarily, the simpler your marketing message, the better.

Except when there are other sensibilities involved. Which, in this case, I missed.

The back story:

The client was a financial company. They were about to unveil a brand-new, elegantly designed billing statement. For them, this was a big deal.

The company’s video producer asked me to write an ‘explainer video’ to show customers what the new bill looked like, how to read it, and why it made everything easier.

Apparently, the old bill had been a confusing mess, because it was cobbled together from separate legacy platforms that couldn’t talk to each other. Customers couldn’t make sense of it.

So an IT team had locked themselves in a room downstairs, and emerged weeks later with an elegantly simple, beautifully designed bill that solved everything.

It was said to be quite a technical coup.

The video producer sent me all the info on this new bill:  before-and-after images, along with documentation on what was changed, where things appear on the bill, and why customers would love it.

I steeped myself in all that for a while.

I figured that if the bill was so simple and instantly understandable, it wouldn’t need an elaborate video to explain it.

So I scripted the video as a simple ‘fly-over’ of the bill.

In close-up, the camera would glide over the bill, linger on some critical parts, then pull back for a bit ‘ta-da’ moment.

The video would run 45 seconds, with 97 words of voice-over and some on-screen text. Simple.

The producer sent the script to the IT team to review.

And they sat on it for two weeks. (Never a good sign.) It was “cursory and incomplete,” they said. They were working on adding more stuff to it.

The producer found out that the feeling was, “Eleven weeks of work and all we get is 45 seconds and 97 words.”

I had never thought of that.

Not that they would ever say so, but they were secretly hoping the video would be bit more about their achievement, the triumph.

Especially since the video was being billed to their departmental budget.

The video producer and I chatted about this.

He went back to the IT team with an idea.

The customer video would stay as is. No changes.

But, since this was such a great project, it would make a powerful documentary-style video for internal use. It show how the team came up with the solution — what they tried, who argued for what. How it came together.

They could use the for recruiting, orientation, and company off-sites.

The IT team liked that idea.

I then offered to help with the scriptwriting.

The IT people said, um thanks, but no. They would handle that themselves.