How recruiters felt about videos in student books.

Recently I had the chance to meet with and talk shi…. talk shop with some 20 or so creative recruiters from agencies all over America. It was a great opportunity to ask a bunch of top agency recruiters what they look for (and don’t look for) in student portfolios.

In particular, I wanted to know if recruiters took the time to play those concept videos students sometimes put in their portfolios. You know, videos that show how a campaign unfolds, with voiceover to describe the flow; one of those ideas that’s hard to show off with just a few flat pages, you get me, right?

While the recruiters’ answers weren’t unanimous (this is a creative business), they did agree on a few big things. So let’s start off with the majority opinion (and it isn’t good).

• “I hate every single video I see.”

• “The thing is, nobody wants to watch them because they take three minutes to explain what could’ve been covered in thirty seconds.”

• “I think videos are a catastrophic waste of time.”

Wow, thank you for that constructive crit….

• “My god, those videos, they take way too much time, especially when I have ten books to go through and 20 minutes between meetings to do it.”

• “The videos are all about five minutes too long because students don’t seem able to edit them down.”

Okay, everybody, so what I’m hearing you say is “maybe”…  No, it’s “no.”  A big fat no. Okay. Okay. Still, you gotta agree not every concept can be shown in….

• “Yes, an integrated campaign can be shown in 2-D.”

• “I think having a quick 2-D visual of the main idea of the campaign along with a very short description of how the idea translates across multiple platforms, I think that solves the ‘quick-look’ issue.”

• “And for those students who really want videos? Have ‘em do Vines. They’re just six seconds long and their length might actually inspire our CD to click on ‘em.”

Oooookay then. That went well, … right?

Good talk. Good talk.

So we chatted some more. Turned out not everybody hated videos.

• “Include a video only if you absolutely, totally and completely cannot show your idea on flat paper.”

• “If I see it’s longer than a minute, forget about it. A minute or less, always. We even have that rule for our own case studies.” 

• “It has to be engaging from the very start. Give me a reason to keep watching.”

• “If there has to be a case-study video, put a two-sentence elevator pitch right above or below it. Sell me.”

• “The set-up you put next to the video needs to sell it, needs to make me want to click PLAY. Persuasion is what you’re supposed to be good at, right? Selling? So … show me you can do it. Show me right here, right now.”

• “I’m in the minority, as I honestly enjoy a good case study now and then. (I’ll just watch one though.)  Figuring it’s their prized idea, if they can keep me engaged, I welcome it. I also love the personality that sometimes comes through these videos.” 

• “I’m seeing more people coming into the business being able to shoot and edit their work. These skills are becoming important to demonstrate.”

 • “Once I narrow the books down based on other things, maybe then I’ll start looking at a few videos.”

• “I’m a little more willing to watch a video … if the rest of the book is killer.”

We also had time to talk about other stuff, just some general do’s and don’ts, one of which was, surprisingly, don’t suck. (Nah, I threw that in.)

• “It’s really simple. From writers I wanna see great writing. From art directors I wanna see great design. And from everybody, great thinking. Period.” 

• “I want the creativity to jump out of the book and slap me.”

• “Make it fast. If I can look at it and love it in two seconds, there’s nothing more powerful than that. I want to fall in love in two seconds.”

• “Have a pdf version of your book. It’s faster for us to review pdfs.”

• “I’m tired of ‘fancy’ websites that work only on specific browsers and make me all batshit crazy trying to navigate. I usually just go right to the pdf anyway.”

• “The first thing I assess is how the work looks. I want to see the kind of attention to detail this person puts into the way a thing looks.”

• “At the top of the page, have one single sentence to intro the campaign. No, target audience stuff. Just have… well, here’s a good example in a student book: ‘Citi Bike: How do you take an activity New Yorkers already do and turn it into something that does tangible good?’ See? It’s one sentence.”

• “Don’t do an app. Please, stop with the apps already.” 

• “Here’s what I think a student book ought to have: three or four integrated campaigns, obviously, plus one digital-only campaign, a couple of 2-D campaigns (print/outdoor/etc.), plus a few things that’re just … cool: inventions, evolutions on existing products/services, etc.”

Looking back on all the comments, a theme jumps out – speed.

Obviously, your concepts have to communicate quickly. But so does your whole website. Recruiters should be able to fly through your site, startin’ with your best work upper left (that’s how we read), then click in the center, then click on the right, just barrelling along clickety-split with no videos-as-speed-bumps to slow ‘em down.

My two cents?

Yeah, I think you probably oughta have at least one cool video; one big-ass integrated idea, if only to show your chops in using Adobe programs for visual storytelling. Set the idea up with a one-sentence caption, park it under the PLAY frame, make sure the video starts fast, no set-up, just get right to the coolest part, and be gone in sixty seconds.

Oh, also… it shouldn’t suck. Sucking, apparently, is bad.