Looks Are Everything

Remember when I flew out to LA in the fall? Well this is one of the films I was working on.

YULA – the top girls high school in the region – flew us out to create their recruitment film campaign for the coming school year.


Our goal here was to make a cinematic film campaign featuring all that YULA offers.  Why do I highlight the word “cinematic” here?

You may have noticed that ten years ago, when we started, school films were shockingly schlocky. We have worked diligently to raise the bar on nonprofit, university, school and camp films – and you can see that the whole nonprofit world has followed suit.

I want to discuss with you why the cinematography or the visual presentation is so crucial for the success of a brand, and an educational institution in particular.

  1. The thing about education is that its value is mostly intrinsic and not external.  Try to imagine how you would show – in a beautiful or artistic way – that education is great at a particular institution, let’s say your school. Where would you start? It is extremely hard to depict something where the process mostly happens on the inside. It’s like showing the thoughts of a person. How do you do that? Therefore, in the past, most school promotions and presentations were rather drab, dull and literal in terms of visual and experiential presentation.

I can safely say that we were one of the first advertising firms to change that.  Our clients’ results show that the cinematic approach has worked, and here’s why:

The intrinsic value of an educational institution cannot be shown by anything.

Therefore we need to find a metaphor on a visual level through which our audience would experience that the external values (the stuff you film/show) are equally as beautiful as our intrinsic values.

In other words, the outer beauty is a reflection of its inner beauty.  I think that’s the only way to show off a school and separate it from its competitors who most often operate under the assumption that our audience will UNDERSTAND that their eduction is good even though they are not trying to depict it in a beautiful way.

  1. Many schools come to realize that investing into a beautifully shot campaign – whether in a brochure or in a marketing film – is rather important and sets them miles apart. Meanwhile, their competition will be stuck in the 90s thinking that all that matters in a school are a good education, a homey feeling, and friendly teachers and therefore it will “sell itself”. But let me ask you, how is your target audience able to assume this if we can’t show it?
  2. Bottom line: don’t be cheap when it comes to presenting your organization to the world. Whether it is a new building, or a new brochure, or a visual media marketing campaign. They all work hand-in-hand, and every little bit reflects the values and mission of your brand.

If you have a drab – looking film, the perception is that you have a poor mission. This is how it works in the mind of your audience.

Want some proof? Think of Apple. Apple goes above and beyond and puts so much thought, money and efforts into the packaging of their gadgets. Their packaging is on average 5 times more expensive than your typical cardboard-wrapped Dell computer. See where I’m going? The Apple experience doesn’t just start at the point when you’re using the actual device. It starts already by holding just the package in your hand. That interface going forward will influence everything else along the user experience timeline. You really don’t want to be that cardboard-wrapped Dell. You want to be the superior brand that people rave about.

BTW – I want to note:

A good film production company can and should make even an institution with old buildings and not much going on visually look stunning. (This is obviously its own art and skill set.) So don’t think that if you don’t have money for a new building, you shouldn’t invest in a good film ad campaign. On the contrary, investing in someone who can bring you more enrollment and donations in the first place will lead you to afford that new building that you had your eyes on.  A visual filmmaker can make even the most run-down locations look stunning.

What an honor it’s been to work on this film for YULA. In the film capital of the world, YULA – the top girls high school in the region – despite having their pick of local filmmakers – flew us out to produce a film campaign for them. It’s been great working with them…more to come…

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