TED Curator Muses About Online Video

TED talk

TED talks are a familiar source of inspiration and information on the web. The non-profit was established in 1984 with the mandate to spread ideas in the form of short (18 minutes or less), powerful expositions. Over the years, TED has grown to cover just about every topic imaginable in more than 100 languages.

Chris Anderson, curator and head of TED, gave a talk in 2010 called “How Web Video Powers Global Innovation”. Anderson touts the critical role online video plays in society generally, and for his organization in particular. The video is nine years old but still relevant. Anderson says we are embarking on “the biggest learning cycle in human history”. Much of what he covers sounds obvious today, but it was prescient and cutting edge at the time when online video was still in its infancy. To give you a better idea of what’s changed, we were watching 80 million hours of YouTube daily in 2010. Now, we watch 1 billion hours of YouTube daily.


Video is a preferred form of online communication, with 55% of people watching a video online every day. There are certain non-verbal cues missing from text that we get when we watch a video. These cues facilitate our ability to learn and retain information. Anderson gives examples of growing social trends such as dancing and educational advancements from sharing ideas—all enabled through video. He concludes that we’re moving toward more two-way communication with online video that has the ability to create global conversations.

TED Talks—Online Video Today

We returned to the TED archives to search for a contemporary equivalent of Anderson’s talk; something that addresses how we use online video today. What we found was a talk given by Bill Haley, a Producer-Director and principal at Allied Pixel. His piece, “Personalized Video—A Better Way to Engage with Your World”, describes a thoroughly modern use of video.


This TED talk is about personalizing video messages. Haley uses the example of how his team engineered a system to produce videos for higher education institutions. That concept isn’t new. However, producing personalized videos en masse is new.

Getting Personal

Haley uses student “Nicole” to illustrate how this method works. Nicole was accepted at three universities and sent a personal welcome video from one institution. Using some basic data retrieved from admissions information, Haley’s team was able to create a welcome video that was more personal than a generic school greeting. The program works from a template that’s standard for each video and follows this format:

  • intro
  • major
  • activities
  • sports
  • living
  • close

Haley’s TED talk explains how the template is just the starting point. At the intro and close, Nicole’s name is used. Pretty basic, but still a step ahead of going nameless and addressing the student in a generic way. We also see some general information about the school off the top. Then, we start to get personal. Because Nicole told the school about her preferred major, the campus activities that interest her, and where she would like to live, the video can speak to those specifics. Targetting that information and fleshing it out led to a personalized video.

Preparing for the Personal

Making a personalized video meant gathering the necessary components ahead of time. Video content was created for various university-related majors, activities, sports, and housing options. This allowed a computer to insert appropriate information into Nicole’s video. The more generalized content that comes at the beginning and end of each video is also part of the ready-to-use system. Once the template was built, it could be populated with content specific to each prospective student. When sent to accepted students, the finished videos have the potential to lead to a higher attendance rate in an effective recruitment campaign.

Haley’s TED talk also addresses how this modular approach has potential far beyond personalized student videos. He proposes specialized wellness plans for the medical community, individual training programs in athletics, and even movies with storylines that cater to specific interests. The potential to personalize video can be expanded to a wide range of applications.

The Future is Personal

We already see targeted ads based on our online activity and personalized video is a natural progression. At Key West Video, we understand how video templates can accelerate production time by establishing a client format and then tweaking each video to include specific details. Get in touch with us today if you’d like to find out more about how you can make each customer feel like they’re your top priority.

This blog was originally posted in 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and content.

Video Versatility: From News Satire to Sales

Videos can be versatile

Most businesses rely on formulas to keep things running smoothly. There are processes in place to handle the day-to-day operations that repeat on a regular basis. In the realm of video production, we approach each project in a similar way from a high-level perspective. The path taken from initial client meetings to a finished video looks the same overall. When you drill down into the kind of video being produced, that’s when the details of the process change. Although each video is unique, maintaining an established working procedure means everybody involved is on the same page and nothing is missed.

Video and Satire

Using a recognizable, repeatable process leads to an expectation rooted in predictability. That can be a good thing because nobody likes surprises when it comes to business. This group understanding also means that we can all laugh together when someone uses satire to point out an inherent redundancy. Take for example the video made by Charlie Brooker, a British news reporter and comic. His news spoof should look very familiar.


The beauty of satire is that it contains a nugget of truth. It’s a form of humour inspired by fact, but twisted into a funny take on the subject. Video is a fantastic way to take a good-natured jab at ourselves. The Charlie Brooker video above reminds us of  “Generic Brand Video”. This video follows a formula that rings true in our line of work. But ultimately, it’s a brilliant promotional ad for stock footage company Dissolve.

Have a Laugh

At Key West Video, we’re occasionally asked to produce videos that feature the lighter side of a company. These are generally created for an internal audience and are shown at holiday parties, AGMs, or other employee-focused events. We’ve shot everything from music videos to scripted news reports that are a funny take on what it’s like in our client’s workplaces. The feedback we get on these projects is overwhelmingly positive and employees really seem to enjoy being able to laugh at themselves and their colleagues.

Stand Out in the Crowd

There’s a reason why testimonials or branding videos or any other type of production have similarities: they share a common goal. That doesn’t mean that every video has to look the same or should look the same. You want your audience to remember why your business is different, and better, than a competitor. Even though your video may have elements similar to a rival company, our goal is to help you express the unique properties of your product or service. So a formula is just an outline to keep us all on track—how we fill in the details is what makes your production one-of-a-kind.

A Video for Any Occasion

Whether your goal is to entertain your team with a spoof of the office or sell your service to a target market, we can help you succeed using video. The formulas we use for our services help us produce the kind of results you’re after. But we also treat each client and each project based on individual needs. We aim to create a video that shows why your business is unique. We also want to produce something that really connects with your audience. Call us today for a free quote.

This blog was originally posted in 2011 and has been updated for content clarity and accuracy.

QR codes In Corporate Video Production

QR codes

To many, the Quick Response (QR) code may seem like a dinosaur. Sure, they were all the rage almost a decade ago but excitement burned out pretty fast. A lack of smartphones, internet lags, and clunky execution led to the demise of these black-and-white square images. But technology has caught up with the application and the codes are showing up everywhere.

Just Point and Shoot

QR codes In Corporate Video Production
A QR code is like a public-access barcode

A QR code works much like a barcode. That little picture is the conduit that will send you to all kinds of information. These codes can lead you to coupons and apps, act as a customer service portal, or even land the user on a corporate video (more on that later). Thanks to upgrades in our phones and wi-fi, most smartphones will read the code without an additional app and take you to the payoff quickly.

The Little QR Code That Could

The QR code was invented in Japan in 1994 by the Denso Wave company to track its manufacturing process for vehicles. By 2002, the codes were enjoying widespread use in Japan. When the QR code first started showing up in North America around 2010, they were a novelty.

Big companies began using QR codes for marketing. Taco Bell and Miller Light created interactive campaigns. Even small start-ups used the codes to build brand awareness. Their business appeal was obvious: they were inexpensive to create, track and adapt. Guidelines and services could be found through a simple internet search.

Popular TV series True Blood was the first to employ a designer QR code. The HBO show had a design team turn the code on its side and feature dripping red blood. This promotional gimmick hit the branding jackpot by customizing the trending technology. The code got major exposure when it appeared on a primetime TV ad.

QR Codes and Corporate Video

A QR code can be used as a direct link to corporate video. An important part of video production is marketing. After all, what good is a video that nobody watches? Increase your exposure by using a QR code as a direct line to a video that promotes your business. This could be anything from an explainer to a testimonial that makes a direct connection with your target market. A code placed in an area that aligns with your business and your desired consumer—think a pet food company that shows up at a pet fair—can deliver new customers. A QR code can replace the need for an app in proximity marketing campaigns.  

QR codes In Corporate Video Production
QR codes are a natural fit for proximity marketing

Corporate video promotion is only one way to use a QR code. Here are some other ideas:

  • add to post-purchase packaging so consumers can easily reorder
  • create an interactive experience in a library, museum or any space with added info
  • provide an opportunity for customer reviews
  • use as a digital business card that you can update whenever necessary

Scanning the Future

If you missed out on the QR code the first time around, now is the time to embrace the latest version of this little powerhouse. As a consumer, use it to take advantage of deals, learn more about a product, and engage with brands. As a business, try employing codes as part of your marketing plan and track their impact. The next time you see that familiar pixellated picture, take a moment to see what’s inside.

This post was originally published in September 2011 but has been updated to keep content accurate and relevant.


Netflix Ads in Our Future?

tv watching

Will Netflix ads ever be a thing? Not since the Ross and Rachel will they or won’t they question has there been so much debate among viewers. The streaming game gets more competitive all the time and Netflix announced a price bump early this year for the first time since 2017. More streaming options and a limited revenue source mean the OTT provider is looking for cash. So does that mean the most popular streaming service in the world will allow ads?

Why Add Ads?

Netflix Ads in Our Future?
Netflix ads could finally lead to a profit

Although Netflix has always said it wants to be ad-free, most experts agree the streaming service will eventually need to embrace advertising. They say there’s simply no other way to sustain continued growth. You see, Netflix operates on a yearly loss and hasn’t had any positive cash flow since 2011. Their entire revenue is based on monthly membership fees from three available plans. Other streaming services have additional sources of revenue or use advertising. For example, Hulu offers a cheaper subscription rate for viewers willing to sit through ads. Many feel Netflix should adopt the same model.

Show Me the Money—Netflix Numbers

So what are the numbers for the world’s biggest streaming service? In Canada, Netflix is forecast to have 7.26 million users in 2019. They have 149 million users worldwide across 190 countries. The company has a market valuation and stock price that’s sky-high: $150 billion dollars and $370USD respectively. In March, Netflix was spending $1.4 billion per month on content. Based on the amount of money Netflix is spending, subscriptions alone aren’t going to cut it.

Some feel the time is running out for Netflix’s current business model to work. Netflix ads could be the move that keeps investors investing. There’s an impatience to see how all the money put toward original programming can be monetized. Relying on good content for profitability is playing the long game. The company could run out of investor patience before the content pays off. And the influx of new streaming services is making the situation more desperate.

Original Programming

The success of Netflix hinges on its content. The company is betting on original productions, borrowing money with the hopes of future growth. In fact, Netflix has almost $20 billion in content costs on the book. Even with good content, the competition is fierce. More streaming services means less content to go around. For example, Disney will be pulling content off Netflix over the course of 2019 in anticipation of starting its own service. And Netflix had to pay WarnerMedia $100 million in December to keep Friends another year.

Consumer Ad Acceptance

Netflix has built a reputation on refusing ads and they seem to be stubbornly sticking to that brand proposition. However, some studies show that Netflix ads would generally be accepted. “Cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers” are especially willing to put up with advertising. A study suggests that streaming ads targeted to the viewer have context not found on traditional broadcast or cable tv. The relevance of the advertising makes it less annoying and more inclined to be useful, helpful, or interesting to the viewer. Experts say that if Netflix is transparent about using ads and illustrates the value exchange, consumers may be more open than they think. If Netflix ads mean more original programming and a cheaper subscription cost, that may be an acceptable trade-off.

The Ever-Growing Field of Streaming Services

Here are some of the other streaming services that are scooping up viewers in Canada, often at a lower cost.

  • Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime Canada costs $79 per year or $7.99 per month and includes free shipping, access to Prime Video and Prime Music, plus a few other perks.
  • CBC Gem features live programming, original programming, and CBC Staples such as Coronation Street. Caveat: the service only supports 720p resolution on all platforms.
  • CBS All Access is offering one month free for new subscribers. Once that grace period is over, All Access will cost a monthly fee of $5.99
  • Crave is Bell Media’s video streaming service and starts at $9.99 CAD. However, if you purchase all of the add-ons, you’ll pay $25.99 a month.
  • DAZN is the streaming service for sports fans. It offers live streams of MLS, NFL, European soccer, ICC Cricket and more. Pay $20/month or $150 for the year with the first month free for new subscribers. Sportsnet NOW is another sports-related streaming option.
  • Hayu is NBC Universal’s streaming offering in Canada. Its genre is very specific, streaming only reality tv programming. Cost is $5.99/month with the first month free.
  • Get all the horror programming you can handle for $4.99/month or $49.99/year with Shudder, AMC’s live streaming service.
  • YouTube Premium offers original content made by creators. You can watch YouTube Originals for $11.99 per month.
  • Coming soon: Apple TV+ is set to release in fall 2019.
  • Also coming soon: Disney+ is reportedly planning to charge half the price of a Netflix subscription when they launch. Content includes movies from the Marvel series, the Star Wars saga, and Pixar. Many are predicting a pre-holiday rush when the service launch in November 2019.

Would You Accept Netflix Ads?

Would Netflix ads make you cancel your subscription? What would you need in return to make advertising worth the watch? For now, Netflix remains ad-free. Some think it will stay that way and that ads aren’t the only option. Whatever happens in the future, there are certainly plenty of streaming services to choose from. Surely one of them—or a combination of several—fits your needs.

Trading Services—What’s the Deal?

handshake trading services

Trading services, in-kind trade, in-kind services, trade-outs, countertrade, contra agreements…Whatever you choose to call it, bartering is the oldest form of doing business. When two companies trade products or services, both parties can come out ahead. If the terms are clear and each side benefits, especially in cases where time is swapped rather than materials, the arrangement is a win-win. Key West Video has been known to exchange services for spots in trade shows, radio ad time, and even team-building recreational fun.

Countertrade Advantages

There are absolutely benefits to bartering. Here are just a few:

  • Saves money
  • Forms lasting partnerships
  • Leads to paid work in the future
  • Allows small businesses to preserve capital
  • Keeps employees engaged during slow periods

Trade-out Disadvantages

As long as we’re listing pros, it seems only prudent to list cons as well. Here are a few disadvantages associated with swapping services:

  • No income or profit is generated
  • A precedent could be set for “free” services
  • Services could be devalued if others perceive them as something they can always barter for, but never pay for
  • Bartered work may not get the same recognition in the marketplace

Compelling Reasons to Barter

There are a number of reasons a business may consider trading services.

  • Engage employees who are otherwise unoccupied
  • Purge excess inventory
  • Take care of a service or product need when cash is tight
  • Secure a service you are either unwilling or unable to pay for
  • Conserve cash
  • Generate new customers
  • Charity work that can bring tax breaks and reflect positively on the company

Trading Terms

Trading Services—What's the Deal?
Trading services can happen once or as part of an ongoing agreement.

Trading services can occur in a variety of ways. There are one-off trades where companies make a single deal to exchange services in a set situation. Term agreements are another form of trade out. In this case, two businesses may decide to trade services for an agreed-upon amount of time. Or they could engage in an ongoing agreement that becomes a kind of partnership. Another option would be to state the terms of the trade by giving a value to each service or product and working toward a zero-sum outcome when the trade would be considered complete.

Best Practices

Retail goods or products have a tangible cost as compared to services. Still, time is money. Especially when that time could be spent working for a paying customer. There are material costs and there are time costs. Here are some other factors to consider when trading services:

  • Trade only on the retail value of your services, not their costs.
  • Prioritize by trading for essential services. At the very least, trade for something that has proven value for your business. Otherwise, you may risk getting a reputation for undervaluing your services. That makes people less willing to pay in the future.
  • Trade work only when you have extra time and resources. Prioritize paying customers. Perhaps you can arrange a looser timeline with a trading partner?
  • Know your value. A good rule of thumb to use is to establish a limit on the value of services you’re willing to trade. Make sure the trade is even or of equal value.
  • It’s a good idea to formalize your agreement. That way, both parties are covered. It’s just good business.

Trading Services 101

Identify the kind of ongoing needs your business has, rather than trading services in a desperate situation. Consider your needs and the company that could fulfill them. Then think of what service you offer that would be equally appealing and have a similar value.

Trading Services—What's the Deal?
Consider trading partners aligned with your business

Approach a business you already have a relationship with. That way, there’s already trust and an established connection. By the same token, make sure you can trust the business you engage with for a trade. Be sure of their ability to deliver and the quality of their work. As a rule of thumb, treat trading partners as you would any other client.

Be selective. You don’t want to become known as a bartering business or you’ll never make a profit. Try limiting the number of businesses with which you’ll trade or a total service value per quarter you’re willing to trade.

The Right Swap

When it comes to trading services, be realistic about what you’re trading. How long will that project take? What happens if it takes longer or your trade partner asks for extras? Finally, understand the tax implications of a trade-out. Under the right conditions, trading services can be a very satisfying business transaction. Just like trading that granola bar for a cookie when you were a kid, a good trade makes everyone happy.