3 things HR pros can learn from airline safety videos


Still from Star Flyer safety video (2011)


Just a decade ago, pretty much every airline safety video used the same bland formula. Plain but attractive flight attendants pointed at things while a forgettable voice talked about emergency exits, floatation devices and federal laws prohibiting smoking in the lavatories. They became such standard fare that travelers learned to simply ignore the messages. With almost no one paying attention, these videos no longer served the purposes of airlines, passengers or the FAA.


Still from EI-AI safety video

Still from EI-AI safety video

Luckily, the stakes for all types of video content were raised when Youtube exploded in 2006. With access to so much compelling video, audiences suddenly stopped tolerating the bland content they had been force-fed in the past. Perhaps more importantly, Youtube showed companies and video creators that even the most mundane subject matter could become compelling with the right tone and style.

Airlines like Star Flyer, Virgin and Air New Zealand saw the opportunities in video almost right away. Through cool animation, humor and elaborate productions, they found a way to surprise travelers with safety videos that were actually worth watching. As a result, amusing safety videos have become the status quo.

Still from Virgin America safety video

Still from Virgin America safety video

While Marketing and Communications departments have largely caught on to the value of compelling video, we’ve noticed that HR has often lagged behind.

Here are three major areas where HR pros can learn from airline safety videos:

1. Compliance can be compelling.

Airlines have always been obligated to provide safety information to passengers in the same way that organizations are required to inform employees about benefits and other policies. What airlines have recently learned is that if you must do something, make it memorable and try to exceed audience expectations. Through fun and surprising HR videos, any organization can energize onboarding, increase open-enrollment registration, and make important policy messages truly memorable.

"We need more S.O.B.s" - HR video by Splainers for Enerplus

“We need more S.O.B.s” – HR video by Splainers for Enerplus

2. Don’t undervalue the importance of a good 1st Impression.

When travelers first board a plane, they are in their most impressionable state. By starting out the flight with a fun and inclusive video, airlines project a fun and customer-focused image that will likely last the entire flight. Of course, ‘boarding’ a plane is much like ‘onboarding’ a new employee – you only have one chance to make a great first impression. So why not treat new recruits with some awesome tailored video content instead of a pile of paperwork and boring orientation?

CDHP-HSA benefits video by Splainers for Capital Group

CDHP-HSA benefits video by Splainers for Capital Group

3. Everything is a branding opportunity.

In the same way that the best recruits have multiple career options, Airlines know that travelers have a choice in carriers. That’s why they use the safety video as a way to demonstrate how much more fun and exciting they are than their competitors. In this day and age, they would never show customers content that does not create brand affinity. Yet, many HR departments still license bland content to share with employees. Why not follow in the footsteps of airlines and create training content that is custom made for your unique employees – in your unique voice?

"Cutting through the red tape." Employee-focused video by Splainers for Stanford University Global Business Services

“Cutting through the red tape.” Employee-focused video by Splainers for Stanford University Global Business Services

Learn more about how video is revolutionizing HR. Call 425.890.4081 for a free consultation.

How to Choose the Right Video Style

Everyone involved in marketing and branding knows that ‘style is substance.’ A single style never fits all. This is as true for video as it is for your company’s other marketing collateral. 

Four People2

When starting Splainers in 2008, our unique ‘flat people in a 3-D world’ video style was so well-received that we didn’t immediately start exploring other styles. However, as we tackled more and more projects, we began to realize just how much an effect particular video styles can have on both message and audience.

Take our work for Adobe as an example. As the world’s leading developer of creative industry tools, their story is about amazing production values and cutting-edge technology. Our kooky characters just weren’t the right fit. So we enlisted a talented New York-based artist named Kevin Kobasic, who has created illustrations and animation for companies such as Nickelodeon and Marvel Comics. It turned out to be a great match.

We have since put together a team of crazy-talented artists that can pretty much tackle any style or media – from draw-through to flat design to live action.

When selecting a style for your video, it is important to consider the project objectives and how well the characters and movement will be received by your targeted audience. Moreover, be sure to think about whether or not the video style meshes with your brand identity. Below are some video styles and what they say about your product, organization and audience.


Moving Text

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Thanks to companies like Apple, videos making use of prominent text and the occasional object have become quite popular. Done right, videos of this type can be truly elegant. With few or no people, they literally put the message front and center. This also makes them ideal for viewers who watch video with the sound turned off (work places and trade shows).


There are several downsides to text-based video. First of all, even if they make a good impression on the viewer, the actual content of the message is unlikely to be very memorable without the reinforcement of interesting visuals. In addition, text often limits your audience to highly-literate native speakers. Therefore, unless you have a top-notch copywriter on board, it’s difficult to produce a video that’s compelling.


Companies that use this video style are often perceived as authoritative and brand-driven. What they *say* clearly matters. They are either above petty imagery or everyone already knows their products.


 Stick Figures / Whiteboard

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Over the past 10 years, videos based on stick figures, amateurish drawings and paper cutouts have taken the marketing world by storm. Much of this is thanks to the amazing work done by Common Craft. And all for good reason. Videos done in this simple style clearly show they are on the side of Everyday Joe. They are fun and casual – two things most viewers identify with. Moreover, the simplicity of the characters places a clear emphasis on what is actually happening in the video. Lastly, these characters generally allow you to avoid issues of gender and race within your video.


Stick figures are sometimes associated with and irony and amateurism. Moreover, viewers don’t identify as closely with stick figures as they do with realistic or photorealistic images of people. Though these videos might seem easy to produce, they quickly unravel without a well-written script.


Companies that use stick figures in their videos are fun, practical and user-centric. They are young-at-heart and don’t mind poking fun at themselves.


Draw-along Animation

Draw through


Draw-along videos use a hand or pencil to show you in ‘real-time’ what you need to be looking at. Stylishly simple, they’ve become quite popular over the past 5 years or so.


While they do bring attention to a central point on the screen, it is easy for the act of drawing to become a kind of distraction from the key messaging. Like flat design, it’s also unknown how long this style will continue to look fresh.


If you’re going with this style, make sure you have a great script and are using an experienced producer. If not, it’s easy for the video to turn into quite a mess.


Simplified Characters

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Splainers has had much success with simplified characters such as our ‘Flat People.’ By marrying simplicity with the ability to show diversity, this type of character borrows many benefits of stick figures while minimizing some of the downsides. Moreover, because they are created to be multi-ethnic and have recognizable facial expressions, viewers have an easy time identifying with them.


As with any set of characters designed to appeal to a wide audience, simplified characters may be a little bland for some companies. They also aren’t crude enough to achieve that uber-cool quickly sketched-out aesthetic.


Though they don’t always push the envelope, ‘Flat People’ are effective storytellers because they can carry the message without overwhelming it. Moreover, using them in your video costs much less than highly-stylized characters.


Flat Design

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In all the creative industries, ‘flat design’ has been quite the rage the past couple of years. In addition to largely doing away with outlines, flat design utilizes a warm color palette and simple forms. This gives your video an ultra-contemporary look that connects well with younger audiences. Another benefit is that a hosted ‘flat design’ video on your website will often stick out and contrast well with the other content.


Like all trends, we don’t know how long flat design will be the flavor-of-the-month. This may mean the shelf-life of your video is shorter than if you go with a more simple style. Likewise, because flat design features corner-to-corner color, it’s more difficult to create a visual hierarchy that supports the central takeaway.


If your video is targeting a young audience and doesn’t really need to stand the test of time, flat-design is definitely something to consider. It will certainly make you look in-tune with current design trends.


 Highly-Stylized Animation and Movement

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The biggest benefit of stylized animation is that it can be tailored to your exact needs and brand image. From baroque to Japanese manga, the choices are endless. Character expressions and clothing can be done in extreme detail to show your company’s dedication to production values and style. Viewers often get excited when they see fresh and well-drawn animation.


A pitfall of great production values is that they may actually overwhelm the story or product. Excessive movement in particular is often a killer of message retention. Moreover, ordering highly-stylized animation may potentially add extra time to the production schedule.


Highly-stylized animation is for companies that want to focus on aesthetic. It’s also great for organizations with a reputation for quality and attention to detail.



Picture 4


Stop-action marries the best of animation and live action. Though we can identify that the characters are real, we can use this technique to have them do some pretty unreal things. Stop-action also has a fun yet old-fashioned feel that delights viewers.


It is difficult for viewers to view stop-action animation as anything but playful. Moreover, the production process is not as easy (aka time & money) as it looks.


Companies that use stop-action videos are creative and playful, yet grounded in the real world.


Live Action

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Live action is based on the world we all know. Characters and products are instantly identifiable. As popular as animation continues to become, it will never fully replace live action.


Location shooting takes time and money. Good lighting, editing and acting takes much more skill than people realize. The physical realities of the real world are also quite limited compared to the infinite possibilities of animation. Lastly, it’s easy for live action videos to become about the people instead of the audience and story.


Live action is great for interviews and videos that rely on real characterizations. However, it takes a surprising amount of skill and budget to make a live action video that looks polished.

To find the style that is right for you, contact Splainers at 425.890.4081 or info@splainers.com

8 Ways to Find Your Story

Clients come to us asking for ‘videos.’ However, what they really want are compelling stories that bring their ideas to life. Here are some secrets for how we find them.

As most of you have probably learned, stories don’t always come easily. While we like to believe that good stories are an extension of our creative imaginations, they are just as often the result of hard work and good strategy. Below are our creative team’s secrets for taking storytelling to a higher level.

Storyboard Pic

1. Imagine a world in which your product or idea doesn’t exist. What happens to your audience in this world? Will they have to use an inferior product? Will their work be more complex and stressful? There’s a reason this is one of the first questions we ask on our client Story-Focusing Questionnaire. It consistently forces you to think in terms of outcomes and benefits – and that’s often where stories begin.

2. Talk to people who are not stakeholders. The people who invent, produce and market new ideas are often too invested in their products to see them objectively. They tend to focus on details and features that don’t play a big role in their audience’s story. Moreover, stakeholders will often weaken a story’s impact by trying to pack in too much information. By talking more with customers, users and outside pros (Splainers!), you’ll quickly get to the essence of your idea and likely discover some fresh and fascinating perspectives.

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3. Bounce ideas off of everything. Everything around us can be an idea ‘satellite.’ Take an idea or product and conceptually bounce it off anything that comes to mind. How does it relate to a new app? Where does your new initiative intersect with the work Mike is doing in HR? How would a taco truck benefit from it? Can you use it on a ferry ride? Great stories are always waiting!

4. Go hunting for metaphors. Think about what the product does and then find a simple (or crazy) metaphor that can explain it. Some of our best videos have come from interpreting those metaphors in a literal sense. There’s a reason nearly every culture throughout history has used metaphors to explain things. They’re fun and extremely memorable.


5. Let go of logic. It’s easy to inject product details and marketing messages into a video later on in the production process. It’s much harder to inject crazy sauce into a fully formed script. At Splainers, we’ve learned it’s that bit of craziness that often gives stories their magic. Let the brainstorming get wild.

6. Think up some personas. Though personas can often become overly stereotypical, thinking up fictional users is a good way to plant your feet in other peoples’ shoes. Many of our most popular characters began their lives as personas.

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7. Forget words. Many of the most compelling stories can be told just using visuals. Before jotting down text, play with images in your mind. Dream up situations. Gestures and facial expressions alone can tell us a lot about what people are thinking and feeling. Video is a visual medium and visuals elicit emotion. Jumping too quickly to words might make some of this emotion get lost in the translation.

8. Start with the problem. A good story often starts out with a problem that needs to be resolved. You see this kind of ‘hook’ in movies and commercials all the time. And it always works because every product, idea or company policy is designed to solve some sort of fundamental problem. Mix in some emotion as you demonstrate how your idea solves the problem and you’ve got yourself a story.

Ready to tell your story? Contact Splainers today.

How to Make a Bad Video

To make an explanation video that is compelling and to the point, don’t follow the 11 pieces of advice below. Do the opposite.

Minus 81 Views

At Splainers, we don’t believe in bad videos. Well, we definitely believe they exist because we see them all the time. We just don’t believe in making them. However, we do understand how easy it is for good video intentions to be led astray. Here’s how it happens:

1. Avoid looking at your product or service from the user’s perspective. Think only how you see it. What do users know anyway? They didn’t design your product. As they say, “Father knows best.”

2. Stay away from analytics, user trends and proven best practices. Don’t make a plan on how or where you will deploy the video. Avoid measurable results and opportunities to find out what is currently working. What are your objectives? If you’re fully dedicated to a bad and ineffective video, you shouldn’t have any.

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3. Use smarty-pants language. Find the most scientific and difficult way to explain things. Use tons of acronyms and specialist words that include both prefixes and suffixes. Add a string of adverbs and speak with an all-knowing tone. Selling tires? Perhaps you can call them “rubberoid momentum enhancement devices.”

4. Try to say everything. Overwhelm your audience! Even if your video is only 60 seconds, try to pack in every feature, function. benefit and marketing message. Stay away from any kind of core story or simple takeaway. Make your video even worse by speeding up the narration and going into details that the audience doesn’t really care much about.

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5. Place unreasonable demands on the production company. Ensure a half-baked script and poor production values by ordering a video just before you need it. Skip the storyboard stage and go straight from hastily written script to stressed production. Want to see how poorly animators read the minds of copywriters? Let’s find out!

6. Don’t be involved in the production process. Ask for a video and then wait around idly until the production company delivers some content that misses the mark. Don’t fill out any kind of questionnaire and hinder all efforts the production company makes to better understand your audience, objectives and product. Avoid giving feedback, as it tends to improve the final video.

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7. Be too involved in the production process. Make it hard on the production company by not taking their advice or trusting their expertise. Email and call them regularly with new directions and shifts in emphasis so that they can’t move ahead with confidence. Completely re-write their scripts to and try to turn the video into a PowerPoint presentation.

8. Get dozens of stakeholders involved. Want to slap a good video idea in the face? Get every stakeholder involved in the production. Instead of achieving a consensus on objectives and core message, make sure everyone’s personal goals and insecurities are represented in the script. If your team is having communication problems, just dump them on the scriptwriter and watch her lay an egg!

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9. Tell, don’t show. Neutralize the power of video by ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing.’ Talk down to your audience… with words, words, and more words. Stay away from powerful imagery and visual metaphors. If you must use visuals, stick to vague objects that viewers won’t be able to identify.

Vague Objects

10. Be conservative. Ensure your video will never turn heads by using talking heads, cliches and forgettable explanations. Bad videos must fight surprises and metaphors as if they are the plague. Excite no one by trying to satisfy everyone. Blend in with the million other videos that your audience will likely never watch.

11. Go with the cheapest option. Use that company halfway across the world to create the cultural miscommunication that will guarantee a dud. Choose style over substance. Avoid experienced pros – especially when it comes to writing.

 If, on the other hand, you want a compelling video that makes a lasting impression on your audience – contact Splainers at 425.890.4081 (or info@splainers.com)

‘Internal Medicine’ or 6 Effective Ways to Use Video Within Your Organization

Video Killed the PowerPoint Star

Powerpoint Star

Companies are increasingly turning to video to tell internal stories. This doesn’t surprise us one bit.

Seven years ago, over 75% of the videos we produced were for B2B or B2C purposes. When online video was just starting to take off, companies were excited to engage the people who mattered most – their customers. This worked so well that a couple of interesting things happened.

First, video became so successful at communicating information within a short time-span that other types of content lost a lot of their sexiness. PowerPoint presentations, white papers and PDFs became nap inducers – especially to younger and more tech-savvy employees.

At the same time, businesses began realizing that the incredible conversion rates and level of engagement they got from customer-centric videos could be achieved within their own organizations. Therefore, it’s no wonder that 8 of the last 11 Splainer videos were produced for internal purposes. Below are 6 ways organizations are using video to rock their internal worlds.

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6 Effective Ways to Use Video Within Your Organization

1. Enhance Training – Though hands-on training and individual mentorship will always be important, there are many ways training videos can save you both time and money. Videos are an easy and quick way to engage employees and teach important job tools and processes. Moreover, videos can watched and shared at any time (and multiple times).

2. Simplify Project Management – Project and product managers are using videos to bring all the parts together and tell “big-picture” stories about their products and initiatives. One of the large software companies we work with is even using the creation of videos as a team-building exercise. Tired of having to explain over and over what your team or divisions does? Get a video.

3. Replace PDF’s and PowerPoints – Let’s face it. In today’s media environment, PDFs and PowerPoint presentations are no longer winning the battle for hearts and minds. Fortunately, videos are. Videos instantly engage viewers and move quickly to takeaways that are easy to digest. And after being used as part of a presentation, videos can be shared via email or re-used on your website. Even if you do have some actual talking to do, combining your points with a well-made video will definitely give the message more impact.

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4. Introduce New Programs and Initiatives – Did you read that memo? Probably not. Even if you did, you likely already forgot what it said. Whether it’s a new brand initiative or a upcoming change to policy, video makes the message more likely to be viewed and retained.

5. Improve Corporate Culture – Surprise and motivate employees by creating videos about the kind of culture you hope to foster. Make movies about employees and cool initiatives in order to demonstrate what winning and leadership look like.

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6. Do some ‘Internal Branding’ – Employees want to work at companies that are more 2019 than 2009 – especially new recruits who grew up in the age of video and social media. Show workers that you understand where they come from through fun video campaigns and announcements. What we call ‘internal branding’ can be anything from an employee short video competition to mock-documentaries that poke fun at some aspect of your organization.

Contact Splainers to learn how we can provide some great ‘internal medicine’ to your organization.


Video Marketing Round-up

At Splainers, we make videos because we love to tell compelling stories. However, we’re also pretty excited about how important videos are becoming to businesses. Here are some semi-recent articles that we consider ‘must reads.’

Dumb Ways to Die Wins 5 Awards at Cannes

Before we get into the links, Splainers wants to congratulate McCann Melbourne on their ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ video for Metro Trains. Not only did it win the Grand Prix at Cannes Lions, but the video showed that an extremely serious topic can be handled in a humorous way.

Dumb Ways to Die

Watch the video


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