Saturday, March 23, 2013

How about this for an effective video?

A couple of days ago I was invited to attend a seminar in the press room of the Council of the EU. Entering the building brought back memories of my days at the BBC, when I was spending the day running around trying to get  more information and interviews on what the Council was discussing, desperately aiming to finish the piece in time for broadcast. There was no running this time. But, unlike most of those occasions, when I left the building this time I felt I had just been part of something very interesting, surrounded by thought-provoking speakers. 

The title of the seminar was "Public communication in the evolving media landscape: adapt or resist?" . Apart from the fact that everyone seemed to agree that government and institutions need to adapt rather than resist, there was a great variety of views and perspectives on the role and relevance of the Internet in general and social media in particular when it comes to communications. 

From an analysis of the psychology of the social media revolution, through mentions of Tomasi di Lampedusa, famous saying ''everything will need to change if we want everything to remain the same', to a speaker that compared (quoting an American professor) the internet to a dishwasher - it simply helps you doing things you always did, but in an easier way. 

But there was one moment that really struck me. Mischa Coster, a Dutch psychologist, was talking about the triggers and the emotions that push people to like, share, talk about things they see online. One of these emotions is loss aversion. In this context, he referred to the campaigns that most governments have developed to push smokers to stop. After showing pictures of the most commonly used i.e. health warnings and photos on packets of cigarettes, he asked us to look at this video:

I had tears in my eyes. I just couldn't help it. I thought I had seen it all and knew enough about videos and 'manipulation' not to be so moved. But I was wrong. What I find amazingly powerful of this video is that there is no mention of smoking at all, until the very end, but what you see are the possible consequences of smoking in all its dramatic manifestation. And without any doubt - the audience at the seminar all agreed- this is so much more effective than the health warnings on cigarette packs. (A little joke to cheer you up: do you know the one of the man that goes to buy a packet of cigarettes and, once he has it in his hand and has read the warning, gives it back to the shop owner saying: 'I don't want the one that says Smoking Kills You, give me the one that says Smoking hurts the ones around you, please!' Says it all on how successful warnings are, don't you find?)

Anyway, back to the video, it's true that being a parent and an ex-smoker, I probably represent the perfect target audience, but still, I could not have found a better way to show how powerful a video can be. As my sister said though, there should have been a disclaimer saying that the boy was not hurt during the making of the film because he does looks really, really upset. 

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