Among the chief offenses: hipster casting, cutesy animation and the ubiquitous “Meet Bob” opener.
“We’ve probably done all of them at some point,” Follett says.
Even if tastemakers sneer, the client appetite for explainer videos doesn’t appear to be waning. Last year, Demo Duck produced more than 100 videos, with rates starting at $10,000 for one minute. Though most of the company’s clients are B2B companies, big-name consumer brands like Netflix (“Meet Carl”) and Lowe’s (“Meet Iris”) have joined the ranks.
Designed to quickly explain a company’s services, Demo Duck’s videos tend to follow a snappy story arc through goal, problem and solution. Though some videos are live-action, most use quirky, fast-flowing animation and tight color schemes built around the client’s brand.
Demand for video is on the rise, according to a recent survey from the (admittedly interested) Web Video Marketing Council. More than 70 percent of businesses reported budget increases for online video on 2013, a six-point uptick from the year before.
The rush for that money is on, and competitors abound, many with rates much lower than Demo Duck’s. “There are no barriers to entry,” Follett says. “Any animator can set up a website and say they offer this service.”
In fact, that’s exactly what Follett did two years ago when he founded Demo Duck. Now employing four full-time project managers and dozens of freelance contractors, he wants to position the company as a premium service with proven results.
“There’s an unhealthy focus on being cute and creative,” he says. “That’s the danger we’re trying to avoid. We want to focus on data-driven video.”
One of Demo Duck’s clients, Web marketing consultant Crazy Egg, was uniquely positioned to help deliver that data. Crazy Egg founder Neil Patel, whose company offers detailed online engagement and conversion analysis, concluded that the explainer video that they commissioned from Demo Duck generated an extra $21,000 a month in new business. (Patel and Follett both say no discount was offered in exchange for the test.)
Patel dismisses the idea that the explainer video trend is a flash in the pan. As long as videos are effective in quickly explaining a company’s services, creative novelty is a nonissue, he says.
“I don’t see it dying down,” Patel says. “The only trend I see is people making more of them.”
Still, Follett is considering branching out. By offering a wider suite of video products, Demo Duck could build more repeat customers. The danger, Follett muses, could be losing focus and becoming “just another video company.”
It’s a crossroads the entrepreneur never expected to arrive at.
“When we did that first video, I don’t even think I knew the term ‘explainer video,'” Follett says. “We just kind of landed in that spot.”