Video excellence - Made With Purpose

Online video calls to actionOne of the key strengths of video is that it can be emotionally engaging. Video is highly visual and combined with sound and narrative it has the power to draw an audience in on a level that can be likened to how audiences experience movies.


If your video manages to achieve that level of attention from its viewers, you literally have a ‘captive audience’ and a major opportunity to turn prospects into customers. In order to convert these viewers into a sale, calls to action are at your disposal.


In a recent post on Mywebpresenters blog we looked at the practical side to ending a video and what the options are.


In this article I am going to look at how the experts are placing calls to action in their videos to optimize the response they get from viewers. In particular, I think you will be interested in how calls to action are wrapped up in video content to take viewers on an emotional journey and lead them to take action.


What is a call to action in online video?

A call to action is the statement of an instruction, which usually features near the end of a piece of video content. The point of a call to action is for you to tell the viewer what you want them to do as a result of watching your video. Examples of a call to action include:

  • visit our website
  • sign up for our newsletter
  • watch our other videos
  • share with your friends
  • click here now for a 50% discount


These calls to action all have different aims. ‘Share with friends’ is about engagement, whereas ‘watch our other videos’ is about driving the viewer to other content you have created. Asking viewers to ‘sign up to our newsletter’ is about capturing leads and ‘click here now for discount’ is a sales-oriented approach.


The online video call to action challenge

The risk with a call to action in a video is that it will be perceived as a sales pitch. And as all good marketers know, sales pitches can turn people off if they are not timed well. Good stories are what keep people engaged. So the challenge with a call to action is to make the ‘action’ something that the viewer would choose to do for themselves, as a result of watching your video.


You need to consider the frame of mind of the viewer; If they have been navigating around your site and are watching a product video then a salesy call to action is entirely appropriate.


I am going to look at a selection of charity videos and a selection of corporate videos, so we can analyse how different organisations approach the psychology of calls to action.


Case study A – Calls to action in charity videos

Charities make adverts and online videos for very specific reasons – generally, they are asking for support in the form of monetary donations. Their videos therefore have to present the case in favour of donating so strongly, that the request for donations is perceived as a natural step and a reasonable call to action. The video also has to touch the viewers enough to prepare them for that request, and make them more inclined to donate.


British Red Cross TV Advert


The advert from the British Red Cross is an interesting case to study. Media theorists would raise questions about the ethical approach of this advert (debates around how people from the African continent are presented to Western audiences as victims), but as a method for encouraging donations, it’s not new.


The advert combines video footage with photographic images using motion effects to make them more dynamic. This is combined with a carefully selected voiceover artist who has a strong but sensitive and genuine voice. Music adds to the emotional sentiment that is being expressed in the images (i.e. a serious situation of desperation for which action is needed).


The call to action is actually displayed as text graphics throughout the video, but the narration only mentions it towards the end (00:46). It is worth noting that some ‘facts’ are presented as text graphics – layered on top of the images e.g. ‘worst drought in 60 years’. These simple facts are intended to support the case, appealing to audiences who are more receptive to that style of information.


Choose a Different Ending

I wanted to share this video because it is doing something very creative. Choose a Different Ending is an interactive video and throughout it, the viewer experiences the story from the point of view of the protagonist. The protagonist is faced with various choices, which are presented with clickable links – the viewer makes the decisions.


The ‘call to action’ of the project is for young people to think before they act – in order to avoid making life-changing mistakes. This video is a very intelligent portrayal of a two realms of possibilities for a young person. Because it is in the form of a drama (which feels very authentic), it scores highly on emotional engagement.


Shelter – Ryan’s Battle

This Shelter video is a good example of recent efforts by charities to tell personal stories. The logic is that by telling the stories of real people, and giving them a name (‘Ryan’ in this case), the viewers are more likely to feel a connection with the beneficiaries of the charity.


The call to action in the video is a request for support through donations. The call to action is mentioned at the end of the video (01:41) by the narrator, reinforced by text titles and a web address. The use of music and narration is very similar to that of the British Red Cross video. A carefully selected voiceover artist narrates the story which is backed up by emotive music.


Case study B – Calls to action in corporate videos

Corporate videos are generally designed to convert prospects into customers. Videos can reach prospects at any stage in the sales funnel – so corporate videos aren’t necessarily sales videos; they can be there to support the first stage in the funnel by raising awareness of the brand.


Dumb Ways to Die

This video is a brilliant piece of entertainment. And it is very difficult to know what it is advertising as a result.


The call to action is an awareness-based message: ‘Be safe around trains’. This message could have been presented in any number of serious ways, but the producers of this video threw a curve ball and went for a different style altogether. The actual call to action isn’t revealed until the very end of the video.


Building a video around a song is often a very good tactic. Songs have predictable structures, and if it is a good song, viewers like to listen to the end. This video reveals new characters, one by one, and so the viewer quickly realizes that there is an incentive to watch on. Animation is also a brilliantly accessible way to presenter a message to children and adults alike.


The Scarecrow by Chipotle

This video was a promotional video to encourage viewers to download the then new app/game from Chipotle.


The video sells the app so strongly, which even the creators know, because they don’t even bother to state the call to action with text or narration. It simply becomes clear at the end of the video that the world you have just experienced is now also available in a game for your phone/tablet.


The video itself is beautifully animated and tells a story that would be appreciated by every generation. It is accompanied by a version of a familiar track (Pure Imagination from the original Willy Wonka soundtrack).


Mercedes-Benz TV: Magic Body Control

This video is less than a minute long and was made for TV. It likens one of the finest features of their car to a chicken, but in a good way.


This video utilizes some fascinating video footage of chickens, combined with a notoriously funky tune (Upside Down, Diana Ross). Those two reasons alone make it very watchable. At 00:46, at the end of the video, the call to action is revealed which is ‘join the conversation’ – the viewer is presented with some social media options.


When Mercedes-Benz makes videos like this, they do so on the back of an already established reputation. This particular video has had nearly 10 million views at time of writing – it is clear that their goal is to keep their loyal brand followers engaged, and to attract new customers through engaging with them on a very modern level via social media. This video isn’t ‘emotional’ in the sense of it being happy, sad, inspiring etc. However, it is ‘cool’ and it promotes the established values of the brand (values that many people will want to associate themselves with).


So as you can see, producing video content is very much about dressing up a call to action in an outfit that your viewers will be interested in. It is very much about thinking from the perspective of those viewers and understanding what they will engage with and respond to. Good luck with your own call to action challenges.