The Scoop - An Animation Studio's Blog

100 Years of the BBC: Hocus Pocus on The Apprentice

Hocus Pocus does the Apprentice

The Apprentice is compulsoy viewing in the studio and at home: a cracking family-friendly show where we all hone our commercial and fashion skills way beyond what’s possible with your Stanford MBA or sojourn in Milan. If you don’t like it, you don’t get it – so there.

So just IMAGINE how beside myself with hysterical self-fanning when the email dropped asking if Hocus Pocus might be interested in being the animation studio to pair with a mysterious BBC prime-time business show. The only possible answer was YES SIRALUN SORRY I MEAN LORD SUGAR.

The episode task was for the teams to devise, design and make a sample animation for a new kids TV show. In a day. Would that be possible? Normally would take us several months and a liberal dose of fairy dust to do this for ourselves, so a pretty tall order for a gang of suited rookies.

The heavy lifting for the task was done in conjunction with the show producers, divvying up the punters into story team, animation team. Lots of time working on the details, a quick test run and then YES: we might just be able to do it.

The big challenge for us was getting some of our best talent to work on the job (Katy, Rob, Tom & Chris) but them not being able to actually direct the teams. The role of the artist in this type of show is simply to execute the wishes of the candidates, and must remain silent on typos, colour schemes or even including hands and feet on the characters!

How did they get on? If you didn’t watch it live on BBC One, then have a watch on iPlayer, see what you think. It was such fun to work on & celebrate this piece of history with the BBC. Along the way managing to work with – deep breath – David Jason, Jessie Wallace, Craig Revel Horwood, Karen Brady, Tim Campbell and even the king of bad jokes Lord Sugar himself.


James Murphy Hocus Pocus
James doesn’t look happy

The 5 OGs of Video Marketing

OG of video marketing

Online video marketing is booming in 2021. From Tiktoks and Instagram stories through to new gen explainer videos and interactive pieces, it’s hard for an animation studio to keep up to speed, never mind a business looking to take its first steps in video marketing.

At Hocus Pocus Studio, we’re lucky enough to work on a huge range of categories of these marketing videos, so here’s our take on the traditional big pillars of the video marketing world. Because we’re self-professed experts, and dead clever, we’re going to also list these as they relate to a buyer journey. And because you’re also dead clever, you’ll understand exactly what we’ve done.


01 Explainer Videos

‘Hey Marketeers – 2005 called and it wants its explainer video back!’

OK it’s true that the basic explainer video format is pretty tired now. Much beloved of the tech startup, this highly customizable 2d format launched a million new businesses selling you stuff you don’t really understand. The rigid format (problem – solution – cta) lends itelf to a demystification of the product and service.

Explainer videos sit early on in the buyer journey, focused as they are on awareness / engagement. In this role they worked well for years and launched a million questionable IPOs.

In recent times though the format has become very generic, from the cutesy character animation to the jaunty voiceover, and it ends up feeling like you’re always being sold the same blockchain-cloud-SAAS thingy anyway.

But there’s a new kid in town – a much richer graphical universe, more complex storytelling, more compelling and engaging. But a bit like the way Model T Ford and a Model S Tesla are both called a car, so we’re stuck with the term ‘explainer.’

The new gen super-explainers are a potent mix of 2d, 3d and sometimes cel animation. They have a richer, cinematic feel and bigger impact. There’s a lot more craft involved, certainly not something you can get made on the cheap by a PowerPoint operator in Uzbekistan.


02 Thought Leadership Videos

Another awful term! Just like being rich or a tory, you should never, ever, refer to yourself as a ‘thought leader’. You’ll lose all respect, get fired and have to rebrand yourself a life coach. Being a thought leader is something you earn, something someone else refers to you as.

Charlatans and mountebanks look away, because where you can trick people into believing you with a ripping explainer, you’ll have to work a lot harder with a simple film like this. Thought leadership videos are about honesty, simplicity and clarity of thought. There’s a degree of education, altruism and a pinch of humility needed – this isn’t the time for expensive video production techniques.

In terms of production, things couldn’t be simpler. Ted talks are the best example of a pared down set, a live audience, minimal speaker support. This is early journey, top of the funnel content: high level overviews from industry experts. Highly shareable, simple and inexpensive to produce. All you need is a speaker with gravitas, insight and panache.


03 Brand Videos

Everyone’s been banging on about customer-centric marketing, talking about your customers rather than yourself. It makes perfect sense but doesn’t speak to the emotive and occasionally irrational relationship punters display in relation to particular brands and businesses.

What we call a brand video now probably would have been a TV commercial once upon a time. The huge FMCG monoliths that slugged it out on our dumb tellies knew all about building brands and pushing them along their journey to part with their hard-leveraged cash.

This has always tended to be big, expensive stuff. The opposite of the thought leadership videos in fact. Historically the domain of the global banks, airlines, booze brands: big agency creatives and budgets the size of Indonesia’s GDP.

Of course the democratization of video production techniques has filtered through to the humbler brand video maker. A good brand video should always feel big, somehow, unlike an explainer. Probably one of the best brand videos in this category, a real OG, is the dollar shave club, which you’ve seen already but here it is again:

04 Product Videos

In nerdy marketing speak the product video sits securely inside the ‘consideration’ phase of the buyer journey. So your prospect is working out whether to buy your window grommet panels or someone else’s.

The product video should be a light-touch, in messaging terms. This isn’t the time to start shouting about your brand values or the cute character you just designed. Take a step back and let the product speak for itself. Of course the production standards always need to be reflective of your category and brand – so if you’re selling expensive merch, don’t expect to film it on your phone and bung on youtube.

Product videos work best when broken down into bitesize pieces. If you can make these pieces interactive, so the prospect is guiding their own journey, so much the better. Take a product video for a new phone as an example. A great way to break this down would be to have a video about the camera, a video about the memory, one about the battery etc. They could all be short and accessible by a simple interface, making the customer guide his own journey around the product itself.


05 Testimonial Videos

So powerful, but so hard to get right. The main problem you’re facing here is that when your client says something nice about you, you don’t just happen to have a film crew and a tasteful urban backdrop standing by.

Depending on the complexity of your product or service, and how nerdy you are in definition of your buyer personas, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a one-buyer fits all testimonial. So this is probably something you’re going to need to make multiple episodes of.

Once upon a time we made some testimonial films for an eye hospital. Different films for different procedures. All in their own words – essential – nicely shot (given the premium nature of the product), but authentic, honest and very useful.


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