For anyone who says we’ve already had the 'year of video', Mike Pritchett just chuckles. “One person asked me, if 2018 was the year of video, what’s next? I replied: video.”
That, in a nutshell, is what drove Pritchett, already founder of Australian production house Trapdoor, to set up Shootsta, a new type of video offering. The company provides all the kit people or brands require to film (following some training) their own video, which they then send back to Shootsta to edit and produce according to the client’s brief.
The main insights that convinced Pritchett to set up Shootsta were speed and agility: speed of shooting high-quality content, getting it edited and published. Though he’s rather humble about the concept being his own.
“This idea I can’t take credit for,” he states frankly. “I can certainly take credit for how I’ve created the concept of Shootsta, and why, but the idea came from the market and was pushed upon us. I think that’s why it fits so well.”
Pritchett responded to a recurring need expressed by, at the beginning, his Trapdoor clients: that as much as they wanted the high-production-value, expensive, 'hero' content that Trapdoor provides, in today’s content landscape, they needed regular videos turned around quickly, at a reasonable cost, even more.
“To be honest, I was shocked at how well-received it was by those first few clients and how much they needed what we were doing,” he admits. “Then it scaled within those clients and very quickly to us building a sales team and going from there.”
In just over a year, Shootsta has grown from three people in Singapore, to 16 people across Singapore and Hong Kong, with operations also set up in the UK and US. Among a wide portfolio of clients are Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Carro and PwC.
Pritchett himself relocated his family from Sydney to Singapore to expand the business. Previously spending four years travelling throughout Asia-Pacific informed his thinking. “You can’t run a business by remote control, and on an entrepreneurial level, I truly believe you shouldn’t try and do that,” he says. “I love Sydney. I’m very proud to be an Australian. But it’s a village on the arse end of the world. Business over here is on steroids compared to Australia, with the international vibrancy of cities like Singapore and Hong Kong.”
The rate of Shootsta’s growth leads Pritchett to believe he’s firmly on to something, as does his continued bafflement at how many brands are still poorly engaged with video.
“This is just an assumption, not a stat, but I believe probably 80% of companies, at least, have not caught on to video yet,” he hypothesises. “And a lot of the companies we approach, even very large corporates, one of the first things they say when you sit with them is ‘this is our first real foray into video’. And I just sit thinking, you’re a multi-billion-dollar multinational brand, how is this the case?”
The main issues are the same, even in 2019. First, legacy systems that have not been transformed to put video content at their heart remain a massive problem. Pritchett says you'd be astounded at the number of marketers who can’t access YouTube at their desks, for example.
The bigger factor is legacy thinking. “I feel like for a lot of these brands and their marketing or comms managers, they’ve got this sword of technology and modern approaches, and they’ve got a dinosaur sitting at the top waiting to be slayed, until they can do anything,” Pritchett says. Fortunately, brands are increasingly coming round, although still too slowly for Pritchett’s liking.
Brands need to be having regular, engaging conversations to keep their consumers interested, and video is perfect for this, he says, if properly harnessed. One big piece of so-called ‘hero’ content isn’t the answer.
“That’s akin to saying to your partner, I’m going to take you on the most amazing weekend away, it’s going to blow your mind, and then I’m not going to talk to you all year. See you next year! It’s not going to be a great relationship. Brands need to think the same way with their audiences.”
Similarly, those brands who are keen to use video often get blindsided by the need to change their content too regularly. Pritchett says consistency of message and content, with just enough change to keep it interesting, is far more effective and engaging.
“We talk a lot about high frequency, episodic content, which is a wanky way of saying content that you create in the same style over and over again,” he explains. “When you watch your favourite TV show, you’d be pretty pissed off when you sit down and all of a sudden the next episode is completely different.
“That’s what kills me, seeing brands start down a path, and then just stop. It takes time and brands don’t seem to, generally.”
That constant pressure on marketers to do things quickly and see immediate returns, Pritchett admits, is one of Shootsta’s biggest challenges. However, he says more and more clients see the time Shootsta gives back to them by taking on production and editing as ROI itself.
“It’s why marketing managers love us, because they can plan,” he says. “It’s going to cost me, for example, US$3,800 a month to get four pieces of content done. I can put that in the plan, boss is happy, everyone’s happy, and we’ll help them come up with ideas and concepts within that.
“The other thing is, once a marketing or comms manager knows they’ve got to do these videos, they’ve been paid for, it is the best way to make sure they go and do it. Technology’s come a long way and the skills are teachable. I’m not going to say they’re Hollywood directors, but they can shoot content to a decent degree.”
With more clients coming through the door and new offices to build out, Pritchett says plans for further expansion are not on the immediate horizon, although he is doing a lot of research on China. For now, he sees ample business opportunities in the 80% of brands that need help in the cities where Shootsta already exists.
“The biggest problem I find comms and marketing managers have at the moment is they say, ‘We've got a budget, but where do I start with video?’ What they need is pure hand-holding through that situation, and so what we’re doing is digitally hand-holding them, with every resource we can throw at them. I believe that model will really scale for us and our clients.”