Like many entrepreneurs, Matt Byrom founded his business because he couldn’t find anyone else to do what he needed. In the late aughts, Byrom was working as a freelance designer in the UK when he came across the site of a relatively new company called Dropbox. The company’s pitch was a 90-second animated video and a sign-up form. That’s it. The simplicity appealed to the visually oriented Byrom, so he started researching to see who might be able to make an animated video for his burgeoning business.
“There weren’t that many people doing it,” Byrom. said. “The people who were doing it were bigger agencies and it wasn’t their core focus. It wasn’t really that easy to understand how much a video would cost, and the range of prices was also very high.”
Byrom saw an opportunity in the market to create videos for small and mid-size companies trying to explain their products and services. In November 2011, he established Wyzowl, a studio dedicated to animated video for brands. When business began to snowball, he hired his mother to take on administration and client management. Today he has a team of 25 writers, designers, and animators, and has produced 2,500 videos for 1,300 clients all over the world, including several Contently clients.
We talked to Byrom about working with big brands, the future of video in general, and how animation can impact marketing. Here’s what he had to say.
In a recent Wyzowl survey, 81 percent of marketers indicated they were using video in 2018, up from 63 percent last year. How have you seen the demand for this kind of content evolve?
Yeah, it’s still increasing. I think the market’s certainly maturing. People are definitely becoming more aware of using video in their marketing. If such big companies like Facebook and Twitter are effectively giving people more visibility for using video, then people are going to start using it in droves. Although it’s been growing since we started the business, it’s not anywhere near saturation yet.
Do you collect metrics on the videos that you produce?
We try to get as much data as we can from our customers, but it can be quite difficult because people use video in different ways. People have different goals and different measures of success. For one company, generating 10 leads through a video might be excellent. Whereas for another company, nothing short of 10,000 would be successful.
One of our clients, JotForm, wrote an article (we didn’t ask them to!) about how they actually tested side-by-side an animated video we produced and a live-action video we didn’t. They were about the same product launch, and JotForm used them side-by-side with the same budget. They posted them on YouTube and found that the animated video gave them a 20 percent higher click-through rate than the live-action video.
Why do you think that was?
It could be for lots of different reasons. I think the animated video just grabbed their attention more and was possibly more engaging. It’s not to say that all animated videos are more engaging. There’s certainly lots of live-action videos that are super engaging,
Do the majority of your clients use animated video as a product explainer, or are there other common use cases?
Explainers are the most common type. One benefit of an animated video is that the product doesn’t necessarily have to fully exist yet. It can actually be part conceptual and part real. So, if you’re explaining a website, it doesn’t need to be the exact design. It can be a mock-up version. If you create the video in the right way, it doesn’t date the product or site.
What are some of the common challenges for first-time clients working in video?
Some people come to us and say “We need a video for this event, it’s on Friday.”And we’re like “Oh, that’s not really how animated video works.” You’ve got to go through a scripting process, a design and illustration storyboarding process, and an animation process. A typical video could take about six weeks to create.
That hand-holding and support is really, really important to make sure people are part of the process, get what they want at the end, and let us capture that vision and imagination in the video.
What advice would you give brands who are maybe thinking about video but haven’t done it yet?
Start small. Don’t make commitments that are too big. Maybe create a 30-second, 45-second, or one-minute video that actually explains your product and service. Do the explainer video first because you can use it in so many different ways: email, social media, advertising, retargeting, or ads that are not even on social, like Google ads or display ads. One piece of content can be repurposed and used so many different ways and have such an effect that you get such a big ROI from one video.
As the market evolves, how will animated video change?
Over the last few years, particularly recently, the quality of clients’ expectations and the quality of output is really increasing at a rapid rate. Which is excellent. I think the quality of output and animation is constantly improving.
You might remember quite a while ago there was an Apple-focused skeuomorphic design, where it was all real to life with gradients and 3D. Then everything became very flat. We’re starting to see some interesting noise gradients and some half-frame type designs that are looking particularly cool. Some really interesting ways of morphing objects from one thing to another, so the video almost stays on the same object changing from piece to piece.
In terms of technology, I think the next piece in the journey to keep engagement moving is interactive video. So you’re not just clicking and playing and rewinding and fast-forwarding. You’re clicking play, and then you’re part of that journey so you’re actually either getting to the content that interests you most, or you’re able to dictate a journey to your preferences. The video’s really being tailored along the way to your interests. I think that’s really the next step in interesting and engaging video that captures viewers’ imaginations.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.