"It’s unfair when people say young peoples' attention span has reduced"

Andy Greenhouse is the co-founder of Swhype, The Creative Motion Agency and partner of Youth Marketing Strategy. Swhype works with forward-thinking brands and agencies, businesses and charities to create award-winning video content, film and design for a distracted, motion-hungry world.

What’s the story behind Swhype?

Swhype was formed from a series of events really. The birth of the iPad, the slow death of traditional publishing, a van full of films and a desire to question the status quo. With diverse media industry backgrounds ranging from early interactive CD-ROMS, film production to publishing and TV Graphics, myself and Simon (friends since university) finally came together in a professional capacity, originally to explore the potential of motion content for the iPad.

We knew industries were changing and adapting to survive. Publishing was trying out the iPad for size and it looked positive. The problem was there was nothing really new. As we began working with more diverse clients, our work too diversified and now we call ourselves a Creative Motion Agency - working across broadcast, online, tablet and print. Swhype is still exploring the potential of video to engage in new ways and on the way there we're working with some great people and companies.

Why has video become such an important medium for young people and brands trying to connect with them?

Video’s important because it gets a message across not only quickly but in a way that entertains and engages.

It’s unfair when people say young peoples' attention span has reduced, it’s more that the content and information available for young people now is so vast, there’s so much to get through. It basically means that if you’ve got something to say, you need to make sure you grab their attention and don’t let go.

Video translates the same way on every device and channel. We receive the information in exactly the same way whatever the format. That’s why video is important, it ticks so many boxes at once – it can be succinct and entertaining while engaging all the senses unlike any other medium.

What challenges do your clients have when trying to target 16-24s?

Attention spans aren't less, but the vastness of media output is fragmented and people, whatever their age will always value engaging stories and messages. 16-24 year olds are all different. They don't come in a box marked 'influenced easily' or 'cool' or 'anarchists’.

There are viral video ‘sensations' which can't be predicted – these then encourage 'sequels' and pastiches from other creators which ultimately feed the '5 minute frenzy’ but ultimately it will dissipate.

Branded videos can spread for the same reason non-branded videos go viral, if they’re compelling and shareable – but hits don’t always translate into financial success. Brand’s need content which strengthens their core messages and video helps them stay relevant in ways that can’t be measured.

How have you tapped into the trend of ‘home video’ and the YouTube generation?

We know high production values don't hold the holy grail. You can't make a video more engaging by polishing it. It's as ever, about ideas.

We’ve always had a link to filmmaking with our Cannes in A Van film festivals and Screen Social nights. It links into that whole ‘home video’/YouTube generation as the majority of these films are shot on next to zero budgets, pooling in help from mates and using online channels like YouTube to push it out there. What we do is help the talented filmmakers out there get screened and hopefully get noticed, using our industry links to do that. I guess we’ve tapped in to it by supporting those filmmakers, getting them work and helping them with securing funding.

In 2008 the French version of YouTube, DailyMotion approached us to sponsor our four-wheel film festival that year. They knew the value in original content and our ideas.

What are your favourite examples of brands using video well to connect with young people?

Adidas are great at this. Their latest ad ‘There will be Haters’ is really in tune with current attitudes and does a great job of flipping it around to create this tongue-in-cheek parody of themselves, the brand ambassadors and bravely, their own audience. In a similar vein, the Adidas superstar ad redefines those attitudes using video, whereas if it were shown in another medium could have come across as contrived or fake.

And what are the common mistakes that brands are making when it comes to video?

Brands can forget who they're talking to and why someone would watch. Views don't immediately mean sales but video does reinforce an already strong brand. A great campaign can save a sinking company but only as long as the brand is strong. Video tells the brand story in a brand's voice, typeface, personality, so if all that is complimenting the video content then happy days.

What’s the next big video related trend?

Size. Getting in places other cameras and mics couldn't before. You see the results on every Sunday night travel show in impressive aerial drone shots carrying tiny HD cameras. Established production companies are being threatened by indie directors more and more as they grab new affordable kit and get creative with it.

And finally a few fun questions...

Best moment of your career so far?

Film critic legend Barry Norman presenting our Van d’Or Independent Film Awards and seeing him visibly moved by our Van d'Or Legend award. Also, in Swhype’s first year of trading our video for Lloyd’s of London picked up a Best Video industry award.

Favourite app? Why?

Evernote for sure. Since 2009 its simplified my life and work.

Something few people know about you.

I once played table tennis with Ginger Spice.

What are you most looking forward to at YMS?

Meeting people and getting some real insight from people really doing things. We’ll be screening films from young directors during the breaks so look out for us and come and say hello.

Finally, what should we have asked you that we didn't?

When’s the next Screen Social event? It’s Feb 25th at The Book Club in Shoreditch!

Swhype exhibited at Youth Marketing Strategy in London in March 2015. 

Image: Naamen Saar Stavy