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Richard and Steve interviewing at SXSW

PULL: Images Deliver A 68% Advantage

March 12, 2013 – 11:30a, Austin TexasRichard and Steve interviewing at SXSW

A half an hour till this year’s SXSW Interactive Conference closes. I’m tired. Over the last four days, Christine and I have done over 70 interviews with many of the leading interactive and social media thinkers for our new TVO series “Pull” #pullsxsw. Talk about brain overload.

My last interview is with a young guy named Andrew Angus, a video producer from Collingwood, a small but growing Ontario ski town. Andrew and his company Switch Video produce 60-second animated Explainer videos.  Part of me is wondering why our researchers had this guy on our interview list – Canadian content probably. Doesn’t sound promising.

Andrew arrives, a slightly disheveled 30ish guy with a bit of a grad school vibe, which is basically how you’d describe most of the 10,000 young guys at SXSW Interactive #sxsw.

Andrew or Angus

I introduce myself to Angus, and he corrects me, “It’s Andrew.”  I apologize, explaining that Angus sticks in your mind a lot more than Andrew. “I get that a lot,” Andrew says, “it’s the way the brain works.”

I start by asking about the 60 second length. Andrew explains that they do longer videos but their analytics show that viewership falls off drastically after 90 seconds, so he’s pretty rigorous on length. At Q we’ve had a similar experience, although our threshold seems to be 3 minutes with our mini-documentaries. Andrew goes on to explain how they have a five step production process: discovery, concept, script, animation and production – roughly the process that every production company in the world goes through, although The Five Step Process sounds kind of catchy.Switch Video founder Andrew Angus

I’m kind of going through the motions. I ask Andrew about his past. He was a kid that liked to start companies, took International Relations and then ended up starting an animation company, even though he didn’t know the difference between flash and MP4.

Images: The 68% Advantage

Something wasn’t adding up. I see in the notes that he’s also written a book, 60 Seconds – How To Tell Your Company’s Story and The Brain Science to Make It Stick.  That’s a bit unusual for a young video producer. I ask him about it. Somewhat sheepishly he tells me that he wrote the book with his mom. Mom? Well, it turns out mom is a behavioral psychologist. He goes on to tell me that the problem with information videos is that people actually have limited short-term or working memory, which kind of explains why we typically forget a person’s name a few seconds after we’ve been introduced. Our brains have limited capacity for short-term retention. In fact, audio retention rates are 10%, but if you add key graphic information to that audio message, retention rates jump to 68%. I’m starting to pay attention. Switch tries to keep the message short and marries it to strong visual metaphors to make the message stick.

Artwork from a Switch Video animationIf I’m the CEO of a big company, Andrew’s message is resonating. In five years they’ve produce 350 videos. He’s produced work for clients in 15 countries in 10 languages, mostly outside of Canada. Work comes from reputation, referrals and from their website. He proudly explains how a serendipitous chat at last year’s SXSW conference turned into the opening video for the National Association of Home Builders Conference. It opened for keynote speaker Michael Eisner and was a great moment for Andrew since they’d turned to Switch for the video – not Disney.

Talent Still Applies

In fairness – it’s not all analytics. Their work, classic cel animation, RSA Animate style animation and Claymation rivals work by Canadian heavyweights Cuppa Coffee and Global Mechanic. What Andrew seems to have done, and this seemed to be a big theme at this SXSW Interactive Conference, is to tap into behavioral observation, just a desire to understand how human beings work. Sure, you can have fantastic products but if they are too complicated or hard to learn, people won’t use them. Think of it as the Tao of Steve (Jobs). The simpler and more intuitive an interface, the more we are going to use the product or app or video.

What’s Next

So, what’s next for Andrew and Switch Video? Andrew’s moved to San Francisco and is running his company remotely while he works on his billion dollar concept. The idea? Targeting micro audiences. Basically adapting your video to a particular audience to help your message resonate. For instance, a video targeting a Texas Zip code might have a male narrator and a female narrator for California Zip code, based on audience preferences.

Fascinating stuff.

That’s a Wrap

My conversation with Andrew is the perfect wrap to our SXSW experience. A geeky guy from our neighbourhood is ready to take on the world through a little brainpower, a healthy degree of observation and a belief in serendipity.

Visit Picture This! to read more blogs by Richard.

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