Why Video Adds Real Value
Miles Latham with his business partner Tim Cabrelli
Miles Latham set up the multi-award winning Affixxius Productions with his business partner Tim Cabrelli whilst still at school. There are two wings to the business: Affixxius Productions creates corporate videos, whilst Affixxius Education concentrates on promotional videos for schools all around Europe. The focus is on adding real value, and exploiting the emotive power of video for both marketing, and artistic purposes.
As a pure video production company, Affixxius makes a point of not calling themselves a marketing agency or a training company, although their videos can fulfil these functions. As Miles explains, the priority for Affixxius is making videos which are as cool and effective as possible, whatever they’re about, for a wide-ranging client base.
BusinessBecause talks to Miles about entrepreneurial success, and why businesses can’t afford to ignore the power of video.
What’s your background?
I first developed my love of video making whilst at school. Luckily, they had a very well equipped film club, which meant we were able to play with lots of old broadcast equipment. The club had a lot of heritage, and Tim and I managed to win a few awards.
When we were 15 or 16, a company in Leicester offered us £50 to make a corporate video. Neither of us had ever seen a corporate video before, so we didn’t realise that they were generally rubbish! We weren’t put off by the fact that the video was about drills; we just wanted it to look really cool and interesting. To put a long story short, the drill company is still a client today, although now we work with the headquarters in Paris rather than the small subsidiary in Leicester!
I suppose we never actually started the business – rather, it never stopped. I found myself studying for a degree at Christ Church, Oxford, which I treated as a three year incubator for the business. The plan was that I’d work at home and calm it down a bit during term-time, which nearly worked, although it went a bit mad when I was studying for my finals! When I left in 2006, we hit the ground sprinting.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
That’s a big question! We did a promotional video for a prestigious Swiss international school, for which we filmed for a month in the Swiss Alps, jumping off canyons and white water rafting. It was great to be entrusted with such an incredibly highly renowned brand in that sector. I’m also really excited about our contract for the video work at Lord’s Cricket Ground, particularly as a cricket fan myself!
However, generally, our most recent project is the one I find most exciting, because that’s the one I’m into at the time.
You specialise in corporate video – how important is this sort of multimedia presence for companies?
It’s becoming increasingly important, almost to the point of necessity. Video is such an effective medium in terms of communication that you really can’t ignore it, especially online. Video can make you laugh or cry, which a leaflet can’t. It also allows you to convey information much more quickly.
Recently, we created an infographic of a hypothetical business which used video in twelve different places – as an advert, for training, etc – and that’s helped customers realise that video is not just another thing in the ‘get a brochure, get a website, get a video’ trinity. It’s far more important than that, and has a far wider scope.
Video is a tried and tested medium; now it’s about companies learning how to apply it properly to get the best results.
Which big-name companies do you think have the best video campaigns?
You have to admire campaigns such as Honda’s ‘Power of Dreams’: the adverts were artistically and technically beautiful. Sony’s bouncing balls ad was another that really sticks in the mind and has emotive power.
I’m also interested in videos which might be less artistic, but succeed in doing a job – clients only pay if a video does a service! Marks and Spencer have launched an online television station, which is very cleverly tied into the online purchasing system. For every item on sale, you are able to watch what is essentially an advert. This allows people to get an emotional response to the clothing – see how it moves, decide that it looks comfortable – and it also has a great descriptive value. It shows incredible corporate nouse, and has resulted in an astonishing increase in rates of purchase.
What are the benefits of producing everything in-house?
This is a real thing of mine, and part of what makes Affixxius different. The vast majority of those involved in video production operate on a freelance basis, with cameramen, editors and sound engineers bought in on a daily rate. Whilst I understand that this allows companies to minimise their cost base, I’m far more interested in cultivating a team which knows each other, and their strengths.
It’s this personal touch which allows us to get to know a client, and to visualise their project in a really powerfully emotive way. When customers come in and look at the final product, they often end up in tears. By building up this relationship with people who are entrusting us with a brand, we are able to work with clients multiple times – in fact, we almost never work with a client just the once. An ethical approach is hugely important, especially in an economy like this.
You've won lots of awards for your work - which do you value most?
We’ve just won four, which meant a lot, in the Prestige Film Festival in California, across corporate and educational categories.
However, on a personal level, winning the BT Essence of the Entrepreneur Award in 2008 with my partner Tim was extremely exciting. It was at the height of the recession, and we were facing challenges like everyone else, but the award recognised that we were trying to think of solutions rather than complaining about it! Being counted amongst the 20 best entrepreneurs in the country was fantastic.
What advice do you have to anyone who wants to set up their own company?
Starting young was definitely an advantage. You also have to realise that unless you work hard, you aren’t going to be able to pay yourself, let alone your staff who have their own mouths to feed.
More than anything, it’s important to ignore the temptation to take on the world alone! There are so many people around you who are willing to offer valuable advice and skills. When Tim and I were about 18 years old, we got our first tax return, and I remember being sat in a converted garage just staring at each other in panic! We walked to the first building we could find with ‘accountant’ on the side of it, and someone calmed us down, walked us through what to do, and how to fill it in.
You might have done a business degree, but you need to be willing to let people help – running a business can be a very lonely place otherwise, when the buck stops with you.
Where do you see the future of corporate video?
At the moment, the future of corporate video looks incredibly exciting. It’s all about finding ways of adding value to what we’re producing. Video, of all media, isn’t cheap, and whilst you can do things online and in print for relatively little money, doing video badly is worse than not doing video at all. Concentrating on the functionality of our product is key.
It’s amazing how many massive companies contact us every week with tiny budgets for a video project. Companies who think audiences will swallow rubbish are mistaken. But the power of video is such that it really is worth doing it properly. You only have to look at the stats for youtube, which has 3 billion hits a day – one for every other person on the planet – to realise video’s potential.
What do you think of new technologies in cinema?
I think HD is phenomenal. The development from standard definition to high definition is our generation’s equivalent of moving from black and white to colour. Any company worth their salt should want to shoot corporate video in HD.
3D, on the other hand, is the biggest red-herring that has hit cinema in a long time. I know lots of people in the video and production industry who can’t stand watching films in 3D. Unless there’s a very good reason for it, 3D seems to be a way of hiding the fact that you’re not a very good cinematographer, or to squeeze more money out of the viewer.
In my industry, we have no interest in 3D whatsoever – it’s still technically at an early stage, and feels rather clumsy. Of course, in the future, we might be sat round televisions in natural 3D, but I have to say 3D isn’t something that crops up in meetings very often!
What would you say to people trying to find employment in the current jobs market?
You would imagine that with the current rates of unemployment, finding quality talent would be easy, but it’s not. For one job we offered recently, 200 out the 400 applicants might as well have been identical people – they all come out of university exactly the same, and we’re facing a homogenised labour force. The market is flooded with mediocrity.
What this means, however, is that quality really stands out. I’m ridiculously lucky to have such talented employees – they are out there, they’re just increasingly hard to find. If you can show to an employer that you can add value, they will want you.
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