Finding your Ron Burgundy

18 months ago social media magician Craig McGill (now Digital Strategist at Weber Shandwick) asked me to deliver a staff training video for Whyte & Mackay.

This was to be my first encounter with the legendary master blender Richard Paterson a.k.a. ‘the nose.’

Without a script he leapt into a one-take exhibition of presenter mastery, describing the brand’s finest whiskies and, most importantly, how to drink them.

The whole piece was shot in just two hours – a cameraman’s dream.

The team posted a short clip on YouTube for promotional purposes and, to my astonishment, it amassed more than 300,000 hits in a year.

Given that the whole thing cost less than a grand to produce, that’s a pretty good return for investment and demonstrates the potential reach of online video.

Comments flooded in from all over the world with one subscriber even labelling Mr. Paterson as Scotland’s Ron Burgundy.


This December the world eagerly awaits the return of the real Mr. Burgundy, currently causing a social media storm as he hijacks news networks and drip feeds teaser clips of what’s to come in Anchorman 2.

The public can’t get enough of him and the same is true for Mr. Paterson.

And here lies my point: never underestimate the power of personality and character in your online video. It’s the single most important element of creating a watchable and unforgettable experience.

Whenever you see a great movie or TV show, it’s the personalities that you take away from that experience.

A strong story is critical (that’s for another blog), but it’s the characters that make the piece resonate and linger long in the mind.

Whether it’s Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Maureen from ‘Driving School’ or Homer from ‘The Simpsons’, it’s the compelling protagonists that we imitate, debate, despise and empathise with.

When I worked in television we spent months researching and interviewing individuals before putting them on screen. I always looked for personalities that had a strong passion, raw emotion and muscular presence on film.

I firmly believe there are personalities in most organisations willing and able to be great on camera.

Cast strong personalities to vocalise your messages and remember it’s not necessarily about picking the most attractive or indeed the most important people!

If you can unearth your brand’s Richard Paterson it can be the difference between half a dozen and half a million hits.

10 Tips for Writing a Film Brief

One of the most important parts in commissioning a film is nailing the brief, but it’s the one thing that clients often overlook.

The brief is the starting point and is as much for the commissioner as the filmmaker. It’s a critical stage in the production process, helping everyone understand what we’re trying to achieve and why.

Like anything worth doing, it takes a bit of time, but if you get it right, you’ll save a lot of hours in the production process and that, after all, is where your budget goes.

Here’s a list of 10 key points to consider. Yes, they might seem obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many clients haven’t even thought about them.

1) PURPOSE – What’s your goal?
Promote, demonstrate, educate, raise awareness, document?

2) AUDIENCE – Who will be watching?
Fellow professionals, general public, young people, foreign nationals

3) CONTENT – What do you want to say?
Key messages, standpoint, information, successes

4) VOICE – How do you want to say it?
Interviewees, presenter, voiceover, observationally, reconstruction, animation & motion graphics

5) IMAGERY – What do you want to show?
People, places, projects, activities, case studies, stats, logos, urls

6) STYLE – How do you want to show it?
Formal, slick, loose, handheld, black and white, fast-paced

7) TONE – How do you want your audience to feel?
Happy, sad, inspired, informed, moved, angry

8) PLATFORM – Where will it be viewed?
Web-player, YouTube, plasma, big screen

9) PROMOTION – How will it be shared?
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, DVDs, USB sticks, Sendspace, Dropbox

10) BUDGET – What can you afford?
Number and whereabouts of locations & contributors, motion graphics, animation, celebrity presenter/voiceover