The importance of not misleading the viewer with your videos

By jairo-dev Blog, Items of Interest, Production Advice No Comments on The importance of not misleading the viewer with your videos

With a great video comes great responsibility and influence. As video producers and filmmakers, we have the responsibility to ensure our clients videos share accurate knowledge and information that does not mislead the public. In this article I’d like to share with you a few recent examples of the approval processes for placing a TV commercial on air as opposed to putting a video online.

For TV commercials, there are measures put in place for the advertisement to go to air, through the department of Commercials Advice Australia. All legal obligations to be ticked, all statements about a product or service needs to be confirmed as true through technical approvals. It’s an approval process put there to protect the public, to avoid complaints, to ensure the information is accurate and legal.

For medical services, there needs to be substantial documentation of successful clinical trials and outcomes. For car ads, disclaimers state that the commercial was filmed in a controlled environment or the car model shown is the European version. For financial services, lengthy disclaimers about the offer need to be provided. For kids toys, the approval classification must be provided that it is safe and fit for children to use.

Anyone recall the recent McDonalds TVC where the Dad goes through the drive thru with his sleeping baby – the original edit featured him grabbing his coffee from the hand of the waiting employee as he drives past? That didn’t look very safe to me – how fast was he going? What if he dropped his coffee? What if he looked away and crashed into the side of the store? Or perhaps he doesn’t look at the coffee and instead grabs the girls arm and causes a nasty injury. To be honest, I don’t know how this scene was approved to go to air in the first place.

The new version of the commercial subtly cuts a few seconds out and just shows him holding up that coffee to say thanks as he drives off – still questionable but much better than the previous edit. Even though most people watching would do the right thing and act safely, there will be a small part of the population that thinks this is OK to do. Where in the McDonalds guidelines does it say it’s safe for a team member to hold out an order while the customer grabs it without stopping? A great example of putting creativity of an engaging story ahead of public safety and inaccurate information.

Here are the two versions (and it’s worth noting this is a remake of an international TVC from 10 years ago).

The word ‘best’ is another example of a word being perceived as mis-information. Sure, you can say you’re the best at something, maybe you want to say your restaurant has the best chicken parma in town in your TVC – but you need to back up that statement with proof – what proof do you have that your chicken parma is the best? Did Joe from down the road say it was the best chicken parma – what authority does he have to prove it’s the best? However, if you won a local competition and were awarded a prize by a recognised authority, that could be your proof and you will need to include this as a disclaimer in your TVC.

While the approval process for TV commercials is very strict, the internet has nothing like this in place – technically you can place anything online and the general public will be the ones to call you out on it. Worst case, you might get the post taken down from the platform or feel the wrath of an angry public in the comments – which may lead to a poor reputation and damage to your brand. But technically there is nothing stopping you putting misleading information online.

Which leads me to a video I saw online this week, not necessarily because it wasn’t legal, but as an example of how the viewer may interpret the purpose of the video incorrectly. The purpose of the video and subsequent website is to provide a snapshot of 2020 in lockdown throughout Australia, and that this footage and imagery will be shared with the national archives to be utilised 100 years from now.

It’s a beautifully shot 1 minute video with empty Melbourne streets and the intention is positive and the producer means well, a way to showcase these times for generations to come. But the execution is unfortunately misleading and people may interpret the call to action the wrong way.

Firstly, the call to action of this video is for people to get out and film their lockdown experiences and share on this new website. We are currently in stage four restrictions and while the vast majority of people will use commons sense and abide by the rules, there are going to be those that see this video and take it the wrong way. They may ignore the 5km rule, stay out of their home longer than an hour, perhaps miss the 8pm curfew – all for the perfect visuals. It’s clear in the current video that these rules have been broken, judging by the locations of empty freeways, suburban streets and lonely city centres. Has this person been authorised to film this content?

There is no warning or instructions for people to abide by the strict Stage 4 guidelines. No warning about the possible consequences of fines or the risk to public health if people chose to go out and film. But looking at this website, it seems the biggest concern for the producer is to list the nuances of copyright and the usage of the footage.

In 100 years time, yes, we will have an overwhelming amount of footage and content from 2020 for the historians to draw on. That’s why we have numerous news networks, professional bodies that have been given permission to document these times.

As I said, the intentions are good and it’s a wonderful representation of the city we live in today. But the information and call to action sends the wrong message to those in the minority that won’t quite understand the consequences of not abiding by the government rules and potential health ramifications if they go out and film.

Departments like Commercials Advice Australia are in place to ensure everyone is protected, but this only covers television. It’s up to all of us sharing video content online to be honest and do our own due diligence on the accuracy of the information. For those hiring a creative agency who may push back on your ideas, listen to their feedback and understand the best course of action for your video content to protect the viewer.

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