Tim Washer. Keynote Speaker + Event Emcee

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How to Create a B2B Comedy Video Series

 

My buddy Carlos Hidalgo called.  “Let’s create a comedy series on data governance.”

Sure, we’ve all had this same thought at one point.  And most of us realized it was a bad idea.

But I obliged, in the corporate way.  “Absolutely.”

Now What?

Over the years I’ve learned that an insightful comedy can be created for almost any topic.  There are a few simple steps to follow to find inspiration that will lead you to a hilarious concept.

Start with the Customer’s Pain Point 

Comedy comes from pain.  And when we build a story around what the customer is struggling with, we’re able to connect with empathy.  Instead of saying “we’re listening” and “you’re important to us,” we have now demonstrated it.  Proven it.  We’ve earned our customers’ trust, and they feel heard.

Listen for Specifics 

Often as marketers, we focus on the aggregate such as persona or a market segment.  But when writing a comedy script, we need to listen to one-on-one conversations.  We can’t build intimacy with a pie chart.

Carlos conducted a series of interviews with Chief Data Officers to understand the challenges they face in convincing their organizations to prioritize and properly fund the data governance initiative.  One CDO revealed in frustration, “Some days I feel like I just can’t catch a break.”

Boom!  That single quote captured the emotion we wanted to express, and led us to the concept for this series.

When you’re working to create new ideas for marketing and corporate communication, find out exactly what the customer is saying, verbatim.  Spend a day with a salesperson visiting customers, or read the customer service center’s call logs.  Or scroll through Yelp.   Customer complaints lead to understanding, which leads to meaningful marketing and comedy gold.

One of the infogix sales execs Matt told us in an interview that he uses a kitchen metaphor to explain the ROI of data governance to prospective clients.

‘If you add structure and organization to your kitchen, arrange and label utinsels and ingredients so that they are easy to find quickly, you can have more time available to innovate faster and deliver more complex recipes to your customers, improving their experience and increasing their loyalty.’

His metaphor gave us the script for the Coffee Shop video, and more importantly, justification to rent an entire coffee shop.

Heighten the Drama 

Heightening is an improv principle that raises the stakes for the protagonist.  Put your character into a situation where his or her specific problem will face greater consequences.  In this series, we mildly escalated the tension to only the “aggravation” level, although the “Fireplace” video pushes just beyond.  But in a long form improv show such as the Harold, it’s not unusual for consequences to reach an armageddon echelon.   Since you don’t use props or construct sets in improv, a production budget doesn’t get in the way of adding a volcano or swarm of locusts.

Add Absurdity

A close cousin of Heightening is Absurdity, and it can quickly lead a storyline into uproarious laughter.  An easy way to discover how to create an absurd concept is to take your scenario — in our case, how an organization implements a data governance policy — and juxtapose it with an unlikely partner.  Which, in our case, was an enterprise of squirrels.  So, we explored how data governance would help squirrels improve strategic planning.   About 57% of urban-dwelling squirrels have earned an MBA, so it’s a logical conclusion that they would apply the Porter Five Forces model, or at least a SWOT analysis.

Squirrel risk chart

To see other examples of how we inserted absurdity into our Chief Data Officer’s world, watch all seven videos.

Your Turn 

Take five minutes right now and create a comedy concept for your client.

  1. What is the key problem (pain point) that your client solves for their customers?
  2. Imagine what the consequences could be if that problem was not solved.
  3. Heighten the consequences.  Exaggerate them beyond what is reasonable.  If this scenario continues to get worse, how could this lead to Armageddon?  Push it to the hyperbolic for practice, then maybe dial it back.  This makes video production easier if you don’t have a locusts trainer on the Approved Vendor list.
  4. Add more laughs.  Going back to the “comedy comes from pain” principle, think about how you could fit all of this into an annoying situation, like an All Hands meeting.  Write down a list of the things that everyone complains about these meetings, and ask friends for input.  They will love to vent, and laughing about those frustrations provides empathy,  personal connection and even some healing.  It’s can help transform the office culture in a powerful way, making it more fun and creative.
  5. Finally, write a scene that takes place on the beach, so that you get to go to the beach.

Behind the scenes, filming Solitude.

I’ll share a few more shortcuts and simple tricks when I emcee and keynote the B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, AZ, Feb 25-27, 2019 and at MarketingProfs B2B Forum in San Francisco, Nov 13-15, 2018.   Please join us, and contact me for a discount code.

Best Surprise of the Oscars 2018

I let my 14 year-old stay up past her bedtime to watch some of the Academy Awards show.  It was a wonderful bonding experience for us.  While winning an Oscar is a near impossible dream, it’s a cakewalk compared to having a meaningful conversation with a teenager.

I was blessed with a funny and profound conversation with my daughter.  Questions at the dinner table are invariably met with a monosyllabic response, usually “good” or “fine.”   But somehow the backdrop of gratitude for getting to break the bedtime rule, a couch setting that supports a lack of eye contact, and a TV show providing a ready escape if the conversation gets uncomfortable, we had one of our most meaningful conversations ever.  An unexpected gift.

It was the perfect opportunity to discuss careers in the movie biz, how comedy works, sexual harassment, different lifestyles, and most importantly, inclusion and acceptance.  I have discovered the secret of good parenting — watch more TV.

I’m a big Jimmy Kimmel fan, and he’s one of the best at surprises.  Remember his “Worst Twerk Fail EVER – Girl Catches Fire” Prank, with 23 million views on YouTube?   Last night’s surprise topped it.

Driving the brilliant bit was genuine gratitude.  It filled both theaters with joy, and I was rolling on the floor laughing, because by this point, I had reverted to being an annoying dad and my daughter had kicked me off the sofa.

I loved seeing Jordan Peele win best original screenplay.  I’m not a fan of thrillers and probably won’t go see “Get Out,” but I respect him so much for his creative genius.

If you haven’t seen Sam in “The Way, Way Back” with Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Maya Rudolph and Oscar winner Allison Janney, do yourself a favor and watch it this weekend.  On the couch with your teenager.

 

3 Funniest Ads of Super Bowl LII

The biggest disappointment of the Super Bowl was that there won’t actually be a Crocodile Dundee sequel.   But Tourism Australia didn’t leave us with only a 60 second Super Bowl commercial.  It produced a full-length fake movie trailer that doesn’t rely on Danny McBride’s rugged good looks to convince Americans to make the 22-hour flight.


The spot features every Aussie A-lister except the Tasmanian Devil.  Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, and Best Actress Oscar-nominee for her role as Tonya Harding —  Margot Robbie will make surely make this Oz’s most successful campaign.   That title is currently held by Paul Hogan’s 1984 campaign, responsible for a 54 percent increase in holiday visa applications from the U.S. (Slate).

Now more than ever, I think people want—no, make that need—to laugh a little,

– Dan Kelleher, Chief Creative Officer at Deutsch ( Adweek)

It’s a Tide Ad

Stranger Things’ sheriff Jim Hopper moonlights as Mr. Clean in a wonderful campaign that delights us with surprise, well-executed parody and comedy’s cornerstone of strengthening rapport with an audience — the callback.  The lawman even brazenly satirized the legendary Old Spice commercial — what fool what attempt that?

Alexa Loses Her Voice

Rarely does a brand produce a spot funnier than the SNL sketch that mocks it.  Well played, Jeff Bezos.

Possibly JB Smoove’s best work since “Bent” with David Walton.  (available on Amazon).

And from the Super Bowl archives:  coffee and contemplation

Super Bowl commercial- Dunkin Donuts “Off the Press”

See you down under.

Dundee sequel movie poster

HuffPost: Top Business Speakers to See in 2018

Keynote Speakers

I’ve finally earned recognition as a subject matter expert in nonsense.

HuffPost published its list of Top Business Speakers To Hire And See In 2018.   If there’s one thing we can be certain of this year, the current global economic environment will drive the need for more laughter, especially at marketing conferences and corporate events.  Lucky number seven.

On the list is my buddy Andrew Davis who holds a top 20 spot on Meetings & Conventions Magazine‘s List of Favorite Speakers, ranking just below President Bill Clinton and Anderson Cooper (*recount pending).  And CEO of Marketing Insider Group Michael Brenner, who was named a top CMO Influencer by Forbes Magazine.

It’s going to be a fun year for comedy and marketing.

HuffPo logo

Ex-SNL Writer Reveals How to Improve Storytelling

Juxtaposition is a simple technique that comedy writers employ when they’re wrestling with the blank page.   I had a fun visit with Marcia Riefer Johnston at the Content Marketing Institute about how marketers can use this approach to quickly generate a bunch of ideas.

comedy hacks to improve storytelling

Improv Exercise

We did a fun improv exercise at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego during my creative writing session.  I asked the audience for two suggestions, and they offered “circus” and “bacon.”  Together we applied the juxtaposition technique to inspire new ideas.  We discovered a few new patterns that led to a video concept, and a completed script.   And only seven minutes earlier, we had nothing but a blank page.

It’s not only the folks in corporate communications and marketing that are tasked with sharpening their storytelling chops.  Being able to communicate and persuade through story has become more of a critical skill set for all career paths.   By spending five minutes a day with this exercise, anyone can become much more creative and sharpen their writing skills.  If you don’t have access to an audience of 200 people to offer suggestions, try a random word generator.

Read the article here.

Improv Rules for Storytelling – CMWorld 2017

Links for Content Marketing World 2017 presentation:

Why Van Damme’s ‘Epic Split’ Was the Perfect Storm for One NYC Creative Director http://adweek.it/2wv9hZ7

Meaning > messaging.  Don’t change how people talk; change how they think

Improv rule #1:  Support your partner

Documentary:  Phone company in a box https://youtu.be/OaZWkpOVtlY

Improv rule #2:  There is order in chaos

RT @BrianCurtisNBC5: Convoy of @HEB disaster relief trucks staged near Goliad, TX today. #Harvey http://ow.ly/MUXA30eZnhk

For juxtaposition exercise for inspiring creativity, try https://randomwordgenerator.com/

Juxtaposition: How Circuses and Bacon Can Boost Your Creative http://ow.ly/O1ro30eZqjx via @CMIContent  @MarciaRJohnston   #cmworld

Improv rule #4:  There are no mistakes, only gifts

Haunted Stanley Hotel: The Ghost Behind Stephen King’s The Shining, Room 217 https://youtu.be/XqvaL5d37Gc

Improv rule #5:  “Follow the Fear” – Del Close

Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Lesson One https://youtu.be/MSqXKp-00hM

Filibuster Cablevision iO TV commercial  https://youtu.be/scTFsGQ78qs

More nonsense:

Mockumentary:  Mystery Solved: The Rescue of Helen of Troy http://ow.ly/5Psj30eZoAt

Movie Trailer:  Improv with the CIO https://youtu.be/cL5bjJCpJIY

The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day… from Cisco https://youtu.be/Z1xKpm0nURk

#CMWorld

CMI: Comedy Pro Reveals How to Bring Funny to Content

Figures don’t lie.  Statics maybe, but not figures. 

Part of producing a corporate comedy video for YouTube, Facebook, etc, is the approval process.  I’ll often face the objection, supported by research, from a committee member arguing that not everyone will appreciate the humor.  Possibly a small business owner in Burma.  ‘Our content needs to be global.’

So, I’ve conducted my own research as a rebuttal.  See figure 1.

I shared a bit more about the process of using comedy principles with the Content Marketing Institute.  Read the article here, and join us at CMWorld in Cleveland this September.

The Gaslamp Peanut Butter Cheeseburger

It wasn’t the first time I allowed peanut butter to ruin a love affair.  Asking the waiter to smear it on my cheeseburger — without being coerced — nearly killed my passion for the delicacy.   It simply wasn’t a good choice for me despite a plethora of online rave reviews from a diverse set of professional, anonymous food critics on Yelp.

On most of these comedy & cheeseburger blog excursions, I’m more interested in soaking in the ambiance of some hole-in-the-wall joint, like at a burger barn.  This place had kind of a diner vibe, which, on the interior design aesthetic scale, I’d rank somewhere between a coin-operated carwash and an abandoned building.  Of course, the experience in any location is always partner-dependent, and since I was joined by my kids, Martin Jones and his family, we ended up having a crazy fun time.  I assume that would be the same case for an abandoned building.

gaslamp_Peanut_butter_cheeseburger

Cheeseburger Pro Tip:  Skip the Skippy

I appreciated the diner’s “safety first” approach.  They installed a fire escape immediately outside the front door, so in the event of a kitchen fire on the street level, we could safely finish our meal on the rooftop.

fire escape

Thanks to Lyft for sponsoring #SMMW16 and providing transport to the San Diego Gaslamp district.  The ride-hailing app companies created a brilliant business model, even though they are mired in controversy around hiring practices, skirting taxi regulation, and selecting a mustache for a logo.  Marketing experts say the ‘stache is a reckless choice for the brand.  Possibly, but when I’m in vendor-selection mode evaluating product attributes,  I’ll always choose reckless.  Although maybe that’s not the best criterion when deciding on a driver.

Lyft Range Rover

 

More from the blog: 

 

A Call for Comedy at the UN Climate Summit

Let’s hope there is a lot of laughter pouring out of General Assembly Hall today.  As the UN Climate Summit begins this week, what would be possible if Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and team consider what John Cleese preaches about the power of laughter:

“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else. I think we all know that laughter brings relaxation and humor makes us playful, yet how many times have important discussions been held where really original and creative ideas were desperately needed to solve important problems, but where humor was taboo because the subject being discussed was ‘so serious’.”

Not only does laughter open your mind, it opens the minds of those on the other side of the debate.  We usually tune out to an argument that we have already concluded is wrong.  But laughter is a powerful interrupter.  If we’re being entertained, we’re more likely to pay attention, and be less defensive.

John Oliver, Bill Nye, and the Last Week Tonight team produced what The Guardian dubbed “the best climate debate you’ll ever see.”  [Note:  use headphones for the first 1:08 if you’re at the office]

Much of the sketch’s brilliance is the stunt that would qualify it for  Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” Hall of Fame.  Combined with Bill Nye (who received a rockstar ovation from the crowd when he walked on stage, and was genius improviser during rehearsal) and brilliant comedic writing (“Are there hats?”), the comedy sketch makes for an attention-grabbing, concise, persuasive argument.   As The New York Times best-selling author Chris Mooney said:

“I feel like they said in 4 minutes something I’ve been saying for 10 years with like tens or hundreds of thousands of words”

At the summit today the UN will honor Leonardo DiCaprio with the title Messenger of Peace, although his name tag for the luncheon reads “Wolf of Wall Street.”  Leo’s presence will certainly bring more exposure to the conference.  But if John Cleese had booked the event talent, the opening keynote speaker would have been John Oliver.

 

BMA Chicago: Late Night Comedy Meets Corporate Storytelling

A few links from #BMA14 presentation:

Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Lesson One: http://youtu.be/MSqXKp-00hM #BMA14

The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day http://youtu.be/Z1xKpm0nURk #BMA14

John Cleese on the 5 Factors to Make Your Life More Creative http://ow.ly/xoPZR

Mini documentary: Phone Company In A Box http://youtu.be/WHaQY2MlHV8 #bma14

Smart building: Internet of Everything video https://vimeo.com/89159331

Humor and B2B Marketing: A Love Story. Improv with the CIO http://shar.es/VkNWi via @annhandley

Stephen King, Failure, Ghosts of The Stanley Hotel http://disq.us/8ilzm9

John Oliver’s viral video: the best climate debate you’ll ever see http://gu.com/p/3pb3c/tw via @guardian