Ah, 1994. It was a simpler time. Web users were torn between AOL and Yahoo; Oscar voters were torn between Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption; and funny people everywhere were torn between which of their Jim Carrey character impressions would get the most laughs. It was also the year that era-defining sitcom Friends completed its first season.
Microsoft, keen to get in on the cultural zeitgeist, commissioned Friends actors Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry to star in a corporate video promoting the launch of Windows 95. They called it a ‘cyber sitcom’, which is already a red flag, and the video is simultaneously glorious and horrifically dated. Here it is:
While we can enjoy this video in an ironic way as citizens of the present day, it certainly doesn’t function as it was meant to any more. A video as dated as this isn’t doing a technology company like Microsoft any favours. But the sad truth is, most corporate videos (even the ones made by great producers like TellyJuice!) will become dated over time and will have to be updated or replaced.
If anything in Microsoft’s ‘cyber sitcom’ seems painfully similar to your own corporate video, it might be time to make a new one. Here are 3 things to look out for if you think your corporate video might be as dated as the Gregorian calendar.
Is your corporate video too long?
As you may have noticed if you watched that entire Microsoft video, it is rather long. This is typical of corporate videos from the 80s and 90s. This video from Nintendo is under 10 minutes long, but it feels so much longer. It’s almost the Moby Dick of corporate videos, focusing on one shop assistant’s epic quest to slay the white whale of dissatisfied customers:
In the current corporate video landscape, brevity is key. It is important to communicate your message clearly and quickly, without getting bogged down in corporate jargon and wooden acting (that was a dig at the stars of this Nintendo video, not at Perry and Aniston).
There are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes training videos do need to take a little longer than, say, brief introductions to new corporate guidelines. A comprehensive training video, for example, could be quite long. But even for things like training, splitting different points up into separate, shorter videos is advisable. In the age of YouTube, people who watch corporate videos want you to get to the point, fast.
Does your corporate video include dated jargon?
Some phrases just do not stand the test of time. Matthew Perry earnestly commends Windows 95’s lack of a “messy DOS buildup,” but there was no way that phrase was going to come into common parlance. Similarly, when the earnest narrator of the Nintendo video introduced us to the concept of a ‘Nintendo mechanic’, it was never a concept that was going to catch on.
Watch this next video and see how many words you understand:
Nearly everything Rockwell Automation says in this 1997 video is completely indecipherable to the modern viewer. Sure, it was probably indecipherable to the original viewers, but part of its problem is its age. There is no way a video with this much technical jargon would ever be produced today, no matter who it was made for, and even the current engineers at Rockwell Automation would probably have trouble decoding this speaker’s jargon.
If your video is full of similarly opaque language or failed attempts at phrase-coining, it might be time to update it with universal terms that will last a little longer than a year.
Is your corporate video’s fashion on trend?
Maybe it’s because of Friends’ cultural impact, but Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry’s 1995 outfits still look pretty good all things considered. The same cannot be said of their guide’s leopardprint blazer or of the puffy red jackets worn by the ‘mechanics’ about halfway through Nintendo’s video.
The denizens of the following video from ‘Blockbuster University’ all seem to suffer from an condition that affected all of us in the 90s, namely: wearing terrible clothes. (Brace yourself – this video is very long and even more compulsively watchable than any of the others.)
Mrs Harris’ waistcoat-and-giant-skirt combo, Marie’s hairband-and-giant-earrings, and Buster Sales’ unfathomably hideous shirt-and-tie should go down as some of the worst fashion choices in corporate video history.
If the fashion in your corporate video is starting to look laughable, you know it’s time to consult our stylists, and make a brand new video.