5 Video Trends for Charities to Engage Gen Z and Millennial Audiences
Updated: Jan 30
I was recently privileged to be shooting at an assembly for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in Birmingham, where groups of representatives from the charity, community and voluntary sectors gathered to discuss issues and ways forward for the sector.
One of the interesting points that was brought up by the CEO of NCVO, Karl Wilding, was the need to engage with younger audiences: there are groups of young people today who are angry at the state of society and need effective ways to channel feelings towards social issues such as affordable housing, climate change and mental health. As such, we need to be reframing the perception of charities such that young people feel that charity- and voluntary-work are effective channels and that they can make real social change through engaging with the third sector.
One such way that I feel that charities can begin to do this is by looking at how you are broadcasting yourselves online. Are you using youth-targeted social media platform, such as Instagram, and if so, more importantly, how are you using these platforms?
So far as online video content is concerned, charities generally tend to rely on the classical approach, and for good reason: it’s a tried and tested method. Talking head storytelling by patients, members and end-users are failsafe. Because stories are universal: they never date, they never age, and they touch us indiscriminately. Storytelling and narrative will always be the single most important element of charity video - and just as well, as it’s the lifeblood of Faltrego Films!
That being said, how we tell stories is constantly evolving. Aesthetics change, broadcast platforms change, audience expectations change. Indeed, whether we like it or not, algorithms change and are changing faster than ever. So, the means by which charities both keep up with this (follow suit or fall behind) and adapt to cut through the noise must also evolve. Can we adapt the classical approach such that it’s even more effective in the current climate of media consumption? This is particularly pertinent when considering engagement with young audiences: millennials and Generation Z.
It’s been my contention for a long while that fashion brands are way ahead of the game when it comes to engaging youth with their social content. Brands such as Nike, Reebok, North Face and Adidas, to name a few, are trend-setters when to it comes to engaging young audiences. I would also include magazine accounts, such as iD magazine, dedicated to fashion, art and youth culture, within that mix. Such accounts broadcast highly editorialised films which utilise a range of contemporary shooting and editing techniques to draw in younger audiences.
Can we take inspiration from these fashion brands and consider drawing upon contemporary, editorial shooting and editing techniques in order to produce social media films that engage and inspire younger audiences?
Here are the Top 5 techniques these brands are using to engage with audiences, and some charities that have used these techniques in their recent films.
1. Vertical Video
These can work really well for platform-specific campaigns. 2018 saw the launch of IGTV: Instagram’s platform for videos longer than 59 seconds. These videos are vertical-only, designed for the mobile viewing experience. And with more than 75% of worldwide video viewing occurring on mobile, it’s unsurprising that vertical video is coming to the fore.
The engagement with Instagram stories by millennial and Gen Z audiences is also something not to be sniffed at. Once a platform for ephemeral content that disappears in a day, Instagram stories is now a platform for increasingly high-production vertical content, whether video or imagery. In fact, Instagram is constantly pushing its users to leave their news feeds and view their stories.
As a charity with small budgets, where re-purposing content is king, you might be worried about being too focussed on channel-specific content – particularly with channels that expire, like Stories. Will your vertical content just ‘die’?
But it’s worth noting that even YouTube are now supporting vertical playback on their desktop sites with its dynamic video player, so your content certainly doesn’t have to expire and can be. made available for viewing in more traditional media players.
That being said, if you’re worried about shooting solely for vertical video, and being stuck with unusable content(!), then there is a better way…
2. Split Screen
With the rise in vertical video has come the rise in split-screen; that is to say, stacking horizontal footage such that one-shot plays (usually) at the top, with another shot playing simultaneously underneath.
The added benefit for organisation is that split screen is a very effective way to repurpose traditional ‘horizontal’ film content for vertical format, meaning you can repurpose and re-use content for minimal cost. By stacking two or three bits of horizontal footage within vertical frame you suddenly have a vertical video!
This also works the opposite way, whereby you can repurpose your vertical content to fit horizontal – check out this example from Homelessness charity, Centrepoint UK:
Now while this might intuitively feel like ‘visual overload’ for audiences, Millennial and Gen z audiences are increasingly accustomed to intaking multiple streams of information. We’re talking about multi-platform, multi-screen generations. Split screen means videos are dynamic, textured and engaging. In fact, what we’re saying with a split screen video is ‘I demand you pay attention!’.
You can also get really creative with split-screen through ‘match-cutting’: juxtaposing visually-similar footage to highlight similarities. Check out these Instagram posts by WWF International to see how creative you can get with this technique:
Almost an offshoot of split screen is visual layering: videos physically playing on top of photos or videos, like a cut-and-paste collage of moving images.
This trend is linked to the resurgence of zine culture. A zine is a small, self-published and distributed magazine rising from the feminist, punk and activist movements of the 1980s. Shutterstock’s 2019 Creative Trends Report, highlighted the rise of "zine culture" as the core mainstream trend for creatives. A resurgence in zine aesthetic should certainly not be seen as separate from its social activism roots, and this link certainly isn’t one to be ignored when looking to engage these audiences.
A great example of this is this video by Adidas which uses user-generated footage in a hugely engaging, high-production value, branding-controlled way.
Layering can easily (and importantly, cheaply) add a great deal of production-value to user-generated footage. Think about designing a branded ‘frame’: any user-generated (footage filmed by your e.g., membership) sent to you can be ‘pasted’ onto a pre-designed frame for a more polished piece of video content that can sit on social media in-keeping with your organisations brand.
4. Zine Culture
Taking things one step further in zine culture is the integration of funky graphical elements with live action film. This has been happening for a while now: since social media went silent, video-makers had to circumvent audiences watching video without sound and, resultantly, kinetic typography (moving text) and subtitling came to the fore. But this has now been taken a step further, and an aesthetic come into practice of animated hand-drawn shapes, illustrations, outlines and figures.
Check out this mixed-media video by Adidas.
How many types of content can you can you spot?
Charity Shelter’s VerticalRush video is a wonderful examples of zine-style creative kinetic typography, so make sure to check it out.
5. Digital Nostalgia: #filmsnotdead
Digital nostalgia is another strong across social media – potentially as it suggests, on a deep emotional level, a promise of the ‘good old days’. The sheer prevalence of the #filmsnotdead hashtag on Instagram is testament in itself. Millennial and Gen Z audiences appear to be pining for ‘that film look’, meaning that videos that use or mimic the look and feel of 16mm or 8mm vintage film footage can be really attention grabbing for this audience. Tricks such as visible ‘zooms’ in and out, a run-and-gun handheld style, whip pans, what’s known in the industry as ‘rack focus’, flashes and flares all lend themselves to this highly appealing style.
One way this can intuitively work very well for charity storytelling is with the integration of home-video is case studies. The inherent look of ‘home video’ is highly appealing in these spaces right now. Coupled with a strong, emotive, personal, character-driven narrative from a case study, the potential for engagement is huge.
Or, do you have. archive footage of your organisation ‘back in the day’? Why not put together a little video celebrating the history of your charity, like Centrepoint for their 50th anniversary. Archive footage of celebrity ambassadors can also work well, for example WFF pieces on Sir David Attenborough.
Way ahead of the curve with utilising these ‘digital nostalgia’ techniques in the third sector is the breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel! who exist to raise awareness specifically in young people – so you can see why their marketing is geared that way!
Are there any that you want to try out for your next social media film?
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