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See the Light

Jeanne Byington GUEST COLUMNISTJeanne Byington Guest Columnist
SHOPPING IS a passion, so when I had three gifts to buy rather than let my fingers do the walking on the web I headed to a favorite big box. Videos are increasingly part of our lives so I decided to see what they had to show and tell me.
     Some monitors were placed at eye-level for either LeBron James or Danny DeVito, and most didn't compel me to buy or even put the sheets, plastic cups, mattress cover, child's toy or hair color on my wish list.
     An Oral-B video was the exception of the 16 I saw: The monitor was at average adult eye level, the image bright, the sound sufficiently loud.
     The images of some monitors were so dark I couldn't make out the action. In others, the voices were garbled. And the brand was a mystery for a few. I had to watch twice to determine which of the featured items matched the products around me.
     In addition to technical difficulties, most videos were uninformative or uninspiring. The no-stick pan video should have told me why it was safe to use. Instead Chef X cooked a piece of brown meat in a set that cried for a food stylist. It was dinnertime, and I wasn't inspired to buy the pan, rush home and recreate the scene-or wrap the gift.
     The spokesperson in a mattress video urged me to ask a sales associate about the differences between the lines. There was neither an associate nor a mattress around. I wondered if the marketer, writer or video director ever visited a store like this.
     Eliza offers sage advice when she sings "Show Me" in "My Fair Lady." Take advantage of the medium and think action, not talking heads. An endorsement for a mattress protector by a pleasant-looking person-even if an entomologist--won't grab a customer's attention from the colors and three dimensional objects around.
     Save the quotes for a blog post and show how easily and snugly the mattress cover fits. A fake family having fun watching TV doesn't sell a plastic tumbler as well as demonstrating it doesn't break when it falls to the floor during horseplay.
     "Budget from $7,000 to $10,000 to shoot, edit, add a good voice and nice music for a piece that shouldn't run more than three minutes," New York video producer Paul Gourvitz suggests, "and manufacturers should provide their own monitors." [The Oral-b toothbrush folks did.]
     The people who take the time to check out options in person usually need something right away, so it makes sense to focus as much on the quality of merchandising videos as those slated for smartphones and Facebook fan pages.

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