Response 2: William Shaw’s questions about Nubs

‘Firstly, at the moment wit is still prized as much as quality, but will the increasing standards of advertising viral videos begin to crowd out the more low-fi productions like Leo Murray’s? Take a look at this ad about the persuasive technology of a musical staircase which turns out to be an advertisement by Volksvagen. Made to look low-fi by the adevertising agency DDB Stockholm, it became one of the most successful virals of last year. Advertisers are spending increasingly large sums producing these virals.’

Depends what you mean by ‘standards.’ Leo Murray’s animation is technically harder to make than the VW viral – but I’m guessing that’s not the point here. Viral adverts tend to cater to base tastes – they have to be ‘funny’ or ‘filthy’. Nubs have to be educative, intriguing and fundamentally need to make you think. So nubs and viral adverts have different standards. People tend to want to watch whats easier to watch and viral adverts tend to have an easier job of being an easy thing to watch – so they will always be more popular. For me, Leo Murray’s film is more of a movie trailer for a piece of think tank research than a video that actually explains the research – which for me makes it less of a ‘nub’. A cool video nonetheless.

But I guess that’s not quite the point your making. The VW video isn’t funny or filthy – it’s intriguing – which is incidious as, at the end of the day, they want you to buy a f**cking car. The difference between advertising and educational videos is something that we have tussled over many times on this blog before. An educational nub looks more like an advert, advertising has to appear more like ‘something that happened’ somewhere, or something educational. We all differ in our opinions. I think there is a difference and it’s one worth marking out. These are as well as I have been able to express my opinions recently:

‘A key issues with nubs, is the thin dividing line between advertising and educational content. Adverts used to be in ad-breaks on TV – now they can be anywhere. Most short videos used to be adverts – now anyone can make a short video. Basically, these days you can’t spot an advert according to when you see it, or what it looks like. This makes the difference between educational content and advertising a highly subjective and contentious area – it has to be decoded by the viewer on a case by case basis.

On Make Nubs certain characteristics have lead us to consider a video ‘educational’ rather than advertising. Principally it’s advertising if the purpose of the video is to promote an action – e.g. to solicit donations, to encourage a purchase or provoke an immediate change in behaviour. These results can be a consequence of watching the nub, but they cannot be the sole measure of it’s success. We also tend to think of videos as educational if they acknowledge that there are areas of ambiguity in the argument, that there a questions left unanswered and that the author does not have all the solutions to the story. ‘

Secondly, if nubs are the repository for political messages, will we soon have “nub wars”? As somebody in the office pointed out the moment they saw The Impossible Hamster, a climate sceptic might have made a video of a hamster growing not only fat but clever enough to start building new worlds.

Yup, it’s already happening and it certainly will in the next election. Nubs are just the video version of the political speech, the newspaper editorial, the thinktank pamphlet, the university lecture – the arguments that play out in these worlds, will be replicated in the nub world – but only if people who are predominantly communicating in the written and the spoken world, want to switch and learn to communicate in pictures and sound. I don’t know how likely that is. The main reason why most nubs are crap is because they are made by people who write, research and theorise but don’t have a clue about video, or people who can make video but can’t write, research or theorise. Our hope when we started blogging here a year ago was to bring these two communities together – we have obviously failed here so far. Maybe we can do something together? Any ideas?

Thirdly, do they respresent a kind of Darwinism of ideas; if an idea is not reducible to a three minute nub will it become worthles?

I like this idea. I think it’s a real challenge to ‘public’ intellectuals – I don’t know if it’s a fair challenge, but it’s probably a good one to have in the back of your mind if you have an important idea to share. Isn’t there some old adage like ‘why did you write 2,000 words? because I didn’t have the time to write 500’ – I feel that. I rather think that the power structure that exists around the development and dissemination of ideas is so tightly controlled that for most ideas, whether it passes the 3-minute video test is fairly tangential to it’s success – it’s more important that it gets in Propsect, on Start the Week, on TED or talked about at the ICA, ugh, I mean the RSA etc etc. But maybe if people start making really good ones….

(questions taken from this post)


3 thoughts on “Response 2: William Shaw’s questions about Nubs

  1. >>Our hope when we started blogging here a year ago was to bring these two communities together – we have obviously failed here so far. Maybe we can do something together? Any ideas?

    Maybe that’s the problem of trying to bring two separate groups together.

    I’m as interested in finding ways that people with ideas can learn to present them in a nub-ly fashion, maybe using something simple like Camtasia.

    What I think is important to avoid is adding a new level of production…

  2. I think you need to factor in the cost of the staircase into the Volksvagen video. Either Volksvagen commissioned it – probably about £50K – or bought the rights to it for not much less.

    The lo-fi standards of the filming are “faux”, designed to simulate autheticity. The budget that viral had could have bought something 100 times slicker than Leo’s work.

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