To make a video more interesting, use the element of surprise.


We’ve think about videos a lot at Davis & Company; for example, here is a Smart Tips newsletter on the topic.

While there are many elements that makes a video successful, here’s one you should keep in mind: the element of surprise. So many employee communication videos follow the same pattern: talking-head interviews, B-roll footage, a few zippy effects. But by breaking the mold and doing something unexpected, you can create a video that holds viewers’ attention long enough to get your message across.

To prove it's possible, I refer you to one of the most boring video formats of all: the airline safety video. Much of the content in these safety videos is mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, so you’d think that there’s not a lot of room to be creative.

But airlines have been subverting the form for some time. It’s not surprising that Virgin America would make a music video to demonstrate safety. But I was mildly shocked to see the unexpected approach United took for its safety video. Here is what makes it different:

  • Set in unusual locations. None of the crew members explaining safety are inside a commercial jet. Instead, they show you how to fasten a seat belt and put your seat in an upright position in a New York City cab, in a Paris café, on a double-decker bus in Las Vegas and many other global locations.
  • Origami. It's not everyday you see an airplane made of paper. Weird, but it works.
  • Funny, in a quietly subversive way. United isn’t going for belly laughs, for sure, but there are a few witty moments. (Did you know that kangaroos bite?)
  • Interesting enough to watch more than once. Most people (like me) ignore the safety video after a few viewings. But there’s enough going on to want to see it again.

If United Airlines (hardly the most risk-taking organization) can create a surprising video, so can you!

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