People all over America struggle to build strong financial futures for themselves and their families. There are a wide array of influences—from the year someone is born to their race and ethnicity—and many possible systemic solutions, making it a difficult issue to unpack… So how do you bring it all together in a concise and engaging package?
Luckily for us (and hopefully the rest of America), a roadmap has now been laid out with the newly released ‘What It’s Worth‘, the book we were asked to help launch with an explanatory video.
But back to that ‘concise/engaging’ question… while business owners and policy makers might have the tools they need, we needed to tackle it all in under 3 minutes without people feeling as if they’re lost in the bullet points.
Positive characters, messy reality
While it’s important to touch on the meta narrative—the global or national story—reducing the video to largely focus on a few individual characters and their journeys can be powerful. Even if the people themselves don’t actually exist, they give the audience personal experiences they can empathise with. Fortunately, Burness¹ (the firm who were managing the project) already had a great script in the works when they came to us, splitting the core of the story between the journey of two families.
In refining character and context, a brief but core part of our initial discussions centered around race, and how to find the right balance in representation. Burness had made the great decision to showcase the Garcias as the ‘thrivers’ in our fictional pair of families—one of those small and obvious choices that, over time, can make a big difference.
(For an entirely separate example we really love, check out the write up on Slack’s ‘Add to Slack’ button).
All of that said, the switching of stereotypes created the potential dilemma of avoiding the much less rosy or comfortable reality: race & ethnicity is a huge factor in the financial success of families across the country, and many other Garcias in the US unfortunately aren’t given the same opportunities as our successful duo… Not something you want to gloss over. Making sure race & ethnicity was touched on as a key influence, and providing a diverse range of other families helped show that Melissa and the Garcias were part of a much larger picture.
Working in the progressive space there’s often the desire to be accurate, to talk about the facts. But statistics don’t need to dominate your story, they should just form part of the foundation.
Mise-en-scène, things unseen
With many pieces of this financial puzzle floating around, we wanted everything in the video to have a clear logic. While the viewer might not even pick up on it, small visual cues in the video could help them understand how it’s all connected.
Beyond using yellow and turquoise as a way to easily differentiate the characters and their stories, we used color and reoccurring graphics to tie the key influences to their specific solutions. From how they factor into early childhood development, to the transitions between the present and the past and how they can form both tailwinds and headwinds, including them throughout makes it easier to draw these connections subconsciously.
the final video:
¹ You can find Burness (who commissioned the video and developed the original script) here. ² Based on 2013 stats — and it doesn’t get much better: the next 1/5 households having had a median net worth of just $27,900. (From the book’s foreward).