What do Duran Duran and council videos have in common? Quite a bit actually.

Over a few DMs on Twitter, Andrew and I decided to write a blog showcasing the best council videos we could find.

When he sent me his half of the blog titled “Councils on film” I immediately started singing it to the tune of “Girls on film”, the 1981 song from Duran Duran.

Then it dawned on me that there was actually a  lot in common between a good #localgov video and the video clips of the finest band to come out of Birmingham. Here are the lessons you can learn from both:

  • Have enough narrative to be interesting. Duran Duran’s videos of the early 80s always had a narrative. In “Hungry like the wolf” Simon and the boys took us on a journey through the back streets of India. In their ace new video, the City of Salisbury takes us on a journey through the back streets of Adelaide, showcasing the range of services local government provides.
  • Be innovative. Do something that no one has ever done before. Duran Duran were the first band to shoot their videos on 35mm film with professional directors. The City of Ryde in Sydney cleverly uses animation to enliven what may otherwise be considered a pretty dull subject. In the UK, Warwickshire County Council have used 60 second video broadcasts as part of their news site with great success.
  • Use video to answer questions. In their “Rio” video, Duran Duran answered a question that people had argued over in pubs for years. “Can you play a saxophone on a raft? Yes, yes you can. Both New York City and Brisbane City Council use video to explain frequently asked questions superbly, following the trend of  “how to” videos that are everywhere on YouTube.
  • Humour can work. At the end of “A view to a kill” someone asks Duran Duran lead singer’s name. He replies with the classic “Bon. Simon Le Bon”. Caerphilly used cartoon sheep popping up around town in their video, this novelty no doubt helped to make it a talking point throughout Wales and beyond.
  • Eye candy is good. In the “Rio” video there were gorgeous beach scenes, pastel shades and some pretty cool haircuts. Alexandrina Council in South Australia have mastered the art of putting together a gorgeous showreel of their region to pique interest.
  • Deliver a message. In “Union of the Snake” the message was clear – don’t enter a lift in the desert with a mysterious woman in a bellhop outfit or you’ll end up in some kind of underground freak show. In a video from Lithuania, the Mayor of Vilnius delivers an even blunter message by crushing illegally parked cars with a tank.

Have we whet your appetite? Here’s more detail on the 8 examples of local government videos we referred to above.

Warwickshire County Council, United Kingdom

Warwickshire have hit on the novel idea of letting their community know what is going on out and about in the county by producing their own 60 second news on their news site. Lasting roughly 1 minute each and posted on average once a week, the films cover serious topics such as council budget spends and health and safety messages to the more fun stories such as name the local fire service’s rescue horse.

Warwickshire County Council say they get over 1000 views a day via their own website and have seen increase use in their social media channels.

For a big county council this seems to work well as they have a good mix of content and by keeping it short you are not sat thinking when will this end! By having it available on Youtube it also allows users of smart devices to access it easily and watch whilst you commute.

– Andrew Coulson

City of New York, USA

NYCs ‘How do I’ videos in their Inform NYC Pinterest collection are brilliant short videos breaking down answers in visual form to some of the most frequently asked questions by New Yorkers every day. From ‘How do I report a broken street light?’ to ‘How do I report a pothole on the street?’ the City Council seem to have everything covered using a mixture of real life acting and animation.

Again the videos are on average a minute long keeping them short and to the point and in this case use a kind of role play as well as a fun and friendly language to help people get the answers they need.

In a big city of many different cultures and backgrounds the use of a visual tool to answer FAQs is probably extremely helpful when trying to share information and save time for dealing with the more demanding questions. Also by having them on some of those niggly little issues like bin collection means those that can’t access council offices during the day due to work can get the answers they need when at home.

– Andrew Coulson

Caerphilly County Borough Council, United Kingdom

Using a cartoon sheep to promote the council’s use of social media, Caerphilly CBC have managed to take a campaign to promote the online, offline. The video itself reinforces their message that they use social networking sites to communicate a wide range of information to the local community and visitors and that they welcome photos, posts and comments whether they are good or bad.

At 2 minutes the film is starting to get into ‘I’m bored now’ territory but with their mix of local Caerphilly landmarks and facilities that people will recognise there is a draw for people to watch until the end to see how much of their local area they recognise. The use of local famous cartoonist Gren’s sheep also adds a bit of humour to the subject and leaves you wondering where will he pop up next.

One thing that was seemingly lacking though in a film about social media are the councils social media addresses.

– Andrew Coulson

City of Ryde, Sydney, Australia

So we’ve had 60 second news broadcasts, How do I role play and a cartoon sheep popping up in real life situations now we have an animation (of sorts).

The City of Ryde video was produced by their Asset Team to explain to the community what complying with the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework means to them. A tough subject I hear you say… So using the Group Manager of Public Works voice and a very talented artist the video takes a very dull subject and makes it interesting. Knowing that it’s a subject people would be interesting in Ryde has managed to take the hard facts and make them understandable.

The film follows a journey through the hard decisions the council is facing regarding things like infrastructure in the face of spending cuts or possible rate rises.

Using video in this case helps the council get across a very important message to many people in such a short time. The use of animation keeps people watching and of all the council videos I viewed on Youtube this one had the most views and also comments.

– Andrew Coulson

City of Salisbury, Adelaide, Australia

This fantastic new video from the City of Salisbury in Adelaide does a great job at explaining the question “Where do my rates (council tax) go?”

As local government in Australia delivers a smaller range of services than their UK counterparts (education and social care for example, are the responsibility of state governments) there is a perception that councils are only ‘roads, rates and rubbish’.

This bright cheery walk through the streets and parks of Salisbury cleverly dispels this myth by highlighting the many services and facilities the City of Salisbury offers residents. The video follows different people as they go about their daily lives and has been shot in a contemporary style with a great soundtrack. Great work guys!

– Matt Murray

Brisbane City Council

Australia’s largest local government authority have published some fantastic videos on their YouTube channel about planning and development approval and more recently, being prepared for disasters. Need to know how to sandbag your house? What do I need in my emergency kit? There are videos for both of those topics.

The one I’ve chosen to embed above is from their planning and development team. As anyone who has ever lodged a planning or development application knows, these processes and paperwork can be complex and at times, daunting. Brisbane City Council have done a great job explaining what’s involved in their YouTube videos. Yes the videos are longer than a couple of minutes, but I believe they are of genuine worth to those seeking information on those topics from the council.

– Matt Murray

Alexandrina Council, South Australia

Where is Alexandrina?” is the first thing I asked myself after watching the first twenty seconds of this superbly filmed video.

This South Australian council has produced a gorgeous showreel featuring scenes of the natural beauty, beaches, towns and landscapes of their region. Backed by a pretty chilled music soundtrack, the video has a cool, contemporary vibe that makes you think of ice creams and summer holidays.

Where is Alexandrina? I don’t know, but I want to find out.  And I’m guessing that was the whole purpose of the video.

– Matt Murray

Vilnius, Lithuania

How’s this for delivering a message? If you park illegally the Mayor will crush your car with a tank. Sadly I can’t see this catching on in Australia or the UK.

– Matt Murray

Do you know of any ace videos made by councils around the World? Let us know in comments below or tweet us!

Image credit: Screenshot from the City of Salisbury “Where do my rates go?” video. 

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