Big Ideas: “Using 360 videos to market a ‘you have to be there’ event or product” with Margelit Hoffman of Hoffman Film Agency

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Margelit Hoffman. Margelit Hoffman runs the Hoffman Film Agency — a commercial and documentary film production firm — with her husband Shmuel, based in NYC and Philly. They have five kids and have produced close […]

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As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Margelit Hoffman. Margelit Hoffman runs the Hoffman Film Agency — a commercial and documentary film production firm — with her husband Shmuel, based in NYC and Philly. They have five kids and have produced close to 500 films and commercials for clients from nonprofits, schools and camps, to best-selling books and automakers.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Our film production company has made hundreds of commercials for organizations like automakers, summer camps, and schools, that provide an experiential product or service. We discovered that 360 films are an ideal way to market a kind of “you had to be there” event or product, so we began to offer 360 films.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In the 360 film field, the most exciting thing has been the pace of improvements in technology that make it a lower and lower barrier of entry to have 360 films be a part of the marketing suite.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

360 films are more accessible than ever before via Youtube and a smartphone. Giving consumers a taste of experience via 360 videos can pique their interest so that they reach out and visit, come in for a test drive, tour your campus, or sign kids up for a summer camp.

How do you think this will change the world?

I think the accessibility of 360 films will change marketing, especially in the experiential fields like tourism, education, car-buying — in almost every field where a product or service is visceral and real.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Of course, every technology can be used for positive change, or negative regression. I don’t doubt that the porn industry, for example, will pick up on 360 films and what they have to offer. But it is our duty as filmmakers to bring positivity and progress to the world through our work. In my opinion, film and video and that ability to be voyeurs, or to obscure or re-tell the truth in a skewed way can be very damaging to history as we tell it, as well as to human psychology and desires. The Bible says we go after our eyes after which we stray. Anything visual influences us, and I think filmmakers should take more responsibility for the kind of content they send out into the world.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

We had a summer camp client that gave us a lot of free reign as to the kinds of films we produced to market them. It was already our third year producing content for them, and they had seen phenomenal results already. So we asked ourselves, how can we innovate now? We constantly strive to bring something fresh to the table, to show a different angle or creative concept that excites the audience and improves the bottom line for our clients. At that time, editing and stitching 360 films so that they’d be seamless was very time-consuming and unprecise, but we took on the challenge, and our client held live 360 events with goggles and stations where kids lined up by the hundreds to experience the camp virtually. It was a big hit, and the camp sold out pretty much own the spot. We realized we had really tapped into something.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

From one year to the next, advancements in technology have made it easier and easier to produce and edit a 360 film; and this will for sure lead to more and more firms adopting it as a marketing tool.

The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?

I think Google has the right idea; that their employees need to use 20% of their time to work on new ideas. Companies can get into a groove and get stuck there. Luckily, our job requires that we innovate, both in our film concepts and in technology. We need to stay on the ball for our clients to succeed and stay ahead of the game. Doing things by rote is not an option in the advertising field.

Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?

Technology comes and goes, and it’s relatively easy to take on if you take it on incrementally, rather than all at once. What’s harder to come by is quality creative people. I would invest a million dollars in finding and hiring the most innovative thinkers to work for us.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

My husband and I run this business together, but he is really the innovator. I have never met anyone so committed to innovation willing to forgo money and ease for the sake of commitment to truth and quality. His father was a communist in East Germany, who became disillusioned with the Communist party and vocally risked his life and career to speak out against it. Shmuel maintains this commitment to ideals and values, even if it hurts the bottom line temporarily.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I learned a lot about success from watching my dad start and run his own moving and storage business. The main thing that I think can get you through any hardship is just to stick with it. In his first foray into business, during the fall of the USSR, he was involved in a deal selling Canadian wheat to Russia. He was in it with a partner, and essentially they had to stay up for 24 hours to get the work done in time. His partner couldn’t hack it and gave up in order to go to sleep. When my dad made the deal go through on his own, he offered something to that partner, but his partner had the integrity to admit that he hadn’t stuck with it and that my dad should get the credit and the money for the deal. My dad’s parents were Holocaust survivors, and I think he learned his grit from them.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Innovation can take time before it catches on, but once it does, you’d better hope to be on that boat! It’s worthwhile using the latest technology in our film and commercial work; it helps our clients stay ahead of the game and at the forefront of the minds of their clients.
How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @Shmuelhoffmanlive and @margelithoffman

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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