Purpose Storytelling: A Case Study for Ava Launch Video
In 2016, Ava was faced with a daunting task: Launching their first product – an app-based software that would connect the deaf and hearing worlds.
In the very beginning of the video, you see the main characters (who are played by a deaf actress and hard-of-hearing actor) as regular people before we reveal their disability. This was an intentional way of generating empathy with a wider audience, and challenging preconceptions about deaf and hard-of-hearing (HoH) people. We also wanted an introduction that made Ava’s deaf and HoH audience (their core customer base) feel represented as complex individuals with normal lives and personalities, rather than being defined by one aspect of their experience.
5% of the world’s population has hearing disabilities, so it was important for us to convey to hearing viewers that these characters could be one of your neighbors, your coworker, your student, etc.
The group conversation scenes were also particularly important, because (as we will discuss in the research section below) group conversations with hearing people are one of the most challenging situations for deaf and HoH people, who often rely on reading lips. During the COVID crisis, this problem has become even more prominent, because masks make reading lips virtually impossible.
It was also important for Ava to show that they not only help people who are dear and hard-of-hearing, but also empower hearing people to make their activities more accessible, such as family dinners, classrooms, or work meetings. Even if you don’t recognize yourself in the main characters, you may recognize yourself as someone at the dinner table, or as the customer in the cafe.
There is also some humor in the video, such as the moment where our lead actress tries to use Ava to translate a dog barking. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t pretending like the app was some perfect piece of technology that could translate anything under the sun. If you look closely, you can also see that there are some moments where the captions have some errors. This was intentional on our part, as we wanted to show a realistic user experience.
On the topic of humor:it’s important to remember that communicating your purpose doesn’t mean you have to be ultra-serious. In marketing, positive emotion actually tends to motivate people much more than negative emotion.
Our Research Process and Creating and Authentic Story:
Part of creating a powerful purpose-driven story is identifying what your audience values, and what visual elements and narratives resonate with them. In other words, you need your story to feel authentic.
The image above is a screenshot of just a portion of the larger research document we created with Ava in preparation for this project. Before we even began scripting the video, we collected a plethora of Ava user experience stories, relevant data, and interviews with deaf and HoH individuals. We determined that about 60% of Ava’s audience was deaf or HoH, about 20% were people with some hearing loss, and about 20% were hearing people who would use Ava to make their conversations more accessible, or as an audio transcription/note-taking service.
Our teams also wanted to make sure that all of our story ideas were validated through actual data and testimonials about what Ava’s audience wanted to see and hear. This was particularly important given that deaf and HoH individuals are underrepresented, and often inaccurately represented, in media. We knew that to gain the trust of Ava’s deaf and HoH audience, we had to show their authentic experiences on screen.
One great thing about working with Ava was how personally connected to, and knowledgeable about their audience their team is. Ava has an amazing, diverse set of people working for them, with different backgrounds and different levels of hearing. Ava’s CEO and Co-founder Thibault Duchemin actually grew up as the only hearing person in a deaf family, interpreting for them since age 5. He co-founded Ava out of a desire to break communication barriers that deaf and HoH people face with the hearing world. During our production process, Ava’s team served as a source of immediate feedback, which helped guide our research process and creative decisions.
Adapting Our Casting and Production Processes
We had two main criteria that guided our casting process: authenticity and representation. Therefore, casting real deaf/HoH actors was very important. After 2 weeks of searching, we found Janel Schmidt, a deaf actress, and Mando Garza, a Hard of Hearing actor, in Los Angeles. Continuing our dive for authenticity, we actually rewrote the script to more closely reflect their real lives.
Throughout our production and post-production process, we kept in mind that a large portion of our audience would be watching the video with no sound. Our first two edits of the video had no voiceover or music, only subtitles, so we could make sure the video worked just as well with no audio as it did with audio. Additionally, we knew that Facebook viewership tends to increase when videos can be watched without sound, so having a video that worked with no audio was a social media distribution advantage as well.
Strategic Social Media Distribution
We decided that a Facebook video release was the best approach – particularly for understanding spread and viewership – and Ava was able to secure a publishing placement on ProductHunt, a popular app curation site. ProductHunt’s facebook page often shared app launches via video, with an average of 15 likes per post. In the end, our video for Ava raised the bar exponentially: Within only 3 days of posting, the video was shared 23,000 times on Facebook, garnering a combined 70,000 likes and 1,000,000 views. How many marketing dollars did Ava spend promoting the video? $0. Every view, like, and share was organic.
In 2020, Prodigium and Ava collaborated on a new video to address how Ava’s technology can help deaf and HoH individuals cope with the added challenges of the COVID crisis, such as video calls, and as previously mentioned, masks (which make lip reading impossible).
We used footage from the original 2016 video, combined with some new COVID-releavant footage shot with a small, socially-distanced crew.
We also remotely collaborated on an animation to showcase Ava’s new “Scribe” service, a combination of AI and human intelligence that helps perfect captions.
Check out the updated live-action video and animation below:
Ava is a prime example of the power of purpose. Ava team is deeply passionate about their work, and motivated by a desire to break communication barriers. Time and time again, Ava’s purpose-driven mentality has led to not only a greater impact, but to greater brand awareness and monetary success.