Marketing, journalism or just being there? The story of four Maersk Line timelapses

Following my last post which touched on corporate media and the journalism vs marketing discussion, I think there’s something to gain from looking at the recent production of four Maersk Line timelapse videos.

The point in my previous post (many others have said the same, most notably Tom Foremski) was that in the age of social media companies need to tell the stories that are already there. They shouldn’t try to invent the content. As many modern novelists will attest to there’s always an interesting story to tell – if you can see it, and know how to tell it.

This idea (coupled with a growing need to be trustworthy, human and transparent) led me to the conclusion that companies need to hire journalists, not marketers.

Journalism, marketing or?
But it’s not as simple as that. For instance, when I think of our four timelapse videos, I struggle to see whether we’re doing marketing or journalism in those instances.

And mind you, these four videos have been really successful pieces of content (regardless of the timelapse format being a bit antiquated by now). Three of them make up the Top 3 of most watched on our Vimeo channel.

But how did they come about? It wasn’t as planned as you would think.

No. 1: Photos coincidentally found on a harddisk
This first timelapse came about more or less coincidentally. When browsing through the vast amount of footage recorded for our corporate movie we discovered that the photographer got the bright idea at one point during the two-year project to set up a camera on M/V Ebba Maersk in the Port of Bremerhaven and take a photo every 1 or 2 seconds. With a timelapse in mind, of course.

All we had to do was to – after an initial Google search – import the stills to a video via QuickTime Player 7, export as a .mov file and add the music. Here’s the result:

[vimeo w=460&h=259]

No. 2: Persuading Discovery Channel to set up two cameras
The second one required even less of us, but did require some pre-planning. And it certainly required something of Discovery Channel. In short, they were in a shipyard in Korea to document the building of the first of our twenty new Triple-E mega ships, and so we persuaded them to set up two additional cameras in order to also document the construction work as a timelapse.

They did the editing, and the result was astonishing. Not least after the video became a Staff Pick on Vimeo. Almost 1 million views, from audiences far different than our regular fans from within the industry. The timelapse was featured on e.g. Le Monde, Fast Company and Here it is:

[vimeo w=460&h=259]

No. 3: Making the most of some unused footage
Following that success, and browsing through some unused footage a videographer brought back home from the shipyard in Korea, we decided to see if we could create an alternate version of the “Building the world’s largest ship” timelapse. The idea was that in this follow-up timelapse people would get a more close-up look at the process in the shipyard.

First I did a rough cut myself. Then I met an old friend on the train. He told me he was now working as an editor, and we started talking about color grading etc.

Since I wasn’t fully satisfied with my own first cut I asked him if he wanted to help, and he said that he would love to. This is what we ended up with:

[vimeo w=460&h=259]

No. 4: The 2nd officer as a filmmaker!
The story behind the last timelapse is the best one. And really, this is the reason why I wanted to write this blog post.

I got an email from 2nd Officer Yaroslav Karetnikov directly from the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller (the first Triple-E vessel starring in the two shipyard timelapses above). He told me about how he’s created a few timelapses in his spare time during his journeys, and we basically decided that of course he should continue his great work on the new vessel – not least during the maiden voyage.

So one day when I came into office his first piece of work had been put on our server. I just had to do a few adjustments (reduce the length, add music, text etc.), and we were ready to go.

The video shows the vessels maiden call in the Port of Busan, Korea. A somewhat historic moment. Here it is:

[vimeo w=460&h=259]

And the lesson learned?
So where does all of this leave us? What can we learn from it?

Well, first of all that large container ships and timelapses are a really good match.

And then – secondly – that you don’t need to invent or arrange much if you work for a large company where your colleagues are ready to and capable of identifying the good stories.

But is it journalism or marketing? Neither, I would say. It’s more about just being there and trying to capture the stories that people out there will like and share.

So, after all, it is actually pretty simple.

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  1. Not everything needs to be “journalism.” Maersk is showcasing it’s best qualities, telling stories that say something about the culture of the company. I think too often, especially in the US, people get hung up on the labels and invent too many, such as owned media, earned media, organic media, etc.

    It’s not journalism or marketing — but something of both — it’s high quality corporate media.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, I guess that’s what it is: Corporate media. It’s content made to somehow tell the story of who we are and what we’re doing – in an interesting way. That’s the idea. That we feel an obligation to tell our stories and to share them with those who want to listen (or watch). Thanks!

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