The explanation experts

Stuttgart-based company Simpleshow GmbH uses short videos to explain complicated products or entire corporate philosophies
16.05.2014 | 

It's pretty difficult to keep it simple. This is true of the whole field of communications and at the same time poses one of its major challenges. Particularly in our everyday professional lives, the density of information and complexity of topics is constantly increasing, as is the need to simplify these topics as a result. The Stuttgart-based company Simpleshow GmbH has specialised in addressing this need with a means which itself is wonderfully simple.

The company's classic explainer video works like a black-and-white cut-out. The video shows a hand that pushes paper cut-outs of comic-style figures and symbols one after another into the frame. In the background, a narrator uses sparse and simple language to explain the respective content in a way that truly anyone can understand. This calls for handcrafted work with paper, scissors and glue. The video is then produced in the company's own studio.

The events that culminated in this classic product all started six years ago. Just after graduating from Stuttgart's Hochschule der Medien (Stuttgart Media University, HdM), Jens Schmelzle founded a small media agency together with two college friends. It wasn't long before the decisive job came along which prompted the inception of Simpleshow GmbH: "A customer ordered a film to explain its software", explains Schmelzle. "And then we came up with this charming and low-cost production using paper and two hands. We focused on the essentials, told a little story and didn't use any colour or animations."

After the first clip was sold, it was only a few days before another job arrived. There was no let-up in demand, news of the format quickly spread, and the young entrepreneurs did the right thing - they specialised in explainer videos. What was once a small media agency has now become a company with 100 employees that is represented in nine locations on three continents.

Simpleshow videos are in demand across the entire globe, and the format has already been used in several thousands of productions in over 50 languages. The clients are companies from a wide range of different industries and of varying sizes, including BMW, Audi, Microsoft, Air Berlin, Otto, McDonald's, Ebay and Esprit. More and more, clients are also requesting digital animation clips. The explanation experts even offer interactive explainer videos in the form of four-minute learning units and subsequent test questions.

Simplification is an art and a handcraft at the same time, and something that has to be learned. That's why Jens Schmelzle set up a dedicated academy for his employees that carries out training and research in the field. Schmelzle explains that each employee receives training that can take several months for some positions. He says that the trainers at the Simpleshow academy are being booked more and more frequently by companies seeking advice in the area of "Explaining simply".

With its large-scale project "Explaining", Simpleshow also wants to show social involvement. Schmelzle is convinced that "a short explainer video can have a big impact." Consequently, the company produces free explainer videos for good causes. "There are so many complex topics that affect a lot of people and that can be explained in three minutes." For example, Simpleshow has explained the carbon footprint and the institutions of the EU.

Although Simpleshow did not invent the "explainer video" format, it was the first company to develop the format into a successful brand in 2008 through standardisation. The one-time pioneer has become a market leader. "We are the video service provider with the most productions worldwide, and the only true global player in the field of explainer videos," says Schmelzle. While the Stuttgart-based company has already come a long way in a short space of time, the young entrepreneurs still have plenty of visions for the future. "We want to reach a point where we are internationally synonymous with the explainer video format", says Schmelzle.