It is easier than ever to produce and distribute online video. The challenge today is what to produce and where to distribute it. We see companies struggle with this all the time. They have a YouTube channel with a dozen videos and somewhere between 200-2,000 views per video; or they created a series of videos that are too branded to get earned media. It’s not just little guys struggling with this, big brands are faced with both the opportunity and the challenge of being a publisher.
There is one simple problem with most brands’ approach to online video. It’s very simple to remedy, and once a brand does this, they see their results improve. Once you understand how the system works it seems very obvious, but if you are on the front end of developing content for your brand, it can be very frustrating.
The problem? Not matching your video content with your distribution method.
Granted, it doesn’t sound very revolutionary, but let’s unpack this idea a little bit. The acronym POEM has been around for a few years now, and it has caused much of this problem. It stands for Paid, Owned and Earned Media. This represents the Distribution method for your content online. The thing that’s not discussed in this acronym is that certain types of content fit better for certain types of distribution.
For example, ads are great for paid media, but they have to be amazing to get any earned media. Think about the last ad you shared on Facebook. What was it? What was the last ad you saw as content on your favorite website or blog? Ads have certain places that they run on a site: pre-roll or over in the margins, and you pay for these placements. So, if you are creating advertising and hoping to get earned media or to rack up lots of views on your owned media properties, it probably is not going to happen.
But I didn’t create an ad, I made a—viral video/online video/how to video/other kind of video—to run everywhere online. Yeah, we hear this one a lot, but when we watch the video, the brand has sneaked in features and benefits and competitive language – basically, doing what a good ad does, which is sell. And the first rule of editorial is, No Selling! If you are hoping for earned media, then you need to create a different kind of video.
There are 3 kinds of videos that work online: Advertising, Entertainment, and Information. The problem is that most brands create some kind of hybrid of these, and then they are stuck because publishers don’t know what to do with it, and audiences don’t really get what they are watching. Remember, people have been watching video their entire lives on TV and in movie theatres. They are very sharp about it, and understand the genres. You violate this rule at your own expense.
So, first decide the right mix of online video for you (more on this in our next post): advertising, entertainment and information – you need all three for a robust online video strategy.
Then match your content to your distribution. We mentioned that paid is best for ads even though there are a lot of social video companies in the news [link to the adweek article] running entertainment or informational video in paid space – some of these placements are a bit dubious despite their well-branded names. For entertainment videos, you are best running it on your owned media or in partnership with a publisher who has existing traffic. Finally, your information video—evergreen, non-selling, editorial videos—are perfect for earned media distribution.
There are exceptions to this approach, but they are the rare, 1 in 500 cases, and who wants to base their entire strategy on capturing lightning in a bottle?
We recently ran across this Forbes/Google report which highlights ways that online video has invaded the C-Suite. The key findings in the report included:
- Video is becoming a critical information source for senior executives. More than 80% said they are watching more online video today than they were a year ago.
- Senior executives are also turning to video more frequently. Three-quarters (75%) of executives surveyed said they watch work-related videos on business-related websites at least weekly; more than half (52%) watch work-related videos on YouTube at least weekly.
- Work-related video can drive senior executives to take action. Overall, 65% have visited a vendor’s website after watching a video. Younger executives, however, may be more fully engaged with this type of media, and appear more likely to make a purchase, call a vendor, or respond to an ad.
- Executives can be receptive to video advertising. Overall, executives notice ads that run alongside videos, and many are comfortable watching in-stream ads. Video-friendly younger executives are more comfortable with these ad formats.
- The social element of online video is strong in the executive suite. More than half of senior executives share videos with colleagues at least weekly, and receive work-related videos as often. Younger executives appear very willing to share and view videos using social media.
While much of the focus of the online video conversation centers around the consumer-facing end, this trend is one that should be encouraging for the B2B community. Additionally, it means that more and more executives in companies with significant TV budgets are using and understanding the value of online video. Perhaps this will accelerate the growth in budgets that are desperately needed to see the needed growth (and growing up) in the industry. The scale and sophistication differential is still heavily weighted for TV-based video, but trends like these bode well for the futures of all those working to grow the space.
We syndicate videos as editorial content on some of the most popular publisher sites on the web. Many of these videos feature brands as experts in their category. These videos consistently beat industry averages on engagement. Engagement is measured as “the percentage of the entire video that is watched.” Averages in the industry hover around 50%, ours consistently perform right around 80%. That’s true engagement: someone searched for content, found our video and then watched 2:30 of the 3:00 video. It’s happened more than 20 million times for Betty Crocker videos alone. It turns out a lot of people are looking for information about baking cakes online.
So, you’d think we’d be happy with the data about all the videos we distribute. But we aren’t.
When we syndicate videos to the dozens of sites, they leave our tightly measured ecosystem and enter a measurement black hole. Right now, the way that video is measured favors the exhibitor over the distributor. Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.
A publisher decides if and then how it is going to have its video views measured. The standard right now is comScore. Publishers allow comScore tags to run on their players and every time a video fires, a view is counted. Okay, there are some more technical details and rules, but that is the gist of it. This is great for a publisher who wants to charge advertisers for pre/mid/post roll because they can tell how many times a video fired. The challenge comes when your video is content and not advertising.
The individual publisher knows how many videos they serve. You can see it on their rankings. YouTube dominates this space followed by Facebook as a distant second. But what about a video that is distributed across multiple sites NOT on an ad platform, but in the editorial well of the site. See, the video ad networks run their own players and can count views. But the distributed video runs on the publisher’s player, and the view counts for them and not for the video. So, we can know how many times it runs on YouTube and our own sites, but no one can tell you how many times a distributed video runs. Not comScore. Not anyone.
The question is why not? Two guesses here…
First, is that no one distributes this way. There are plenty of views to be had on YouTube–even though it accounts for only 40% of all views on the web–and the other video syndication sites. In fact, AdAge’s recent article about the success of YouTube celebrities lists the amount of views garnered for brand programs these celebs have run. Their success stories range from 1-10MM views on average. Not bad for a single channel, but well shy of the 20MM-plus that can be achieved through a multi-publisher syndication model. Even AOL’s latest acquisition, 5min, barely garners any views for an individual video. Their average view per video is around 50. We are seeing 5,000 view averages from a syndication model, but it is a chore to cobble together the measurements and no reliable third party source for it.
Second reason is that perhaps someone (probably comScore) is already working on a solution and soon will start measuring content that is distributed across multiple publishers and players. This is a technical challenge that we don’t need to belabor here, but enough smart minds see this need that it will come about eventually. Although we have worked with enough of the big video analytics groups to know that this is still a developing space with far too much of it dominated by TV-ish thinking about video advertising running in conjunction with low budget comedy. As the market–as in the consumer audience–continues searching for and viewing video content over video ads, the marketers will follow and true video measurement will exist. None too soon in our book.
Because as much as Web 2.0 dominates the conversation in most marketing circles, it is still the Mad Men era for Online Video measurement. Which means it is a great time to be pioneering.
This was originally published as part of an iMedia cover story on Online Video.
The branded editorial video model is about creating relevant content for targeted consumers. However, it is not just about the content creation itself. Marketers must also be diligent about optimizing search and identifying targeted distribution channels.
Here are five tips for how you can begin riding the branded editorial video wave in order to start increasing customer conversions now:
1. It’s All About Search
The key is to make video content that is relevant to what consumers are already searching for online and optimize it accordingly. The above Betty Crocker video series is a good example of how to do this successfully. Another example of a brand that is getting it right is Autodesk, a world leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software. To ensure Autodesk stands out in the home design/remodeling industry, the company researched what people look for online before they start a home renovation project and found that people often search for questions such as “What do I need to do before I call a contractor” and “How to refresh my kitchen with paint.” To answer these burning questions, Autodesk developed the searchable “HomeStyler” video series, a library of TV-quality videos that provide ideas and inspiration from TLC’s “While You Were Out!” designer, Nadia Geller, in a journalistic style that is familiar and engaging to audiences.
2. Adopt a Different Attitude About Creative
Consumers want information-rich video. Through video, they want to learn about your brand’s features and benefits; however, advertising-style copy is not going to resonate. Brands are legitimate experts in their field and have a right to act this way. A brand can and should share its expertise in a way that is useful to consumers. For example, who knows more about baking than Betty Crocker? The Betty Crocker test kitchen videos referenced above use the brand’s expertise in way that provides value to the consumer. This series just surpassed 20M consumer views. Another good example of a brand that is using its industry insight to engage consumers in a meaningful way is Sony.
When marketing their digital cameras to consumers, Sony was able to identify that people want to know how to take good photos, not hear about the technical specs on Sony camera lenses. Sony quickly realized that if it could teach people how to take better photos of their family and friends, they would become trusted advisors and, in turn, sell more digital cameras. To accomplish this goal, the brand partnered with respected fashion photographer Nigel Barker to create a searchable, branded video series that provides consumers with tips for how to take the best baby photos, holiday pictures and outdoor images.
3. Go for TV-like Reach!
Once you have developed the right content for consumers, it’s important not to adopt the “build it and they will come” mentality. In other words, don’t confine the content to your own website. Targeted distribution is critical and it’s important to tap into the editorial and feature wells of content-driven sites. This approach increases consumer engagement and it allows for targeting into topic-focused publishers. For example, videos created on the consumer how-to video website Howdini.com that are related to food topics are also shared via iFood.tv. Additionally, Howdini videos on topics such as “How to get a celebrity hairdo,” and other fashion and lifestyle-related trends, are strategically available on many of Glam Media’s network of women’s blogs and online sites.
4. Harness the Power of YouTube
Let’s face it: YouTube is the king of online video. However, makers of some of the best YouTube videos don’t know how to optimize their content in order to drive the content to the top of the search column. It’s important to understand that video can be optimized for search in the same manner in which we ensure websites are searchable. The truth is, you need video SEO, just like you need site SEO, and just tagging is not enough. Brands can channel the power of YouTube by optimizing online videos for search and creating channels on the popular video sharing site. For example, Howdini.com launched a Howdini Guru channel on YouTube in order to create another means for sharing its how-to video content with consumers. The Howdini Guru channel on YouTube now has more than 32,000 subscribers.
5. Realize the Power of Social Media
For marketers, social media strategies are everywhere we look these days. When used strategically social media is a powerful content distribution vehicle. Distributing content on publishers’ sites is a great way to target the content, but to drive SEO for your content marketers must also distribute content via social media channels. Video sharing sites are a great start, but it’s important to also remember tactics like tagging, bookmarking and news sharing sites.
Follow these five steps for developing editorial video for your brand and you can start meeting your consumer’s unmet and growing need for information-rich online video. Consumers are hungry for this kind of relevant and substantial content and marketers will reap the benefits of deep consumer engagement with their brands.
Video content comes in many different forms but brands can achieve sales and get a great return on investment with branded content provided it serves the needs of the consumer. Brands who have a robust e-commerce offering have many options for serving up video and there are a few guidelines that will help move the consumer from interest in a topic to interest in the product.
1. Create content on the benefits of the product and steer away from touting the product features directly. If you’re selling digital cameras, demonstrate how the zoom feature provides beautiful candid photographs because you don’t have to get so close to the subject. Make it about the photograph (exciting) instead of a demonstration of the zoom (boring).
2. Showcase lifestyle applicability of the product. Use real life scenarios where the product feature becomes a must have for the consumer. For the digital photography example, show the product being used at a wedding, which demonstrates a real application for wanting to catch beautiful candid moments with the zoom.
3. Provide an engagement tool that connects with the e-commerce site. If you’ve got that consumer hooked on needing that exact camera that has the zoom they want, give them a good reason to engage with the product and then use all the great assets on the site to drive the purchase of the product.
These guidelines will help drive consumers with a need to your product.
If you added up all the various searches that women do on a monthly basis, would you guess that more of them are related to food & recipes, health, or personal care?
The answer is usually health.
Let’s talk about that category. Within health, would you imagine that they search more on pregnancy-related issues, menopause-related issues, breast cancer, heart disease, cosmetic surgery, or something else? The answer is that in most of the periods we analyze, women do more pregnancy-related searches than anything else.
And within all those pregnancy searches, what issues bubble to the top as those women are most worried about?
1. fetal development and belly size
2. what to expect (i.e. general pregnancy)
3. determining if (i.e. determining if pregnant)
We use an in-house tool (Search Revelator) to get these results. We developed this tool to classify searches into broad (and then specific) topics that we can actually do something about. Keyword research couldn’t deliver actionable search insights, and we found the limitations were hurting our ability to create relevant content.
Why was this so important to us? Because, if you are going to make video content, and you want people to see it, you might as well make it on topics people are already searching for. Making content that people are most about passionate does something more than increase the reach of a piece of content – it increases people’s engagement with the content. When a brand takes on the role of “expert” to provide that information, the consumer deepens their relationship with the brand.
All consumers are in some sort of need state when searching for information. The more heightened the need state, the stronger the bond with the brand through the experience. In the classic offline or traditional marketing models, getting to this kind of brand connection – where the consumer trusts the brand – can take decades. And it only tends to work when the information is not perceived as advertising. Once that line has been crossed (i.e. the “ad” line), the notion of trust is compromised and the same connection will not occur. Duped is not a good consumer sentiment for any brand.
Using pregnancy as an example, if a brand Like Johnson & Johnson shows up when a pregnant mom feels anxious about baby’s development, the bond that can be formed between brand and consumer is impossible to replicate any other way. It certainly won’t happen with a 30-second spot or a print ad, and not even a brochure at the doctor’s office meets her need in such a direct and timely way.
To properly earn this level trust, the brand must have expertise on the topic. Women might loveOlay, but that doesn’t mean that brand is “qualified” to make Branded Content on the subject of newborn care. If Olay made editorial videos on newborn care, the presence of the brand on the video would be disruptive. An example of this is what Unilever did with Caress.
First, let’s give credit where credit is due: Unilever has led the way with many forms of successful web video. And as an innovator, they’ve also bumped into their share of mistakes from which the rest of us can learn. Such was the case with a “branded information” video featuring Carson Kressly talking about fashion. It started out fine, but then stuck in an oops-he-crossed-the-linesales message about how silky skin is part of good fashion and Caress can help you get there. An expensive media placement on the front page of YouTube drew ire from the viewing public. The line between branded information and a commercial might be thin, but put one toe over it and the negative comments and “dislikes” will shock you….not good news for the brand.
The trick to getting it right?
First, good search research that is able to discern topic popularity in the categories where the brand has legitimate expertise. Next, find video producers with expertise in the editorial world instead of the commercial world. These journalists will have a strong sense of right and wrong when it comes to editorial content, and they won’t be tempted to juice up the video creatively. They understand that straight-forward information may not win Grand Prix at Cannes. But for consumers who are in a heightened need state, a three-minute video that tells it like it is and provides a clean, clear pathway to solving a problem is exactly what the doctor ordered.
One final point: interestingly, although pregnancy, new motherhood, and other parenting topics are some of the most popular, very few brands have used video to address it. In fact, at a recent YouTube partner’s meeting, YouTube asked our team to please produce more content for young mothers because one of the most under-served content-wise on YouTube.
So, if you’re a brand with expertise that applies to young mothers, give TouchStorm a call. (oops, that’s what we call stepping over the line from editorial to commercial). Strike that last line.
Recently read about Brightroll using Magnetic’s platform for re-targeting online video advertising, and ran across this quote:
“The amazing power of online video creates a visceral response from users, given how engaging the ads can be. Imagine serving a stylistic video of a BMW racing through the streets of New York to a user who is in purchase mode for a luxury car – and we know this because the user’s key word searches show the exact intent. This is the branding opportunity we are delivering,” said Josh Shatkin-Margolis, CEO of Magnetic. “By combining this opportunity with search, the highest converting source of data, we’ve made it easy for advertisers to create a perfect synergy of ad creative, media, and data.”
At first glance, this all seems about right, but when you dig into it a bit more, there are some problems with the model that is developing for online video. Here’s three thoughts about this approach, and some alternatives:
Quote #1: “online video creates a visceral response from users”
Response: Video on your computer monitor is not nearly as “visceral” as your home entertainment system. With HD flat screens the norm now, and sizes growing beyond 60″ and even 72″ rapidly, your desktop does not stand a chance. We are importing movie theatre experiences into our living rooms at a rapid rate, and the lowly 27″ computer screen is going to pale in “visceral” terms. But this is not a problem. Why? Because people are not looking for or expecting “visceral” experiences online…they are looking for information and looking to connect with other people. Creating high quality, useful video content and then leveraging social media to distribute it – or better yet, to allow your audience to share and comment – proves better than spending precious production dollars on “visceral.”
Quote #2: “we know this because the user’s key word searches show the exact intent”
Response: Consumers are searching for information and rich content not keywords. We’ve compiled a database of over 70,000 searches and found that what people are looking for is never exactly what you think. They are not searching for camera ads when they type “how to photograph babies.” What they need is a credible expert teaching them, not your neighbor next door shooting homemade video in his garage. Unless he is a photography guru. People want information from people they can trust. They’ll look to their network (thank you social media), and then they look to Google. So, just placing your ads based on keywords is not really getting you at a deep level of intent. You have to study the intent first and create content based on it.
Quote #3: “easy for advertisers to create a perfect synergy of ad creative, media, and data”
Response: Making it easier for consumers to find great content should be every marketers goal online. We used to say it all the time in the early days of the web: Content is King!Somewhere along the way, we forgot what content was. Either that, or the people defining what content is changed. Now, content is whatever drives advertising revenue – more specifically, it is whatever is getting the clicks that I will get paid for. Or in the case of the quotes above, it is about targeting a keyword and delivering a contextual ad beside the content that the “user” is actually searching for. Keyword context is a topic in and of itself. The bigger issue here is that we are lifting print advertising strategies and porting them to the web. Lay my ad beside great content, and voila! Awareness, Trial, Conversion and Loyalty ensue.
So, what to do? Be the content.
How? Three quick ideas:
Understand Your Strengths. If you are a brand marketer, then you have subject matter expertise in your product category. In fact, there’s a problem if you don’t. Brands spend millions of dollars on R&D and research on their categories. This accumulated knowledge is great fodder for content, and it will put you in a new position with your consumers. One of thought leader and not just advertiser. But to do this right, you need to know the boundaries of your brand. Where do you have permission with your consumers? What will they listen to you about? The only way to find this out is to begin to wade in.
Learn What They Are Searching For. The first step of wading in is to listen. The best place to listen is in search. How are they searching your category? It is the rare brand that is searched for by name. Most brands are found online because of related, often complex and indirect, search strings. Digging into this data is the only way to really learn what interests your current and potential audience. Seeing how and where they are searching will give you crystal clear guidance in developing your library of video content.
Land In The Center Of The Page. Once you’ve created this content-rich, HD-quality video content, you’ll need to distribute it. That’s what the video sharing sites are for, right? Wrong. Well, kinda wrong. Video sharing sites are great. Many (like YouTube) deliver a lot of traffic (if you know how to optimize for their quirky search world), but often the smaller sites (i.e. everyone else) don’t deliver the audience. To get to the audience, you have to build a distribution network of publisher sites that will license your videos (for free) and run them as content (for free) on their sites. Then when your audience is searching, they will find this content regardless of where they tend to look. And you will be in the center of the page where content lives, not banished to the rim of the page with the ads.
Becoming content savvy is critical for marketers in the current media landscape. It takes some work, but it delivers great results. Let us know your success (or horror) stories. How are you winning with online video content?
An IPO is on the horizon. Demand Media will be going public! The online video world is all “a-twitter” (one of my mother’s iconic phrases rendered senseless by the modern era). Instead, the online video world is “abuzz.” Should we sell our shares in Apple and try to get in? Or should we “head for The Hills”? (sorry mom, there goes another good one).
The argument for running the other way has a lot to do with this question: does Demand Media make junk content, or do they make real content? Is it spam, or isn’t it? Let’s skip the argument about whether Demand Media’s content de-values journalism and degrades writers…that’s a whole other debate that many have covered.
If Demand Media makes real content, then their model is brilliant. In the big, unfettered picture, here’s how that model works:
1. Figure out what people are searching for.
2. Pay nickels to have people write articles answering those questions, and pay a couple more nickels (but not a whole quarter) to have people make videos answering those questions
3. Optimize like crazy so consumer queries result in Page One exposure for the content in search results
4. Send those click-throughs to eHow (mostly) to read (or occasionally watch) the content that satisfies their query
5. Create a ton of traffic on eHow as a result, generating a boatload of media impressions
6. Collect the ad money that inevitably shows up whenever a media outlet succeeds in collecting a sufficient volume of eyeballs
7. Charge more for the eyeballs than the nickels it took to make the content that brought them there
8. Do it all day long until your site and your brand name stands for a reliable, trustworthy place for consumers to get information
9. Therefore….and here’s the real kicker…with that eHow brand name standing for trust, reliability, and credibility, attract quality, big brand advertisers who, as a rule, insist on placing their advertising solely in high quality, credible environments.
Maybe you noticed that Steps 1 through 7 seemed pretty easy…lots of companies can do that and in fact, many are trying. But then you get to Steps 8 and 9 and the bar suddenly gets reallyhigh because consumers and the advertisers set that bar, not press releases.
Demand Media sprang forth from eNom, which is still 40% of the company’s revenue. eNom is a domain registration company that makes money from “errant clicks.” Mistype a domain name, land on one of those content-empty sites filled with referrals of where you might really want to click, and Demand makes a nickel. Interesting heritage for a “content” company now filling the web with articles that cost less than $6 to make and videos that cost less than $50.
Does Demand Media make content? Or is Demand Media propagating a giant spam play? Don’t ask them, ask the consumer if they trust what they find there, and ask brands if they find it to be a suitable advertising environment. Because at the end of the day, it will be consumer engagement and brand sponsorship that will make or break their model.
As for Mom’s iconic phrases? Well, it turns out that people don’t care for spam of any variety.
Interesting that the only conversation about online video – at least in the marketing community – seems to center around online video advertising. A recent TechCrunch article called it “a frenzy of growth” quoting the CEO of an online video advertising network. They are seeing “TV dollars pour in” as he put it.
A couple of interesting points to all of this:
1. The growth in percent is double digit, but it’s off a very low base. The dollars pouring in, at least according to the eMarketer forecasts in the same article, will not even eclipse banner advertising (the web’s equivalent of print) in the next 4 years. And search? They don’t project it to be less than half the size of search – the web’s defacto ad unit.
2. All of the conversation seems to be about porting TV dollars into the web. This is fine because it is a much more measurable and targeted medium. But why are we porting the same interruption strategy and tactics along with it? Putting your ads into the rim of the page, or worse yet, as pre/mid/post-roll on the page is only going to interrupt a “leaning forward” audience way more than it does the “lean back” TV audience.
3. The Ad dollars ARE going to go to one of the Top 10 Networks. That’s because the dollar scale is so much smaller on the web than it is on TV. It is easy to eat up a $10MM budget on TV advertising, but that is a fortune to spend online. This means that companies insisting on the same old strategy (i.e. TV advertising) they are going to find limited inventories and crowding at the top 2 or 3 ad networks, and a lack of scale on the rest.
There is a better way.
People are actively searching for content online, and much of the content they are consuming is video. Even with growth of broadband slowing recently, it is still in 2/3rd’s of US homes, and with 3g and now 4g mobile expansion will see video continue to grow. But we need to create videos that people are searching for, and we need to get them to the sites that deliver quality content.
Content lives in the center of the page, and content is the information that I am searching for. And people are not searching for ads. Okay, they are looking for funny ads or SuperBowl ads, but these little snacks are not considered content. It’s just something to make a friend smile.
Technologies like AdMuncher are springing up to help me avoid advertising. The computer’s ability to rid my content of ads is much greater than my TV’s. Pop-up blockers are standard on all modern web browsers now.
When brands start creating content about the categories where they have expertise, then we’ll see a real frenzy of activity. But those TV dollars won’t go to the ad networks because there are hundreds of thousands of publishers with audiences looking for great video content. They are just waiting for someone to give it to them.