Triveni Rajagopal
Sep 30, 2015

Cinema and television had a child, and named it digital video

Mystified about how to employ digital video in marketing? Try thinking of it as the love child of old-school cinema and television, growing up in a new-school technology world.

Triveni Rajagopal
Triveni Rajagopal

Digital video is the (not so) new kid on the block—every brand campaign wants one! Video is a natural form of brand storytelling, and YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, et al have attractive video ad products, allowing for targeted reach, motivating some 62 per cent of viewers to buy products. It’s no surprise then that online video ad revenue in APAC will climb from about US$4 billion to US$10 billion by 2020.

But how good is our understanding of, and expectation from this new 'kid' when deployed as an ad unit? Raise your hand if you still hear "Let's make a viral clip", or "Digital video should be cheaper than TV ads", or "The KPI is 10 million views, because that sounds like a good number". We need to get our heads around digital video so we use it efficiently to nurture our brands.

Here’s a basic primer to demystify it: Try thinking of digital video as the love child of old-school cinema and television, growing up in a new-school technology world. Like a child, digital video today is the familiar replica of its cinema and television ‘parents’. But tomorrow, it will evolve into a lottery of unrecognisable features and behaviour, influenced by cutting-edge hardware and software technology. Here’s how digital video is some parts cinema, some parts television…and a whole lotta tech.

Some parts cinema

Digital video ads that are grand, intense, cinematic stories of the brand point-of-view help to build brand love. They make people laugh, cry, or be awed and inspired. YouTube calls it 'hero' video and it is just like a summer-blockbuster in three ways:

  • It’s not cheap, because great creative and high-value production come at a price.
  • It’ll need aggressive paid media investment to reach the mobile screens of millions of target audience. Think 60 per cent + TV GRP-like reach.
  • Its views and sharing will peak in the beginning and wane in three to four weeks (similar to how first weekend box-office collections make or break a movie).

To get the best return on this high-value, short shelf-life asset, ask: is the video collecting maximum targeted views in the first week of breaking? Is it impacting brand imagery in the short term? Similar to how movies find a second life on HBO or Netflix after a run in the cinemas, can the ad be re-aired to sustain awareness?

Some parts television

When brands need to own functional propositions, a series of use-case videos, sporting a utilitarian tone, is ideal. Given their practical nature, they may cost a bit less (however, budget in multiples).

Also referred to as 'hygiene' video, this type mirrors TV series programming in two ways: a Netflix study revealed that successful shows gained traction only by the third to fifth episode. Similarly, these digital videos will slow-burn on delivering views, as they depend on people discovering the video while seeking out information. Paid media will be critical to ensure the video continues to be discovered over time. And just as every episode of a TV series contributes to that Emmy win, the complete set of these digital videos should contribute to brand measures in the medium to long term. So set KPI expectations accordingly.

A whole lotta tech

The genetic core of a digital video ad will always be a brand story, told interestingly. But here's where nature ends and nurture begins. As the online video ad ‘grows up’, I believe three emerging tech-phenomena could redefine how it is created and deployed: 

Screens: Because size matters. The tiny screens of wearables would likely afford short, visually simplistic videos, potentially focused on enhancing human performance. Examples include reminders to eat healthier, run longer, plan the day better. Meanwhile, the larger glass rectangles of phablets and even televisions (the future of TV is apps, yeah?), could deliver longer, complex videos—potentially deep-linked with entertainment or learning mindsets. Maybe wearables will be the new home for always-on videos, while larger-screens will deploy one-off tentpole videos?

Live-casting: As platforms like Periscope, GoPro Herocast and Facebook Mentions are adapted by brands and regular users, brands looking to appeal to authenticity-obsessed millennials could employ real-time, live video streaming. The uniqueness and inherent risk of live-streaming a video ad could earn brands badass PR and huge reach across social platforms.

Immersive experiences: The writing’s in the feed: Bud Light’s gone 360 on YouTube and Star Wars on Facebook, as they opened up 360-degree video ad products. Oculus Rift is making 3D content consumption virtually a reality; and Microsoft’s HoloLens is big on holographic experiences. Clearly, digital videos will have to transcend their flat, 2D reality, toward an immersive 360/3D future.

As Seth Godin said, ‘Marketing…is about the stories you tell’. So tell them through the familiar present, and the exciting future, of the digital video ad.

Triveni Rajagopal is digital marketing lead for foods at Unilever SEAA. The views expressed in this article are her own and don't reflect those of Unilever.



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