Mike Fromowitz
May 26, 2013

Not the era of mobile, but the era of video

It’s no secret that digital video consumption continues to increase as TV Everywhere expands and mobile audiences grow.

Not the era of mobile, but the era of video

In fact, mobile use is growing exceedingly fast with YouTube seeing 200 million mobile playbacks a day. According to Adobe’s Digital Video Benchmark,  2012 saw a massive increase in video viewership on mobile — 19.6 billion video starts to be exact. Overall, digital video saw growth across all platforms, with an increase of 30 percent year over year since 2010. Streaming video has grown 50 percent between 2011 and 2012. While video consumption continued to grow on PCs throughout 2012, mobile video views jumped 300%. Tablets are fueling the growth.

This is not the era of Mobile, but the era of Video

Not surprisingly, mobile devices have led to major changes in consumer behaviour around the TV screen. A new battleground has emerged, between the big screen and the personal device. For the past decade the PC has been the main platform for online video, but with the arrival of the smartphone, the iPad and other tablets the way most people watch online video and TV has changed.  And with these new technologies, Video content is poised to become pervasive. 

No doubt, Mobile growth is hot, and mobile internet growth is significantly hotter than the internet desktop growth of the late 90s. Smart phones are outpacing PCs. There will be over 10 Billion or more mobile units in this decade, including iPads and tablets. The evolution of device functionality is shifting from content creation (inputs) to communication (outputs) to sharing (community). And our industry sees online advertising and mobile commerce having massive upside potential.

Fact of the matter is, I hate mobile ads. Most people do.

When I’m looking for information or using an app, and I accidentally tap on a tiny ad that takes me to a landing page I wasn’t interested in, you can guess how I’m feeling about that brand or service at that moment.

I’m not alone. A Harvard Business Review in march 2013 reported that 4 out of 5 people dislike ads on their mobile phones. No surprise there. Many of the ads aren’t made for mobile, and most of them are dull, boring and just plain awful.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

John Hegarty reminds us: “I can remember sitting in a presentation in 1982 and explaining to a client how many advertising messages people were exposed to in a day. It was a problem in 1982, and it was a problem in 1972. It will be a problem in 2022. Maybe it's just because there's so much of the stuff and it just gets in your face, and so much of it is not good. But it's just like every other creative industry - I always say that 95 per cent of advertising is crap. But I think that's the same with television, I think that's the same with movies, I think it's the same in virtually every other creative industry. Our problem is we jam it in front of people's faces, so there's a greater responsibility on us to make it better. Make it interesting and I might listen. It’s as simple as that.”

Mobile is different than web and television, and most mobile ads don’t work well because mobile phones are small. It’s hard to read the text because most the time my mobile is moving. And if I accidentally click on it I have a negative experience. Besides, my relationship with my phone is personal to me. Like my American Express card, I never leave home without it.

Viewing an unwanted ad on my phone feels highly intrusive. It’s content I’m after. Or products and services I want to at the moment, not ads that interrupt me. Not brands that try to overwhelm my personal space with their dull and boring messages. My phone is a personalized tool that I’ve made work for me. So apps and sites that rely on annoying ads lose me—fast.

On the other hand, viewing videos on mobile devices, is a growing trend.  According to a GroupM study, overall video consumption is up year on year by about 3.7%.  And, according to comScore, on average, 183 million Americans view 215 videos each month online. So mobile's big uptick is being driven by video from what I’m seeing.

One other piece of research nails it for me. Cisco forecasts that by 2016, two-thirds of all mobile traffic will be viewing video.

Here's a video I like. Brilliant storytelling.

Johnnie Walker - "The Man Who Walked Around The World" - Bartle Bogle Hegarty

I find viewing videos (and video ads) a much more positive action—even on a small screen—because I’ve made a choice to view them, and they seem to be far more creative and enjoyable to watch than the silly, stupid mobile ads that interrupt my time.  It’s creativity, entertainment and dynamic content that grows audiences. It’s not about the technology we want but the the content we want from it. As I see it, the rules of engagement haven’t really changed. We like things that are creative. We like things that resonate with us.

We have so many tools at your disposal, yet it’s the content we are after, and those powerful ideas that make us sit up and say “Wow!” John Hegarty sums it up well: “I turn that Marshall McLuhan line around – the medium is the message? No, the message is the medium. If you have a great idea, it gets picked up by the audience, and transmitted.”

85% of video viewing is live television

There’s no denying it, TV remains the most powerful medium. And if you are a disciple totally devoted to all things digital, before you write off TV, remember that live viewing remains a powerhouse that advertisers still want. In the USA, 85% of video viewing is still live television. Live sports, live news and must-see television programing, such as “Game of Thrones”; "The Voice"; “Mad Men”; “The Killing”; “Boardwalk Empire” and more—these shows are not just good for ratings, but deliver higher attention to the commercials, and are boosted by more social-media engagement.

Need proof: For the past year and a half,  a recent university graduate from Shanghai, seems to have, according to his friends, disappeared. The 23-year-old Internet technology expert for a large Chinese bank, keeps himself in virtual seclusion during his off hours, consumed with American television programs like "Lost," "C.S.I." and "Close to Home."

He is no ordinary fan of the programming though, as none of the shows he watches can be seen on Chinese television. Instead, he spends his evenings translating subtitles for sitcoms and dramas, all for a mushrooming audience of Chinese viewers who download them from the Internet free through services like BitTorrent. Many of these viewers say they learned English by obsessively watching American movies and television programs. Others say they pick up useful knowledge about everything from changing fashion, lifestyles and customs to medical science.“TV provides us with cultural background relating to every aspect of their lives. It's more interesting than textbooks or other ways of learning."

Here's a little masterpiece of storytelling:

Chipotle Mexican Grill -"Back to the Start" by CAA, video shot by Max Halstead


Storytelling is a highly persuasive medium—It always has been

Video storytelling is a highly persuasive medium for brands and a powerful choice for advertisers. Brand and media research consistently prove television to be the most effective and in driving results both in terms of brand recall and sales. TV ads are not just interruptive; they are also engaging. Need more proof? In 2012, a TV spot on America’s Super Bowl reached 100 million viewers. Add to that the 400 million times the ad was viewed online. Additionally, online video ads typically achieve a viewed completion rate of 87%.

Little wonder then that YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo, Justin.tv, and Vevo are investing in original video content. And Asian sites are doing it too: CompulsiveTraveller (Thailand) and GeoBeats (Japan) to name but a few.

In 2012, research firm comScore, an online video measurement service, gave China Asia’s top spot for video streaming content websites. Japan and India claimed the second and third top spots. Most popular was Vietnam, where 89.9 percent of those with web access visited sites with video content.

Joe Nguyen, comScore SVP for Asia Pacific said: "Online video viewing has become a leading pastime for the majority of today’s online consumers, presenting new opportunities for content providers and advertisers to reach their key audiences with engaging content. As content options expand and connection speeds advance, we expect to see more people spend more time watching online video in developing markets, which presents an exciting opportunity for marketers throughout the region."

The rise of Video is also being leveraged by print brands. Magazines like CondeNast and Wired are growing their own video channels and they are doing this because they can see promising advertising potential. Although ads are now appearing in 25% of online videos, roughly double the percentage of just two years ago, the increased ad load doesn't appear to be a negative for online video viewership.

Consumers are viewing Video content on multiple devices, from television to viewing on demand, to viewing on mobile, to user-generated video, to binge viewing — a growing phenomenon fueled by technology and television content, allowing fans to watch past shows they missed all at once or in a short period of time, catch up on past seasons of current shows or re-experience their favorite series.

"Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square": Video to launch the high quality TV channel TNT in Belgium- by agency Duval Guillaume Modem, Belgium

Television isn’t like our father’s television

There’s other reasons for the Video phenomenon.  According to Ron Simon, curator of TV and Radio at The Paley Center for Media, “Television has embraced the long-form narrative and become the novel of our time. Television really has reached a very high quality so there are many different kinds of shows, drama or comedy, that lend themselves to this kind of viewing.  They really invite you to take a special look at them, not just one episode at a time.”

Video content is being consumed in multiple contexts and devices, from live-event television to catch-up viewing on demand, niche viewing on mobile, binge viewing via Hulu or user-generated video. Are we as advertisers and creative people evolving to meet those opportunities? Are we thinking strategically and creatively about the ads we are placing in those different environments, and the content in those ads that best optimize the brand experience?   Are we underutilizing the opportunity of video?

John Hegarty seems to think so: "The ads have just got worse, [but] television, for instance, is going through a golden age. Our work is not matching the quality of writing and thinking that's going into all those great TV productions.”

Most mobile campaigns that I see, suck. But if you were to see the mobile category at the Cannes Lions last year,  you’d applaud the ideas. I think the same will happen at this years Cannes Lions. The only problem is, most consumers won’t get to see these ads. They are too far and few. The key to creating a great mobile ad campaign lies in ‘thinking like a mobile user’, not in designing an ad that fits the new mobile ad format. Besides, you can’t just shrink an online ad to fit mobile and assume it’ll have similar results. What drives engagement for users online may not work on a mobile phone or tablet. Users expect different things from different devices.

The ongoing "Best Job In Australia" Video Campaign: Has generated more than $200 million in global publicity value for Tourism Queensland; Created by Brisbane advertising agency CumminsNitro


Consumers first, not the technology
As regards mobile advertising, Mr. Hegarty believes that advertisers must put the consumer first, not the technology. "We have a major problem in that our work isn't as good as it used to be, and consumers value it less and less - that's the first thing we have to address. Our solution to the problem is to constantly think how we can interrupt consumers more, how we can trip them up, how we can shove a message in their face that they don't want to see. We're becoming more aggravating, when surely we should engage consumers and give them something they want to watch and respond to.”

Asia Pacific leads the world in mobile phone sales. Smartphones and tablets have come to dominate the device market, and marketers are responding by increasing their mobile advertising expenditure. Mobile has sparked a ‘mobile-enhanced economy’ converting every object into a medium and every place into an opportunity for marketers to deliver their messages. However, current attitudes towards mobile marketing (outside of emerging markets) are not very positive, so there remains a significant opportunity for marketers to improve the content and messaging they are creating and to connect more meaningfully with consumers.

“Mobile ads suck,” declared Steve Jobs in 2010. “They need to be more creatively appealing and engaging to be effective.”

Do mobile ads still suck? Yes, most of them do. Creativity in mobile marketing has not caught up with demand. Most marketers fail to use mobile videos to their advantage.

Let’s face it, if every user had a choice, we’d live in an ad-free world. But ads exist because publishers and broadcasters need to pay their bills.

I believe the most successful content will be the most creative content—determined by consumers and what mobile content (videos and video ads) they prove willing to engage with. The future for highly creative videos is shining brightly, as it is for the brands and agencies that choose to exploit the full capabilities of video.

Ad agencies need to raise the video bar.  I have no doubt that they can succeed at creating some superb storytelling videos. The question is, will they matter?

Mike Fromowitz


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