Tailoring Ads to the Web

By Greg Published on .

Video on the Web is white hot. As the network TV market tightens, and marketers seek to engage consumers across multiple platforms, budgets are being directed to broadband video as a new way to deliver compelling creative.

Consumers are already there, and they are open and responsive to watching advertising online. Recently, the Online Publishers Association released a study showing that video is the most powerful online creative format.

The study found that more than 40% of respondents watched online videos on at least a weekly basis and over 70% watch at least monthly. As marketers, our new challenge is to capture the consumer’s attention and hold it with video that works on the Web.

Company: Electronic Arts

Industry: Video Games

Video play: Audience participation

Strategy: Electronic Arts used a Web video campaign to let users vote on which NFL player would be represented on the NFL Tour arcade game.

Result: The open voting process on the Web engaged gaming enthusiasts, raising awareness of the NFL Tour arcade game.

We can, and do, gain value from running the same (or shortened) spots that are produced for TV. But, there is an opportunity to take broadband video to a higher level of performance.

“The Momentum Effect,” which is created through viral pass-along, or sharing in a social networking environment, is the next Holy Grail of advertising campaigns.

By tapping consumers to participate with and spread brand messages, marketers can benefit from “free” media (loads of it, if done well). Importantly, the brand also enjoys a halo of credibility that comes with any friend-to-friend endorsement, which enhances brand favorability.

Our company believes strongly that the brands that will win in the future are those whose customers tell each other the best stories, versus the brands that tell the best stories to their customers. This presents a major shift in how we use video to create brand stories.

The beauty of the Web is that everyone and everything is connected. Viewers can instantly share the things they find interesting or entertaining. But how can advertisers tap into the power of consumer-to-consumer media? The operative words here are “interesting” and “entertaining.”

We know it is possible to hit it big on YouTube and other video sharing sites. But what are the ingredients needed to entice consumers into watching and passing along brand messages to their friends? Here are a few things to consider when preparing to tap the power of the Web using video as your messaging format:

Are You Content Worthy?
It shouldn’t have to be said in this day of the fickle and inattentive consumer, that creative in any medium should be some combination of compelling, entertaining, valuable and relevant.

Put that bar up a notch or two in the online space. The lean-forward video watcher can be a captive audience, receptive and responsive to video messaging. On the other hand, that same watcher may also be impatient and ready to click away the moment the content is boring or irrelevant.

The online viewer may be willing to sit through 30 seconds of video (generally two 15’s) in order to watch branded, longer form content such as news clips or sports highlights. But the majority of video accessed on the Internet is short form, along the lines of YouTube content. According to comScore, in the US, the average length of Web video content is about 2 minutes, 40 seconds.

If you want to tap into the vast majority of online video watching, you should be developing video creative that is meant to be viewer-initiated. For this kind of creative to be successful, it needs to be as interesting to the viewer as the content he/she would otherwise be watching.

Imagine your brand’s creative lined up with pure unbranded content: Your video message needs to compete with that to be chosen by the viewer. It has to be THAT interesting, THAT entertaining, THAT relevant or THAT useful to the viewer. If we can deliver this kind of positive experience, we may actually condition consumers to like advertising!

Because this means brands are moving from producing advertising to producing content, there are a plethora of branded content-production houses emerging.

Companies like Next New Networks, Liquid Generation, Ripe Media and many others are creating online video content series that brands can sponsor or be featured within.

Done well, this can be a great way to take advantage of established audiences that regularly watch specific categories, as well as broad distribution channels developed and cultivated by the production houses.

For instance, Next New Networks is producing highly targeted content. Bride-o-rama, for instance, is the first network that delivers real advice from the recently married, and Pulp Secret is dedicated to comic book news and culture.

Think Non-linear
In the online space, the consumer actively controls his own viewing experience. This behavior creates the opportunity to give the viewer exactly the experience he/she wants.

Instead of delivering video that plays out a story from start to finish, we can allow the viewer to select parts and pieces in the desired order. In this Electronic Arts NFL piece, the viewer is offered the opportunity to watch and vote for which of their favorite NFL stars should grace the cover of EA’s new NFL game release.

There is no particular order in which these videos should be watched. It is meant to be an entertaining exploration of content, where the viewer can be drawn in to watch as much or as little as desired. This aspect of being able to dip in and out can keep the viewer engaged for longer, and watching continues to be an active versus a passive experience.

Taking the non-linear experience to the next level, some marketers are allowing the viewer to participate in creating the brand’s story. Instead of producing a video that tells the same story to every viewer, the video is created in many segments that can be modified by the viewer to tell a customized story to be shared with friends.

In the U.K., BMW Mini gave viewers the opportunity to create a humorous message to send to a friend. By creating a database of video segments that are pieced together by the viewer’s selection process, the result is a video piece that recognizes the friend by name, calls out his profession, and pokes fun in a personal way.

It is both funny and ingenious, almost startling in its personalization. Virtually any recipient is compelled to give it a try by creating their own and passing it along. The video was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, with the vast majority from the UK due to the particularly local sense of humor employed.

Dial Down the Heavy Sell
Can you see yourself passing along a message for beauty cream and its skin smoothing effects? Probably not – what would your friend think you were telling her? What would make it worth it for you to pass a brand’s message to a friend? Seems obvious…people love funny, they like new ideas, and they are connected to causes. But with very few exceptions, they care little about the selling features of products or brands.

If you want the consumer to care enough about your message to pass it along, you need to dial down the overt selling points most marketers are programmed to broadcast. You have to NOT BRAND heavily…how is that for a marketing concept?

Look at the Dove video, “Evolution,” part of the Campaign for Real Beauty. The video has had more than 12 million views on YouTube alone. The brand is wrapped into a compelling message that helps to diminish women’s insecurities about their own beauty, as compared to models.

Unilever discovered that only 2% of women consider themselves to be beautiful. The video exposes the beauty industry for its practice of transforming common faces into ravishing beauties through digital photo doctoring techniques. This is a gift to women who compare themselves to these photos, and it is a gift that women all over the world have shared with their friends and families.

Unilever’s ability to attain viral success was based on finding a message that simply appeals to women. They were able to associate the Dove brand with a message that was appreciated, thereby creating goodwill toward the brand.

In addition to generating consumer pass along, which produces free media for the brand, that emotional connection is powerful in heightening brand awareness and perception.

Stop Trying to Be So Perfect!
As marketers, we have been trained to polish our material - to produce a quality of creative that is as close to perfection as we can make it. Meanwhile, viewers are gravitating toward less perfect, more human content – creative that reflects real behavior in the real world.

Consumers have a natural distrust toward marketers. They are more interested in what is being produced by other regular people. People are reveling in the creative developed by other regular people – they are not looking for perfection.

More marketers are succeeding by developing that feeling of human imperfection. You might ask when you watch “The Heidies”, an episodic video series promoting Diesel’s underwear line, “Is this advertising? Or did some crazy college kids create this?” The piece is campy enough that it could pass for user-generated. But it was produced by this year’s Grand Prix winner of the Cyber Lions Awards in Cannes: Farfar, a highly creative agency in Sweden, and a part of the Isobar network.

The material is highly unorthodox for a marketer, and gets away with what TV never could. Models prance around in their underwear performing silly antics in a hotel room, where they have captured the Diesel sales manager. The material is outlandish and appears to be unscripted. What matters is the interest and momentum. This has great appeal to young audiences who love silly, outlandish, unscripted material.

They may or may not know the videos were actually from Diesel, which makes it that much more compelling to them. Compelling enough to spend significant time with the Diesel brand and forward the videos to friends. A home run for the brand!

Measure Success!
As with any online program, a broadband video campaign is meant to engage the consumer, and can be measured in multiple ways, depending on campaign goals. At the minimum, you should monitor your average viewer watch times.

The way media providers charge for video is not currently optimal for advertisers. Typically, we pay for each video served, even if it is closed immediately after being opened by the viewer. While deals don’t allow for second-by-second payment (today), you can monitor and assess your online video campaign by understanding your average watch times.

This can become your own benchmarking system for understanding which creative material is having the most or least success. In addition to measuring the audience’s time spent watching your broadband video material, you can also create response mechanisms surrounding the video viewer display.

Very often, online video is highly effective in creating viewer response – a direct call to action. Finally, you can measure how your video campaign is affecting branding metrics you are looking to lift.

Companies like Dynamic Logic or Insight Express can provide benchmarks that show how your online advertising program affects awareness, brand favorability, purchase intent, intent to recommend, etc. This can also be a useful way to determine the overall success of the program, and provide a benchmark for future program success.

-By Sarah Fay, CEO, Carat and CEO, Isobar US.

Electronic Arts used videos, like this one featuring Shawne Merriman, to help voters decide which player should be the face of the NFL Tour game.

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