This is the second installment of a nine-part series on social video and the impact it's having on branded video marketing as a whole. In part one we discussed the definition and basic characteristics of social video–if you missed it, you may want to check it out first before reading this one. In part two, we're going to delve deeper into one of the main principles brands should be adhering to when creating and implementing social video marketing campaigns: it's about content, not ads.
Why Traditional Video Ads Had To Die
Say the word "ads" in front of an average consumer, and you'll probably get a negative reaction. It's likely to be a sigh or a groan, but in some cases could even be a reaction of strong frustration or anger. Here's a newsflash none of you needed: consumers don't really like ads.
Why don't they like ads? Well, traditionally, ads really only exist to interrupt the entertainment content that consumers are actually looking for. TV commercials, radio ads, previews and advertising spots before feature films… ads are the roadblock that keeps the viewer from seeing their precious content. At least… that's how the consumer sees it.
The same is true online. Many consumers will simply close a video page if the first thing that plays is a pre-roll ad–I used to be one of them. The "always-on" nature of the web has made us all a bunch of impatient entertainment seekers. We want what we want and we want it right now, gosh darn it!
The Birth Of Branded Online Entertainment Content
In order to stand out, savvy brands are throwing the traditional ad concept out the window entirely. It's clean slate time. And the novel new approach that many are trying is so genius that it sounds stupid: create their own entertainment video content.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em… or something like that. If consumers are only after the kind of content brands used to advertise on–and try to avoid ads like the plague–then those brands would be best served to create their own great content.
This is a fundamental tenet of social video. Commercials are so 2010. 2011 and beyond… is all about the branded web content. And the less branded it is, the better.
And a funny thing happened on the way to creating original content: brands found that viewers want just one thing, and one thing only, from their online video… to be entertained. Period. End of story. They simply don't care anymore whether that hilarious video came from Epic Meal Time, Maru, or Volkswagen. Online video viewers are equal opportunity enjoyers… they do not discriminate, so long as they are not being forced to watch obvious and obtrusive advertisements.
What Counts As Content & What Counts As An Ad?
Undoubtedly there will be some who ask, "Does that mean I can't mention my brand at all?" And to those people I would say, "You are really very dense, aren't you?" No, no… just kidding. I would actually say, "Of course it doesn't mean that."
Brands don't have to hide their presence completely, though some are certainly trying that approach. Even with original entertainment content, branding can exist. Look at Dentyne's The Single Life, which we touched briefly on in part one. They are clearly and obviously behind the videos, and make no effort to hide that fact. But within the videos themselves, there's very little selling going on.
You could say the same thing about last year's day-long Old Spice campaign of customized video messages. The original Old Spice Man spots were much more like traditional ads, but when he started sending shout-outs to Perez Hilton and helping random web users propose… it went well beyond advertising and into the realm of content.
What does original entertainment content from brands look like? What kind of online video content are advertisers finding success with?
- Webisodes or online web series – Like Dentyne's Single Life
- Documentary – Like Amstel Light's mini-doc about the painting of an ad mural
- Reality-style & contest-based programming – Like Mike Lives In Ikea or Budweiser's World-Cup themed reality show called Bud House.
- Stylized video – things like Tilt Shift, Slow-motion/high-speed photography, time-lapse, stop-motion, animation, etc.
- Interactive video – Like Kung Fu Panda 2′s custom YouTube player
Characteristics of Quality Branded Online Video Content
Even after a style or format is chosen, there are still important decisions to be made. What are the characteristics of a good piece of social video content, and what makes it different from an ad?
Here's a good rule of thumb: create the content for the consumer's needs, not yours. What does quality branded online video content look like compared to traditional ads?
- Content entertains. First and foremost, entertain the people. Make them laugh, cry, scream, or pound their fist in anger. Give them an emotional response. You know… the way TV shows and movies do.
- Content doesn't have a pitch man. Don't sell. Don't employ a salesman
- Content doesn't talk about your product's best qualities. Might even be best not to talk about the product itself at all. Certainly never mention the price or where consumers can buy it.
- Content can be any length. Some people might not believe this, but there is no law or rule on the length a brand's original content video must be. Break out of the 30-second rut and create something that's a minute long… or three minutes… or even five seconds.
- Content cares more about the conversation around a video. Stop counting impressions and start measuring social signals that can tell you how much dialogue your content video is generating.
- Content forgets about the bottom line. If you're a brand jumping into social video… just take your company's accountant and lock him up in the basement for a few months (note: don't actually do this, and if you do… I am not responsible). You're going to have to start relying on something other than bottom-line sales numbers to measure success or failure. And if that sounds too tough… just forget about the whole thing right here and now… you're not ready. Social video is about relationships, not sales. Yes… we want relationships that will turn into sales at some point, but sales are secondary to the discourse… the relationship is everything.
- Content's endgame is a relationship with the viewer. This is sort of like that whole "teach a man to fish" thing. If you ask the consumer to buy something, they might… but that'll be it. One and done. But if you begin and sustain a meaningful relationship, they'll buy things from you for life… they'll put your logo on their car bumper and talk about you on Facebook without prompting. They will evangelize on your behalf.
Original Social Video Content Is The Future Of Online Video Advertising
Smart companies adapt to the market, and offer services to fill their customers' needs, particularly when the company's original product or service is going out of style or fading in popularity. HBO started making their own programming so that they wouldn't be reliant on the major studios for all their profits. Most grocery chains now have their own store-brand line of products, because it's cheaper to make your own peanut butter than it is to buy a bunch of Jiff to put on the shelves. Phone companies like AT&T now offer a cable television service, while cable television providers like Comcast also offer a home phone service.
In the world of branded online video, it's time to adapt, evolve, and grow. Smart companies are beginning to move past the practice of buying expensive ad time on the content created by others, and are creating their own original content. They're cutting out the middle man and getting straight to the audience they're really after. And that's where real conversation–real relationships between brands and individuals–can really start to form.
Make sure you tune in next Thursday for Part 3 of our Social Video Blueprint series, where we'll examine another fundamental difference between social video and traditional advertising: views, not impressions.