Marketers are failing to take advantage of booming online video consumption by throwing a lot of bad campaigns at the medium. They'll need to smarten up to take better advantage of this emerging channel.
In October, according to comScore's most recently released data:
- Each of the approximately 184 million Internet users in the US watched, on average, over 21 hours of online video.
- Americans watched a record-breaking 42,593,095,000 online videos.
- US Internet users watched nearly 7.5 billion online video ads -- averaging nearly 47 ads per person.
- Online video ads reached more than 52 percent of the entire US population.
Despite these impressive statistics, less than 1.38 percent of US online video consumption was spent watching advertising. To offer a familiar comparison, 16 to 30 percent of cable TV consumption is spent watching advertising.
Naturally, some marketers have reacted to this news by concluding, "By golly, we're not advertising nearly enough in online video! Why, there's a whole untapped market out there!"
The problem with this line of thinking is that most marketers have no idea what they are doing when it comes to online video. More specifically, they approach online video advertising the same way they approach television advertising. Consequently, marketing departments fail to budget for online video appropriately -- recycling their television ads for online spots as an afterthought. What's more, they usually distribute only a couple of ads for online consumption.
The result is audiences viewing the same mediocre ad over and over and over again over the course of the same 22- to 44-minute show. It's not uncommon to see the same ad play twice or even thrice in a row.
Worse, because of the way content providers structure their ad delivery, audiences are forced to interact with advertisers' bad marketing. Viewers are often compelled to click when an ad is complete just to get back to the show. Sometimes, viewers are even forced to click beforehand -- in a misguided effort to let audiences choose between two or three of the sponsor's recycled TV spots.
Television shows and Internet video are two completely different media, with completely different audience sensibilities. As such, they require completely different marketing approaches.
Repetitive ad buys for television can be effective because there is a lot of advertising (about 12 seconds of commercials for every 33 seconds of "regular" content) competing to reach the minds of television viewers (especially considering television viewers often use commercial breaks to check their email, get a snack, or go to the bathroom). On the Web, however, where there is less advertising, less structure, and more active engagement, that logic does not apply. Hence, saturating Web video with repetitive advertising can annoy a viewer to the point of brand hatred.
In our ubiquitous and increasingly social digital environment, people want content that is so fun, so authentic, or so unusual (or some combination of the three) as to be share-worthy -- that is, content that makes people feel good about sharing it with their friends. Television commercials, even genuinely good ones, rarely meet that standard. Most contemporary ad campaigns that have successfully gone viral were specifically designed with the Web in mind (think "Old Spice Guy" and Barack Obama's 2008 election campaign), often connecting strong thematic elements through storytelling.
The solution here is obvious, but lazy marketers won't like it. If you have the money to throw around to buy an entire show's worth of commercials online, use it to your advantage. Try developing "one long ad" and splitting it into short interconnected ads. Viewers are far more likely to respond favorably to a series of ads designed to work together, gradually telling a story or revealing a common theme, than to a disparate mishmash of ads having little to do with each other aside from the brand being hawked. Inspire your audience to think, "What happens next?" when they see one of your ads instead of, "Not this again!"
This is where digital age marketing sensibilities must lie. Don't indiscriminately throw money at the latest trends. Instead, approach new media thoughtfully, respecting how they differ from old media. Otherwise, you risk audiences remembering your brand for the wrong reasons.
– Joe Stanganelli is a writer, attorney, and communications consultant. He is also principal and founding attorney of Beacon Hill Law in Boston.
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