Archive for the ‘Digital Video’ Category

Picture1Many of my readers may already be aware of my life outside of the digital marketing industry. As publisher of a burgeoning niche digital media business, I have been experiencing the other side of the proverbial coin – producing and curating content, providing rich consumer experiences, developing a loyal audience, and managing a practical revenue model.

Our audience is a very unique and interesting one –  the growing global underwater photography and video communities. One of the roles of our editorial team is to keep our audience up to date with all the new photography equipment that may be relevant for underwater use. Needless to say, we receive tons of press releases and PR pitches, and ultimately our audience relies on us to provide relevant information on what’s new and hot.

Tapping Into A Meme
You can imagine my marketing-geek excitement when I received an email from the Olympus marketing team about Olympus teaming up with Tom Dickson – a.k.a. the “will it blend? guy” – to produce a very clever video promoting the new Olympus E-P1.

The background story here is what is so interesting – a marketer, turned meme, co-oping with another marketer. Blendtec is a company that otherwise sells one of the more unsexy products imaginable – high power blenders.  Their Will It Blend? series of videos (and microsite), where they blend everything from an iPhone, to golf balls, a ‘toilet flusher thingy’, even a can of Spam, has catapulted to internet meme status over the last few years. Now Olympus has tapped into that meme-dom, but will this trend continue? Sure – as long as blending ridiculous items continues to engage and capture the attention of consumers, Tom Dickson is going to need more products to blend, and everybody involved might as well benefit. Then we all move on. But for the time being – the first official (or at least recognizable) product marketing tie-in to the Will It Blend? series of “viral videos has this marketing strategist smiling.

We all grew up with TV commercials vying for an emotional or otherwise memorable place in our hearts and minds, yet it’s rare to find online executions that do the same. When online marketing executions achieve this, it is a feat in and of itself, and hopefully we’ll see more of this in our digitally creative future. Blendtec’s videos are as authentic as they are clever, but to cooperate with other product marketers in the process makes it that much more of a success story. So kudos to Blendtec, and kudos to Olympus for approaching them with the idea and pulling this off.

A couple of other examples of advertisers capitalizing on memes:

Geico recently did it with the Numa Numa guy:

Toyota also pulled it off with their 2007 Leroy Jenkins spot:

Tapping into memes is easier said than done of course (and creating a meme is the online equivalent of wiriting a blockbuster movie or best selling novel),  but keep the memes on your radar screen, and when it’s appropriate to your brand, make the magic happen. There’s a little luck in the process – but luck is occurs when preparation meets opportunity.

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buy-sell-exchange-photo For those who are wondering why I am writing about the TV industry today, the annual TV upfronts is an important event that affects the entire  media ecosystem, and ignoring the largest macro-economic event in the media industry is not a wise move.

For anyone who has worked for a major marketer, media agency or  TV network, the month of May represents an interesting and eventually an evolutionarily outdated event – TV upfronts.  The upfronts (for those that live under a rock) is the time of year that major advertisers and their agencies plan and buy a large share of their TV ads for the coming year. The networks package up their new series and existing hits and provide a dog and pony show that only the advertising industry can do.

Over the past few years we have witnessed some interesting changes in the upfronts. On the buy-side, in some instances major marketers pulled out, opting to plan and buy ad hoc throughout the year rather than commit to large scale upfront buying (but not to a degree that affected media sellers or the tradition itself).  On the sell-side, we’ve seen a full on integration of digital channels in the packaging of ad programs, and there are small upfront events hosted by online only entities as well (mainly video), taking full advantage of the planning season. The upfront sessions have as much to do with major networks selling online inventory, particularly video, as they do television. Well …  maybe not as much, but it’s become increasingly more important to the networks.

Digital Video

Hulu was just officially ranked the number two video site on the web after YouTube.com. For the advertising industry that is huge news. Unlike YouTube, which grew because of consumer generated content, Hulu grew because consumers embraced the high-value production type content you would expect from NBC and Fox. The consumer adoption is a boon for marketers. Rumor has it that Hulu is conducting ad hoc upfront presentations and I imagine that we’ll soon hear about a small bash during the formal upfronts in May. The only downside – the price tag. Ads on Hulu are sold at CPM’s that are exponentially higher than TV. That simply can’t last and the model will have to change.

Advertisers Pulling Out?

Apparently many big advertisers, like P&G for example, have been exercising their contractual rights to cancel a portion of what they purchased upfront last May, which will severly impact networks income between now and the 2009 upfront in May. I have to imagine this sets a somber tone for the upfronts and the potential from these same advertisers and categories. So it begs the question – in this economy, what will the 2009 upfronts be like? Oh yeah and the bigger question. .. does it really matter for anyone other than the networks?

Yes TV ratings are eroding as it is, yes low consumer confidence will affect budget for big box retailers and their budgets, yes the automotive & financial categories in an upheaval, and yes there is a general conservative and ROI-sensitive mindset amongst marketers. You’d think that this year’s upfronts will be going down in history as an evolutionary milestone of marketer hesitancy. We’ll see. Networks have begun selling at higher CPM’s as a way of adapting. One thing’s for sure – the trend continues to give digital a leg up, even amid our own identity crisis. The lack of standards, high CPM’s, and confusion over measurement hasn’t made it easy in the digital video world, but the growth rates and addressability cannot be ignored by advertisers.

Another interesting tidbit – Ad Age reported that Univision is scrapping plans for the traditional upfront presentation in New York (last year was a bash in Lincoln Center) and will be hosting several smaller events in key agency markets, bringing the presentation to agencies versus asking them to fly in to the upfronts in NY. Probably a wise move and definitely a sign of the times. CBS will be selling less inventory upfront and focus on continued sales during the scatter market (ie: the rest of the year). NBC has jockeyed for position and will begin their upfront presentations a bit earlier than the other networks, a move they made last year as well.

So, Why Does This Matter To Us Digital Folks?

The concept of the upfronts revolves around supply & demand, or at least the concept of it (often there are no real supply/demand issues). Digital media is rarely purchased upfront because buyers know that there is often an endless supply of inventory to reach our targets. In certain categories like pharma or automotive (even in today’s market), there is a real supply/demand issue and buys occur “upfront”, but the timeline of upfront is different for each advertiser. The concept of the industry getting together for a few weeks of the year to plan out a significant portion of the market is unheard of and will almost never (never say never) happen. The moral of the story is that marketers have a common currency (audience) that they understand, and a historical understanding of what media wieght (GRP’s) required to move their businesses. As an industry we (the digerati) have not been able to help marketers establish that same historical level of budget allocation confidence. Marketers understand that their consumers spend a significant percentage of their media time online, that they are addressable, that we can engage them, and that we can measure that engagement – but until we can establish more industry level data and case studies on specific digital budget allocations as part of a media miz affecting their businesses, we will be stuck in the holding pattern we are now in. It is no wonder the web is often pigeonholed into the direct response bucket by many. DR is very black and white. It’s a shame that the medium has come to this. There have been many calls for creativity, and for revised standards, but I also add to that the call for more research and testing at an industry level. Something the industry once embraced, but has fallen by the wayside. Digital media IS the most accountable media, we CAN engage consumers, it DOES move the needle. I ask the IAB and 4A’s – can we systematically formalize this data for the world to see?

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video_iconI could not agree more that the industry needs a new video standard. Amen to that. I interact with enough senior agency folks to know that we all want a new standard. So I’m not quite sure how the new effort from Publicis’ VivaKi launched without the collective support and participation of any of the other holding companies. To that I say “Really? You couldn’t rally the support from any of the other agencies?”. That in and of itself could possibly put a damper on things. VivaKi managed to incorporate participation from some of the industry’s top online video publishers (AOL, Broadband Enterprises, CBS, Discovery, Hulu, Microsoft, and Yahoo, and a handful of VivaKi clients who will be testing new permutations of video units throughout the year with the intention of rolling out what VivaKi hopes to dub as a new standard by year end (thus allowing enough time for publishers to package it with the 2010 up-fronts). Of course, VivaKi clients will then have first  dibs on the new units.

Although in my humble opinion, the partial collaboration doesn’t wreak of a process that standards will emerge from, it should shake things up a bit, and I’m glad to see someone doing it (albeit I would have rather seen a collective of active agencies pool their collective thoughts together on this versus just VivaKi).

I’ve been preaching this for at least 3 years now. The online video model should focus on harnessing some of the unique attributes of digital media. Currently it replicates the TV model. I’m hoping to see the new formats include all of the following:

From the consumer’s perspective:

– Interactivity & Interoperability: Video as an experience not solely a message

– Relevancy: Improve the segmentation of content and the ability for consumers to find specific video via improved search functionality and recommendation engines

From the industry’s perspective:

– Interactivity: marketers need the ability to engage the consumer and provide the necessary depth of experience consumers have become accustomed to online

– Addressability & Improved Targeting: current targeting parameters for video are pretty weak, this is a major area that needs imrovement – delivering different content and ads on the fly to specific consumer segments

– Evolution Of Ad Serving  For Video: if agencies had the ability to serve video themselves, they would have more control over on-the-fly changes and the benefit of  immediacy of data for analysis

– Portability & Syndicatability:Video content providers and publishers with a need for more video content would benefit from a standardized method for dynamically serving these new video experiences, sans the restrictions of one video player versus another

New Metrics? Not So Fast…
You’ll notice that I did not mention common or new metrics. We have a slough of metrics already, such as levels and duration of engagement, increases in branding effectiveness and DR metrics that can and should be applied based on the client’s goals. If anything, we need more data on the correlation between advertising metrics and market impact (this is true for other aspects of online media as well). For example – what is the interrelationship between engagement percentage, duration of engagement, reach and impact on influence, brand preference and purchase intent (and over time, market share)? Ultimately every marketing investment is being compared to every other option available, so we must look at the overall ability of channels, formats and options to influence the target, not just the subset of engagement (or worse yet, response)… and this must be analyzed in the context of a media mix.

The Model & The Media Mix
The media industry has come come a long way and yet we never have been able to definitely develop media mix models that are universally accepted – why? Because there is no such universality. But furthermore there is little industry-level research on the correlation between various advertising metrics and the true influence within a market. The GRP/TRP has been used as a surrogate for the inter-relationship between reach & frequency and market impact, but this metric is predicated on the replication of historical performance and has not evolved to include the unique attributes of digital media so therefore it is not a standard used online. Hence so many career marketers and traditional media folks pulling the hair out of their heads trying to figure out how to integrate the canary in the coal mine.

The Moral Of This Online Video Story
We must focus on mapping the features and requirements of online video standards to the unique attributes of the medium itself, while evolving the consumer experience. Specifically, we must provide engaging and relevant experiences with the ubiquity of text, the interoperability of functionality beyond video, the discoverability and contextual relevancy of search, and the portability of RSS, we then have a platform that has aligned with the trends of online consumer behavior. Increased consumption will follow, and advertisers will follow the light.

What do you think about the next generation of online video standards?

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Jan 20, 2009. What an amazing moment in history. Our first black president, renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, and recuperation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society. Oh yeah – and the online coverage and engagement were astronomical.

Watching today’s history unfold for me was a unique experience. I had to go to the hospital for some testing, and was sitting in the waiting room as Obama gave his inauguration speech. We all huddled around the TV and watched one of the best (if not the best) political speeches in my lifetime. It reminded me of some of the powerfully emotional and motivating speeches from before my time, from a breed of politician all but extinct until this campaign and election. I also had my mobile phone handy Tweeting, blogging (in fact, I stated this post on my mobile phone) and scanning the reactions from others – what would turn out to be millions of others. CNN’s Live coverage via the first really kick ass Facebook Connect integration, topped 1.5 million Obama-related status updates during the inauguration day coverage. Watching live TV on Facebook and discussing it with your friends – truly triumphant!

Additionally:

– Obama’s page on Facebook has over 4 million fans.

– CNN.com itself streamed over 21million streams of the inauguration, and generated over 136 million page view.

– At exactly noon, the Obama administration relaunched WhiteHouse.gov, right on schedule.

– An Obama administration run SMS program provided valuable info to the 2 million+ fans who attended the inauguration

– Our executive government understands integrated communication and is also part of  the proverbial conversation. Kudos all around.

Folks, the water cooler has come to the internet! Live television met social media in a truly impactful way and the implications are far reaching. There’s a huge revenue model in there somewhere, and surely we have watched history unfold in more ways than one.

It was no surprise to see AdAge today run a piece about YouTube’s potential as a search powerhouse. In August, YouTube’s search volume surpassed that of Yahoo, the number two search engine – that’s search volume – actual search queries – pretty amazing when you think about it.

Barack Obama's Campaign Buys Video Ads Against Keyword "John McCain"

While search accounts for the lion’s share of online ad spending, video represents a big part of the future growth and a method of engaging with consumers in a deeper manner. Google has been struggling to monetize the potential gold mine of YouTube, experimenting with varying formats and sales strategies. Search ads may provide another win-win-win – providing benefits to marketers and consumers as well as to Google itself. What it does not replicate however, is the  similar intent that consumers have while searching on a search engine, posing the question of whether this format can yield the direct response success that has predominantly led the search category into its dominant role. All things considered, this approach still creates a relevant and engaging experience for consumers – based on that criteria alone, it has legs..

The TV spots weren’t thrilling me, but this longer piece of content is pretty damn funny! I was beginning to doubt Crispin Porter on the whole Gates/Seinfeld thing until I saw this. Coupled with the Mac-counter image campaign, which includes a consumer collaboration running in Times Square, I’m thinking that I owe the campaign a second opinion 🙂

I moderated a panel at the OMMA Global conference today titled “Competing With Search”, which I thought from day 1 was an interesting title, but somewhat of a misnomer for any conversation relating to digital media. I knew then that this would make for an interesting panel and hoped for some different perspectives and opinions (after all, what fun is a panel when everyone just agrees on everything).

The official description was:

Search advertising continues to attract 40% of today’s online ad budgets, and some projections have search growth continuing to outpace display spending over the next decade. Plus, the direct response model seems to have affected the success metrics applied to all campaigns. How do publishers-armed with a portfolio of display, email, video and sponsorships compete with almighty search for budgets that increasingly demand ROI? How are publishers making the case with clients to maintain or grow their non-search budgets. Is video proving to be a hedge against budgets moving to search? Can a content provider create unique packages that complement or replace parts of a search spending strategy? How can sales teams create compelling display and direct response programs that complement and enhance existing search spends? And how can the sites themselves use search engines to increase the value of their own inventory to clients?

I’ll pull out a few interesting sound bites from the panel…

  • The panel agreed that it’s not about “competing with search” for web publishers, but rather maximizing the value of an audience and packaging advertising in a way that maximizes monetization
  • The last-ad attribution model is broken and unfairly credits search for the entire influence chain rather than the activation of it. Multiple attribution protocol needs to emerge as the standard and is emerging far too slowly. Agencies and marketers need more education about these things.
  • The impression doesn’t mean anything – the value of the impression matters. Applied data helps increase the value of the impression.
  • Video can create emotionally compelling consumer experiences, but successfully adding video to a website requires good content, which requires a real investment.
  • MySpace is apparently so big that Jason Oberfest calls a site with 10 – 20 million unique users “mid-sized” (for the record 10 – 20 million uniques is still quite big, it’s just not MySpace big)
  • Scale matters when it comes to addressability, segmentation and the maximization of profitability for publishers

Ok, no revelations made, but the air was cleared for many in the room. I directed the audience to check out Atlas’ Engagement Mapping demo, and also mentioned Doubleclick’s Multiple Attribution Protocol, neither of which are perfect sciences, both of which are far better than the last ad standard and help to more accurate apply credit to advertising influence.