By now every marketer will know that the potential for online video is huge. ‘Branded content’, ‘earned media’ and ‘viral video’ are among the most common phrases in agency boardrooms today.

When used properly video is arguably the most powerful tool in a marketer’s toolbox; get it right and Cannes here we come!

Yes, the potential is huge but there are a few key areas that need to be fully understood before brands can use online video effectively to engage with consumers en masse.

Content – quality and quantity

Not only are more people watching online video (up 15% in the twelve months to May 20121), but they are watching it for longer periods with total video viewing time increasing by 69%1 over the same period. There are a number of reasons to explain this sudden surge of streams.

Consumers viewing habits have changed significantly with the mass ownership of new devices, greater wireless connectivity and increasingly cheaper data plans. Ownership of tablets such as the Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy is expected to reach 39%2 next year and with an increase of all other connected devices such as smartphones, laptops, notebooks, games consoles and IPTVs; Australia is certainly living up to its ‘early adopter’ billing. All of which makes video content so much more accessible than ever before.

The one other element driving these statistics is content. As the accessibility to online video improves, so does the overall quality of the content available to today’s consumer, allowing for a much richer user experience.

There are many types of content the viewer can consume, such as music videos, last night’s episode of Masterchef or a repeat of the men’s 100 metre Olympic final and with more than two in five online Australians obtaining TV, movie and related content via the internet2, it’s certainly proving to be an area of great interest to marketers as it can add important incremental reach to a more traditional TV campaign.

However, the quality of content consumed by a user is an ongoing debate among media planners, as it can fall under many sub-categories such as premium, user generated, flash gaming, social gaming, journalistic plus many more. There is no industry definition to these sub-categories (something which should exist) so it’s up to agencies and publishers to define in their own right and determine the value of running their client’s ad in front of each content category.

As far as brands are concerned there is essentially two types of online video content:

  1. Repurposed TVCs, or
  2. made-for-web content.

Repurposed TVCs are essentially repackaging your TV commercial to run as a 15 or 30 second pre-roll ad format in order to gain incremental reach by hitting that all important ‘light TV viewer’. These would run prior to any form of online video content the user wants to watch from ‘premium’ to ‘user generated’.

Alternatively they can experience the content that brands produce, which can be information based, trailers or specifically made for web content created with a particular purpose in mind. These tend to be either ‘snackable’ and two to three minutes in length, or take the form of a more lengthier ‘episodic’ concept.

The two different types of content available to brands generally answer different objectives. Repurposed TVCs have a much greater propensity to increase awareness metrics and campaigns can be planned against a particular reach and frequency, whereas made-for-web content generally increases more behavioural and consideration metrics.

Longer form content gives brands the opportunity to engage with their audience, it’s much more likely to garner shareability and if the content is good, also spread organically. In addition, it has the potential to explode to heights not matched by any other medium.

Objectives – what is it that you’re trying to achieve?

Do you want to reach a mass audience, or a niche one? Do you need to increase your awareness or has everyone heard of your brand but you struggle to get people to engage and take action? Have you already produced tonnes of content but no one is viewing it?

All these questions and more need to be asked before embarking on a video strategy. It is imperative that the objectives are determined before even entering into a studio. Oh and ‘I want it to go viral’ is not an objective.

Using the right approach to content, combined with the right distribution strategy is manageable and more importantly bankable. Your videos may or may not ‘go viral’ but my advice is to focus on a more sophisticated video strategy that works for your brand. You need to work out what is the right mix of advertising, entertainment and information-based video for your brand. Rather than just trying the next seemingly good idea, or worse, copying another brand’s, you should identify the objectives, produce content that is going to help meet those objectives and employ the right distribution methods.

Distribution – paid, owned or earned?

If content really is king, then in my opinion distribution is the emperor. The right content strategy simply has to be supported by the appropriate distribution approach to achieve a good ROI. There’s a lot of variety when it comes to distribution, as it can occur through numerous methods, all of which can be neatly bucketed into the paid, earned or owned channels.

You’ll have heard much debate about these media channels and how they’re all essential as part of a brand’s marketing strategy. It is imperative that these channels are understood not only independently, but the relationship between them is fundamental to your video content distribution.

Placing your content on your ‘owned’ channels such as your own website, Facebook page or YouTube channel will drive organic growth and of course it’s the most cost effective method of distribution, but it comes with limitations.

Earned views or free media are the Holy Grail and what every marketer yearns for. These are the views that happen because of social sharing. In essence, someone that you presumably share either some relationship with or some mutual interests is telling you to watch this video, and for that very reason, you are then more likely to also. A well-executed campaign to encourage sharing is essential. But ‘earned views’ aren’t free, and the most effective way to garner them is to kick start with some targeted and timely paid media, employing technology that optimises to the placements that receive a high share rate.

Engaging your audience

Understanding how an audience sources their video content online is critical when putting a distribution strategy together. The way in which content is consumed has changed dramatically over the years with the ‘appointment to view’ of yesteryear long gone as less than 40%3 of online video viewers watching content that they specifically wanted to consume and 30%3 admitting they have watched content that was shared.

We’ve known for a long time the ‘build it and they will come’ approach simply doesn’t work these days. A far more effective method would be to find your audience first and then direct them to your content. There are many ways you can find your audience around the web: a combination of contextual placements, social bookmarking, social gaming and search all ensuring the highest level of targeting.

The next challenge is directing them to your content. Due to the highly targeted, qualified leads they are much more likely to be engaged, further down the purchase funnel and share your content, therefore increasing your ‘earned media’ potential.

So what’s the magic formula?

Truth is there is no one size fits all approach but a well-executed video strategy is essential to ensure you achieve your objectives and good ROI. It is different for every brand so you can’t just copy someone else’s success. As long as you methodically go through each important step in the strategic process by identifying and finding your target audience, devising the right content and distribution strategies to reach and then engage them, you are guaranteed to be happy with the outcomes for your brand.

 

1 Source: comScore Video Metrix, Viewers Age 15+, Home & Work location, May 2012    

2 Source: Nielsen – The Australian Online Consumer Report 2012 Edition

Tom Rolph
BY Tom Rolph ON 16 August 2012
Tom is co-founder of VOLT Media.
VOLT Media was launched in September 2011 and has established itself as one of the largest independent premium online video companies in Australia. It offers a complete branded content video distribution solution for brands and advertisers.