The nature of the online environment lends itself to adaptation, integration and remediation, where the possibilities are literally endless.
The web is all-encompassing, not simply in content, but in the different ways content can be packaged and distributed to the reader, listener or viewer.
Online video represents the latest example.
In the late 1960’s, Marshall McLuhan, Medium Theorist, wrote, “The content of any medium is always another medium.” As online embraces video, it would appear his prediction was spot on.
But what does online video represent, and how do we best utilise the technology to our advantage?
Online Video Potential
Vivi Zigler, President of NBC Universal’s Digital Entertainment Division, recently said, “Trying to understand online video is like taking a Polaroid photo of a moving train—it’s a blur.”
He’s right, too. Technology moves fast – but what’s interesting is that society continues to demand greater speed. We click away from slow-moving web pages as if the additional seconds of loading time are the single greatest inconvenience in the history of man.
Online video could be seen as a technological response to societal demand. And what society demands, it would seem, is immediacy of communication.
As society’s spoilt single-child syndrome rages on, and demand exceeds production, lessons are being learned, and business models are being re-defined. Advertisers and marketers the world-over are taking notes. Like any technology that consumers flock to, online video affords yet one more dimension for the interaction between client and consumer.
One of the biggest questions surrounding online video is ‘how do businesses best use the technology to advertise their brands?’ Furthermore, how do we define the success, scope and potential of a medium that continues to develop?
Let’s start with what it offers now.
Traditionally, where television, print and radio accounted for the majority of advertising, online now dominates the market. Though online video accounts for only a small proportion of this, both the amount of video advertising, and its impact on the consumer, seem destined to expand. Rapid growth appears to be merely a formality at this point.
According to a recently released report by The Online Publishers Association (OPA), the internet dominates all other media during the purchase process. Why?
Consumers demand convenience.
The OPA’s findings show that online advertising accounts for 48% of initial product awareness and 56% of all decisions to purchase. The information and opportunity has always been there with traditional advertising; it’s the net’s ‘guiding hand’ through the product awareness, research and purchasing phases that consumers have come to love.
An Engaged Audience:
For business, tapping into an engaged audience is key – as well as notoriously difficult.
With traditional advertising, particularly television and radio, the activity is passive; engagement is low. When people go online, they literally go online. From the initial search, to secondary clicks, active engagement is a central component of the web in general.
Online advertising, as the OPA’s report indicates, has enormous potential for brand recall and, as a by-product, eventual purchase. The report shows that of 1135 respondents viewing online video advertisements, 52% responded by taking action and 16% purchased a product after following a link.
An engaged consumer is obviously more likely to purchase.
In the fast-paced, time-poor, all-about-me world of today, consumers insist upon speed. They want information delivered fast and technology must keep up with their demands if it is to attract and retain their short attention
spans long enough to get the message through. This very fact provides a tangible clue to the direction that online video advertising is heading. Why would a customer watch 30 second advertisements spliced inconveniently throughout their favourite TV news when they could endure a 12-second pre-roll advertisement before the same content uninterrupted online.
OPA’s report shows that 52% of online visitors believe that watching a short advertisement before an online video is an appropriate sacrifice for the inherent benefits that free online videos present. A compromise, it appears, has been reached.
If consumer behaviour and online habits are anything to go by, that’s where online advertising should be heading.
Online Video for Business
According to a joint study by MarketingProfs and Forrester Research, 42% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers reported planning to increase budgets for online video, rich media or podcasting.
But as the medium and supporting technology continue to grow, the use of the technology trails behind.
Businesses are keen, but also in a state of overwhelm.
The main problem with online video is, at its most basic level, a lack of consistency. From the length of each advertisement, to the various video formats, to the technology used to gauge advertising effectiveness, unified industry standards are nowhere to be found. So the question begs; where do companies start? If the industry can’t deliver specific guidelines, it’s no surprise that results have been slow.
While unified industry standards are certain to improve down the track, brave, innovative, businesses are taking advantage of the opportunities and benefits the online environment affords right now.
Will It Blend?
When Tom Dickson, founder of blender company ‘Blendtec’, launched the ‘Will It Blend’ viral marketing campaign, surely even he could not have foreseen the reaction it would bring about.
In Dickson’s commercials, of which many have since been made, the Blendtec founder takes everyday objects – an iPhone, a golf ball, light bulbs, cassette tapes and Transformers toys – and poses the simplest of questions; “Will It Blend?”.
Using online video technology and taking advantage of the democratic, open source potential of YouTube, Dickson went about not only creating a series of low-budget advertisements for his products, but establishing a level of emotional brand attachment previously unseen in the digital realm.
‘Will It Blend?’ is now one of the most identifiable slogans in consumer history. By taking an everyday product – the blender – and applying a marketing campaign targeted specifically at the type of videos consumers are watching online, Dickson set the bar for product advertising online and blended up a storm.
The idea was simple, and the bourgeoning online audience were willing participants. The ‘Will It Blend?’ advertisements were emailed around the web, the desired ‘viral effect’ taking hold. If you didn’t find it on YouTube, it probably wound up in your Inbox – the iPhone version of the commercial racking up some seven million views to date.
For more traditional advertising, online still offers plenty.
Linear Video Ads and Companion Ads – either appearing prior to a selected video or accompanying the video in a sidebar, have proven increasingly successful. As the OPA’s figures declare, the more relevant, the better.
So the rules for online video advertising seem clear; no longer is traditional advertising the only way to promote your brand, product or business. As viewers’ habits change, so too should business’.
Whatever the form, and whatever uncertainties linger, one inherent truth remains: wherever the eyes go, advertisers will follow. Online video, as such, like every medium to come before it, will develop, adapt and mature as an advertising medium to meet growing consumer demand.
The technology, customers and opportunities are there. Blending all three harmoniously is surely only a matter of time.