Television is dead. Long live video

Video consumption as we know it is transforming. Columnist Peter Minnium believes smart brands will find opportunities for growth and become more responsive to consumers in this new video age.

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“Video killed the radio star, video killed the radio star, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far.”

First released in 1979, the famous tune went on to top 16 international music charts. Ironically, when MTV was launched two years later, “Video Killed the Radio Star” became the first song to grace television screens in a new format that would change the industry forever: music video.

When one door closes, a new one opens

Nowhere is this truer than in the video world. In 2016, Ericsson reported (PDF) that while fixed-screen video viewing time had decreased by 2.5 hours globally since 2012, total video consumption was up by 1.5 hours.

While cynics lament the “death of television,” forward-thinking brands and marketers can take advantage of unprecedented access to consumers where it matters most. We are rapidly entering a new golden age of video, with more consumers on more devices watching more video content than ever before.

The number of internet users continues to grow, as does time spent online, and content consumption is shifting toward mobile, which now accounts for nearly 70 percent of digital media time. Two-thirds of consumers under the age of 35 report using online streaming, while moviegoing and television viewing are on the decline.

Consumers may be using new tools to find their content, but they are actually tuning in more than ever before. Online video content is also increasingly popular, with a Cisco study projecting that by 2021, videos will make up 82 percent of consumer traffic.

Though this may mean the end of video consumption as we know it, brands should be excited about the emerging marketing opportunities presented by the new video age.

The value of video

Television and other traditional content sources are still the most trusted, but the perceived reliability of online ads — and specifically, video content — is growing as younger generations of internet users enter the marketplace. Moreover, this trust often translates into action. Think With Google research reveals that 56 percent of “Gen C” users took action after viewing ads on YouTube.

While marketers worry that mobile internet content consumption will reduce their impact, the truth is that mobile digital video is quickly becoming the best way to reach an audience. Mobile video is not only rapidly becoming the preferred type of content, it’s also better at holding an audience’s attention than television, an unsurprising fact, given the number of distractions that disrupt TV viewing.

New challenges from a new medium

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As with any new development, the transition to digital video presents serious challenges to marketers. Ad blockers aside (the real problem with ads isn’t that they’re there; it’s that they’re boring or disruptive), consumers are expecting an ever more personalized experience. Internet users can easily find the content they want, and can just as easily go somewhere else if they don’t like what they see.

The good news is that with developments in technology, marketers can tailor content to individual consumers with increasing precision just as much as users can independently curate their virtual world. Advances in content targeting and modularity permit brands to create and deliver ads in the form best suited to retention and impact in the given medium or platform.

Building a winning video strategy begins with five simple steps

1. Start with a big idea.

Not everything is changing in this brave new MAdTech world. As always, memorability, retransmission and action are all reliant on a good story.

This begins with a “big idea” that cuts to the heart of a problem that the product solves, or a vision of the brand and its role in daily life. Once this “story kernel” has been developed, brands can build on it by articulating how they solve the problem or overcome the challenge.

Stories should be succinct and economical. Consumer attention is on the decline, but, more importantly, simplicity translates to digestibility. To this end, narratives should be thought of as embodiments of the brand’s virtue, rather than entertaining gimmicks that accompany a message. Remember, creativity of expression is responsible for 75 percent of an ad’s impact.

2. Customize to context.

Where you tell a story can be just as important as how you tell it. Announcing the end of a drought amid the devastation wreaked by a recent flood likely won’t yield the results you intend. Situating an ad in a context where the product’s value is clear — flood insurance during a rainstorm — increases the ad’s conceptual fluency, driving home the viewer’s need for the product.

Even better, proper contextualization primes an audience, making it easier for users to mentally process the ad by building on a pre-existing train of thought.

Most of all, it’s important to remember that viewers approach media with intent. Rather than browsing through the content that any one publication offers, consumers access specific content that is relevant to them at the time.

Contextually relevant ads are less intrusive, and they lower the mental strain on the viewer. They can also benefit from the halo effect: viewers’ openness toward, and perception of, media content influences their response to accompanying ads.

3. Tie it all together.

One of the most obvious constraints of the new form is length. Instead of compressing content into ever smaller parcels, brands should synthesize a story system that links discrete content vehicles into a broader narrative. Each piece works independently, encoding specific brand values, while also speaking to an overarching vision of the brand. Consumers can then interact with the content that is most relevant to them without losing sight of the brand’s overarching vision.

Story systems facilitate nonlinear consumption and processing, allowing users to relate multiple facets of the brand. They also promote a holistic approach to marketing content, whereby the product’s utility, the brand’s narrative and the consumer’s interests are all brought together. Uniting these often-disjointed storytelling components into a functional whole helps brands integrate their story more cohesively into the consumer’s content experience.

4. Fail smart.

Missteps are to be expected in such a dynamic field, and an explorative mindset is fundamental to long-term success. A good formula to use is 70-20-10: the foundation of a successful strategy is the known (70 percent of budget), but integrating content or techniques that you think will work (20 percent), and even a few that you only hope will (10 percent), can help test out new ideas while mitigating risk.

While success, whether measured in purchases or brand equity, will always be the primary focus of advertising, learning and adaptation are also critical for brand growth.

5. Ask the right questions.

Amid a flurry of new and adapted ad metrics, it can be tempting to try to incorporate them all, but not all metrics are created equal, and more is rarely better. Brands need to choose the metrics that best evaluate the components of their strategy they want to improve, and how they want to improve them.

Once selected, these metrics need to be continuously re-evaluated as part of a perpetual learning system, where new knowledge informs the path of future research and experimentation.

The most important thing to recognize of any metric is that it implies a direction of change. Measuring views will help a brand increase viewership, but leaves consumer attention entirely out of the picture.

Viewability, impact and context are good places to start, as they are fundamental to successful campaigns, but it’s also important to understand whether the message is clear, whether viewers are attentive, and if this attention is translating into action: sales or increased brand equity.

Film smart

TV may (or may not) be dead yet, but smart marketers, platforms and agencies will secure a bright future by following consumers into a new video age. There are very real challenges associated with this media revolution, but these are also striking opportunities for growth.

Above all, brands must become increasingly responsive to consumers, and the way they interact with media, by building a strong experimental framework that allows for an increasingly focused evolution of their video strategy.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Peter Minnium
Peter Minnium is president of Ipsos US, where he leads the US team in helping companies measure and amplify how media, brands, and consumers connect through compelling content and great communications. Prior to his switch to market research, Peter was Head of Brand Initiatives at the IAB focused on addressing the under-representation of creative brand advertising online.

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