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How brands and publishers can create effective digital video content

Since the birth of YouTube 12 years ago, digital video has become a fundamental part of new media platforms and a focus for publishers and advertisers. Zoe Samios talks to digital video experts and marketers about how it can be used effectively, where the pitfalls lie, and its future.

Australians are spending an average of 13 hours and four minutes monthly watching some form of video on the internet each month, according to the first Australian Video Viewing Report – compiled by OzTAM, Regional TAM and Nielsen this year.

Of that result, the highest viewing is among the 18-24s, who spend more than 22 hours a month watching video on desktops and laptops compared to the 65+ category, who spend six hours a month viewing video online.

However, while it is clear Australians are watching video online, brands and publishers are still struggling to meet online video targets and engage with audiences.

Where is digital video headed?

According to digital video experts, the space demands nimbleness, constant reinvention and innovation in order to attract and engage consumers. For brands and publishers, this means re-thinking strategy, as new technologies, monetisation and collaboration, continue to challenge digital video’s success.

However brands and media owners have been competing with the ‘everyday’ producer since YouTube’s birth in 2005, as more Australians use phones and other devices to produce their own video content.

Despite the competition, Simon Joyce, CEO and founder of content agency Emotive argues there’s more understanding of digital video content now than ever before.

Emotive’s Simon Joyce knows the value of video

“Video is the epicentre of modern entertainment culture. It is the dominant, most immersive way for a brand to tell its story, unquestionably,” Joyce tells Mumbrella.

“There’s more understanding than ever of the role, the importance of investing in brand, the importance of shifting your brand beyond what you sell day in and day out and building a deeper more-engaged relationship.

“We are seeing many brands shift where creating digital video content was on the peripheral of the marketing comms strategy and we are now seeing it very much spearheading campaigns,” he says.

One of those brands is Berlei, which alongside Emotive, led a digital content campaign around the 2017 Australian Open, featuring brand ambassador Serena Williams.

Zoe Hayes: Women aged 35+ are moving away from TV

For Zoe Hayes, Berlei’s senior marketing manager, digital video gives the underwear brand an ability to reach audiences in an “intimate forum”, and it is also cost effective.

“We are for women 35+ and it’s not a traditional audience you’d expect to be moving away from TV but they are,” Hayes says.

“We are for all women and we need to make sure we are in the channels that they’re in and make sure that we are reaching all of them.

“There’s heaps of stories we have around the brand to tell that I can’t afford to do in other channels.”

“A blessing and a curse”: Challenges in digital video

Excluding digital, television advertising spend is down 2.9%, according to Standard Media Index figures for May, while digital’s latest interim result saw the sector’s ad spend grow 16.9% year-on-year.

However, keeping up with changes in platforms where digital video is displayed often sets marketers and publishers back from executing engaging video content.

Dallas Baird, former manager of video at Bauer Media says one of the most important things to remember is to ensure the video is “intelligent”.

“There’s no point in having a branded video, where the video is dumb, because in the eyes of digital users, that makes the product dumb,” Baird says.

“It’s better in this medium rather for it to be an intelligent video that sends a good message and your product is in it, than a video that just shows off the product.”

However, there are bigger challenges in translating a TV spot into an online video.

“TV advertising, everyone likes the style of it and the expense of it, and the luxury. But it is heavily contrived, and heavily contrived doesn’t travel on digital media in general.

“The shiny floor TV thing does not work online because it doesn’t translate, it doesn’t move anyone,” he says.

‘Heavily contrived’ TV advertising doesn’t translate on digital says Baird

“It is a new medium. Different types of talent prosper in it.

“The guys that are getting millions upon millions of views, are becoming the digital video talent and stars, and they are very different from TV talent and film talent.”

Emotive’s Joyce says it’s an obvious mistake, with many brands “picking up their television commercial (TVC) and throwing it in social and expecting it to work … You need a really story pay off upfront in terms of brand and storyline to get you to stop on it and then engage.”

“Hoping” a video will find its audience is another mistake Joyce sees too often.

“The amplification side is equally important as the creation side,” he says. “The finer details of the amplification strategy need to be created, need to be working in unison with the entire creative process, otherwise you will not get its intended audience. It’s as simple as that, it won’t work.”

For some marketers, like Hayes, the changes in digital platforms and technologies have made digital video a “blessing” and “curse.”

“It’s making sure you’re on the front foot with all of the ad formats and the change,” she says. “You need to work with agencies that thrive off innovation and know how to run it with new formats and execute beautifully because if not, you look pretty old school pretty quickly.”

While stopping someone’s “thumb” is the end goal, Emotive’s Joyce argues the increase of digital video in social channels makes it difficult for brands to break through the “cluttered market”.

“If you look at a Facebook feed, the amount of video in it now versus 12 months ago and you’ll see 12 months ago it might have been one every five posts, now it’s probably one every three or two.

Facebook feeds are filled with video, making it “harder to cut through” | Screenshot 19 July

“It’s harder to cut through and the bar for unexpected content, what you personally share, is more and more out there.”

That, he says, creates a real challenge for brands.

“Find your niche, find your purpose, get your strategy right … to understand what ingredients are going to deliver the best possible content and the content that’s more likely to be shared.”

A “smart” amplification strategy will also increase share rates and earned media, according to Joyce.

“Sharing rate and earned media is critical in this space and it helps you find an audience. You have to combine creative philosophy with a very smart amplification strategy,” he says.

“Organic reach is practically dead on most social platforms, so how you use your money, how you optimise not just the media but also creatively, and make the right content for the right platform.”

While Joyce emphasises the need for a strong amplification strategy, Baird says the shift from a controlled media channel environment to a more unpredictable platform has left media owners and brands unable to keep up.

“You can’t control the channels like you used to be able to. Therefore you can’t control the marketing,” he says.

“The sand shifts under your feet almost daily. You need to continue to modify and chase the way that we do the business. It needs to change.

“When I was a kid, there were the three commercial channels, ABC and SBS, a few radio stations, a few papers and that was it. That was the media environment, that was the whole thing,” Baird explains.

“They controlled the channels, they controlled the marketing and therefore they controlled the revenue stream.”

Facebook and the future of measurement

Last year, Facebook revealed it had vastly over-estimated its video view lengths by as much as 80%.

In November, the social platform then admitted Nielsen had miscalculated the length of video views and organic reach figures.

Junkee Media’s CEO Neil Ackland says there’s a danger in heavily relying on a product which gives the brand or media owner zero control over how content appears.

Ackland: “Facebook is focused on video right now, but they could change their focus in a year’s time”

“Obviously there’s a big challenge for a lot of publishers who rely heavily on social media for distribution when they don’t control the channels,” he says.

“Facebook is focused on video right now, but they could change their focus in a year’s time, or a few year’s time.”

Baird warns monetisation is still something publishers and brands needed to consider.

“A lot of brands have really gone all in on programmatic, or made very big investments in programmatic. With things like ad-blockers, people are skipping and blocking ads, they’re deliberately going out of their way to avoid advertising,” he says.

“It is getting harder and harder to get that message through and that’s the biggest challenge brands are going to see.”

Despite concerns, Joyce is confident there are ways to measure the success of digital video content.

While traditional video content measurement – cost per view, view click through rate, engagement, likes, comments and shares – can help a brand understand sentiment, he says looking at longer-term brand metrics is a good way to track a brand and a campaign’s success.

“In terms of brand metrics, you look at how the brand runs month in month out, brand tracking and then how it applies to your campaign.

“Of course you have whats happening on your brand’s own assets. You need to be clear of all those measurement points when you’re defining the success of the campaign and then you can truly understand the ROI,” he explains.

What should brands and publishers do next?

Despite the challenges in measurement and monetisation, Joyce insists “brands are going to embrace” digital video and its content.

“Where we are heading is that there’s going to be a greater understanding that content can influence the entire pathway to purchase, the benefit it can have on brand and short-term sales as well and that brands will be looking more and more to embrace this space as traditional media is in some areas less effective,” he says.

“If you look at all the data around content marketing, it’s one of the biggest growing areas in advertising in general. I expect it to continue.”

For Lance Traore, Unruly’s former managing director Australia & New Zealand, the collaboration between media and creative agencies is “key” to successful digital video content.

Collaboration is ‘key’ to successful digital video content for Traore

“The problem with digital is if you have a creative agency that creates an epic three-minute-long video, but the media agency decides that they’re going to buy 15-second pre-rolls, there is a discrepancy where they kind of need to get closer to each other.”

He says brands and agencies need think about audiences before production, to help the process.

“It’s a big legacy. Different agencies haven’t traditionally liked each other. And they have different views on how they do things. But it is changing.”

And creative and PR agency collaborations can also be beneficial in creating a “shareable social angle”.

“A creative agency is very good at telling a story inside a video. What do PR agencies do very well? Tell a story outside of the content.”

Ackland said brands and publishers also need to work more closely.

Since Junkee Media’s launch, its commercial model has developed through native advertising, partnering with brands to creative sponsored content which appeals to its target audience, such as Junkee’s recent partnership with Qantas and VisitBritain.

“Partnering with a publisher who has credibility, organic reach and distribution is a good way of doing it [good digital video],” he says.

“The game is changing a little bit, and how we are working with brands now tends to be more about how we can help them tell their story in partnership with our channels, using our content, our contributors, or influencers we work with.”

But Ackland describes native video content as “a future, not the future”.

“It doesn’t work for all publishers and all brands. It’s definitely becoming increasingly important,” he says.

While native content is a familiar tool for some brands looking to monetise digital video, those unable to create it will need to look for other ways to attract consumers.

Traore suggests striking an emotional connection to ensure people watch a piece of video content.

“There is a well-documented link between the formation of memory and emotional intensity.

“Connecting on an emotional level with your video is all about recall. And if people are more likely to remember that video, they are more likely to remember your brand,” he says.

Data by UnRuly Sharerank in 2015 shows brands that have employed an emotional video as part of their strategy for at least three years have had a 43% gain in profits, and happiness is the easiest and most effective way for consumers to relate.

However, Traore warns emotionally engaging content is not easy to achieve.

“Why happiness works well is because a heartwarming story is heartwarming for more people. An inspirational story usually translates across different audiences better.”

He believes three pillars come into play when brands try to be storytellers – emotional connection, correct audience and brand metrics.

Traore’s favourite online video, a US ad for Extra – which tells the love story Sarah and Juan – is a good example of how to emotionally engage consumers through digital video.

He says the ad managed to “feed in the brand without it being forced”, even though the brand was every five seconds.

“They basically managed to create a super emotional piece of content that had Extra in it all the time,” he says.

While marketers should look to create digital video as part of their strategy, Berlei’s Hayes says they should only do so if there’s a story to tell.

“For me, it’s a natural fit because we have a lot of rich emotional stories that can connect with people in the digital space,” she says.

“The digital space is a hard arena to work in and to get video to translate from the small screen, you need to be pretty good at it and you need to have the ability to emotionally connect or capture imaginations.

“It is dependent on the brand and whether they have that story to tell and whether they can pull it off.”

Like Traore, Hayes believes emotion is the best way to communicate through digital video.

“My personal belief is that it always starts with emotion, and I think genuine storytelling really translates with digital,” she says.

“We are all so overloaded with information and traditional advertising doesn’t stand a chance unless you have an endless budget.

“You really need to make people feel something and the rest will follow.”

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