Media: Double Standards - 'Why wouldn't you want a "gorilla" to live online?'

There's no reason why a TV ad can't do a job on the web, apparently. Luke Aviet and Jason Goodman explain what makes an online video go viral.


- Do brands still believe that a 30-second TV spot makes a good online video?

The vast majority of commercial online video is still 30 seconds long, or less. That's because formats like pre-rolls and in-stream are still prevalent. Things are changing, though, and creative agencies are much more aware that generating engagement with online video depends on providing value for consumers. To do this, you normally need more that 30 seconds of content. We are also seeing the development of a more complex marketing mix for online video with different formats and different lengths used in different contexts. Video content is definitely being used more intelligently online but there is still work to do.

- Why do some videos go viral and others don't?

Very few online videos "go viral" in terms of becoming a sensation, although this doesn't mean content can't generate many thousands of views. The fact is that there is so much content that cutting through the noise is very difficult. Even if you think of great creative ideas like Old Spice, Evian or T-Mobile, all of them were launched with a huge amount of planning and paid media to support them.

Branded videos that go viral need to combine great content with intelligent planning and a big media budget. Adding to the challenge is the fact that big brands can be reluctant to push the creative boundaries while smaller brands lack the financial resource to distribute their content.

- What role does social media play in the distribution of online video?

The whole sector was born from user-generated content and so social media has always been important for online video. That importance is growing with more and more people watching video through Facebook, even though YouTube is obviously still much bigger. Distribution companies like goviral clearly need to make sure that their video players have every available functionality for sharing. What's also important is that we understand exactly what this social media activity means by providing proper analytics around engagement and sharing metrics.

- What more can YouTube do to help marketing?

Online video needs to have a standardised way of measuring success and YouTube is very well placed to help media agencies research and develop ways to clearly define the tangible value of viewers. There are lots of video players generating different metrics and YouTube could take the lead is standardising things. This would be a great benefit to the industry in helping to attract more brands and media budget.

- What is the next big innovation in online video?

From a technology point of view, interactivity is going to continue to develop. We will see more non-linear videos with multiple endings that users could pick. Overlays and hot-spotting, which allow viewers to make purchases or see more information on a particular aspect of a video, are already delivering uplifts in engagement of more than 100 per cent. As technology becomes more sophisticated and our understanding of the best ways to deploy it improves, we would expect its use to become more prevalent.


- Do brands still believe that a 30-second TV spot makes a good online video?

That's kind of like asking does only a novel make a good book? Sometimes ...

Clearly, some brand managers are so proud of their TV spot that they triumphantly upload it on to YouTube and are then amazed when it doesn't race to ten million views in a week. That said, there's a lot more to making effective great online video than just "virals", and there are some legitimate reasons to put a TV ad online. In pre-roll paid media spaces that are similarly interruptive and linear to TV, the reductive, broadcast ad format is probably the right way to go. And if you've hit the jackpot with your TV spot and have a "gorilla" on your hands, why on earth wouldn't you want it to live online? Judging all online video through the filter of either "TV ad" or "viral" is a mistake. Context and appropriateness to the specific distribution channel is everything in online film-making. There are many different formats and approaches. The model is flexible and that's what makes it so interesting.

- Why do some videos go viral and others don't?

The question we ask is: does this film have content that makes people want to pass it on? People like to share stuff that they think their peers will like, or that will make them think they're cool for discovering it. The triggers for this "sharing reflex" are many, but content that is relevant to the audience, is cute, funny, surprising, original, jeopardous or horrific seems to work pretty well. Then there are more complex cultural forces that can act as a multiplier. A sense of "event" can be a powerful motivation for participation in mass sharing; I'm sharing because I'm enjoying doing what everybody else is doing. Context and topicality are also really key: something can sit online, unviewed and unshared for months before it becomes culturally resonant in some way and starts being shared.

- What role does social media play in the distribution of online video?

Social platforms like Facebook remove friction from the process of sharing videos. It's a click of a "share" button, rather than a relatively complex process of copying links into e-mails. And they enable us all to maintain a larger social graph, so when we share, we share with more people. It's crucial and is as much part of the infrastructure of the web as e-mail.

- What more can YouTube do to help marketing?

YouTube's done plenty to help the act of marketing, which millions of real people have taken advantage of.

The question for me is: when will the marketing establishment learn to take advantage of YouTube as well as a 17-year-old emo kid from Constanta? We need to study it and learn like any other fundamental marketing craft skill.

- What is the next big innovation in online video?

Web TV platforms like YouView and Google TV will quickly disrupt how we view and appraise what is TV and what is video. IAd and other rich mobile platforms will do the same.


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