To Activate Video Content, Stop Treating It Like Broadcast

You see it again and again on corporate YouTube channels: a random smattering of videos, often with different tones and themes, none with any significant number of views. That’s usually because their channels function as a parking lot for whatever video content they have on hand. Hey, it’s free, what’s there to lose?

Opportunity for starters. As the world’s second largest search engine with a reported three billion searches per month, YouTube may be a ridiculously crowded platform, but it’s the premiere destination for anyone looking for video-based communication. And companies should be there because people are looking…

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But companies shouldn’t be there simply with recycled broadcast spots. Digital video works 180º differently than broadcast; instead of being intentionally general to reach 500,000 people, digital video narrowcasts to reach the right 5,000 people. The point is to target an ideal audience (or audiences), customize our story messages to engage them, and communicate as specifically and singularly as we can, hoping to earn their attention by speaking directly to their wants, needs, and interests.

Audiences are selfish.

If you grew up in the broadcast era, that’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s definitely reality. The digital environment empowers everyone to select programming they want to watch and avoid whatever they don’t. As a result, we each create our own networks around our own interests. This doesn’t mean there’s no place for corporate messages, it simply means we must adapt them to fit the environment. The more we find ways to align our corporate wants and needs with the wants and needs of a specific audience, the more our messages resonate. And the more our audience will share that content with like-minded people across their own networks, expanding our ideal audience for us. Simply put, the more we embrace narrowcast, the more success we’ll have with our digital video content.

And the less likely we’ll be to have meager view counts on our YouTube channels.

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unsplash-logoFrank Okay

Superbowl Commercials, Viewer Disappointment, and the Widening Gulf Between Broadcast and Narrowcast

We stand smack in the thick of big-event live television viewing season; first the Golden Globes  and the NFL Championship games three weeks ago, then the Grammy’s last week, the Super Bowl yesterday and this Friday, the Winter Olympics start. The unique thing about all of these events is that people watch them live–they are widely considered DVR proof.Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Huge, engaged viewing audiences? That is great news for advertisers. But judging by last night’s commercials, creating spots for big, broadcast audiences really trips up advertisers and agencies.

Make no mistake–as thrilling as it is to know your work will be seen by hundreds of millions of people, the downside is all those eyeballs and all that money create outsized pressure. And so you get tripe like the annual slapstick of the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl crowdsourcing… The universally acceptable ‘salute the troops’ platitudes… And puppies–lots and lots of puppies.

The hard reality is that communication has evolved since Apple’s “1984” ushered in the modern era of Super Bowl commercial spectacle. We tweet and post and text while we watch, breaking down a massive single audience into a collective of nearly infinite subgroups, each with their own values and language and points of view. Freed from the dominance of three networks and a primetime schedule, our daily media consumption happens in the narrowcasts we choose: the news with the political spin we favor, the blogs that speak to our personal interests, the entertainment feeds that match our senses of humor. Oh and whatever we deem worth collecting on our DVR’s.

Given this context, the challenge of sweeping up a massively diverse audience with a single, surprising idea is extremely daunting. And increasingly unlikely.

If you are too subtle, like Chevy’s incredibly quiet ‘World Cancer Day’ spot was, people don’t even notice.

If you come too late in a bad game, like Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” did in fourth quarter garbage time, you get ignored (of course, thanks to pre-release, it had already earned over 36 million views before kickoff).

And if you, like an embarrassing handful of advertisers, decide to promote a ‘banned’ version of your work online, you’re condemned to failure; in a platform as awash with readily available pornography as the internet, the idea of seeking out ‘racy’ ad content is more than a little dopey.

The state of modern communication demands re-thinking beyond “spend big and pray.” At the very least, it requires a remarkable idea (Radio Shack outing itself, T-Mobile with a truly groundbreaking offer, the post-game ad for esurance with its big giveaway and hashtag activation).

Either that or advertisers have to enlist the single creative resource that has consistently delivered wildly-popular, broad appeal creative…

Pixar. Those people are crazy good at broad populism.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson