Further Proof Your Brands Need a Content Plan

Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson, AdvertisingOver two thirds of the American population spent March watching 46.6 billion online videos.

If those numbers from comScore don’t stagger you, you’re not doing the math.

That equals an average of 250 videos, per person, in one month.  Granted, the Polar Vortex made it very conducive to staying inside and vegging out, but still.

Now combine that with the fact that while TV viewing has barely slipped these past three years (down seven minutes to four hours and 38 viewing minutes/day), time spent with digital media grew by 74% to equal five hours and nine minutes/day.

So while digital usage is up, TV remains a huge platform. In other words, our consumption of filmed content is only increasing as consumers spend more time daily on multiple screens.

Brands need to be on every screen in contextually relevant ways. Which means most of us have a lot of work to do…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

The 2% Solution: Online Video vs. Broadcast Revenue

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonMore and more carriers like Comcast, Turner and Disney are migrating tremendous amounts of their proprietary content to the web.  At last week’s Elevate Video Advertising Summit in NYC, they announced that they plan to make 75% of their TV content available on line or mobile in the next two years. As iPads and Droids become de facto TV screens for a platform-agnostic younger generation, a real question for marketers remains where advertising will intersect that content, particularly when you consider the revenue.

Television advertising generates $70 billion a year.

Online video produces $1.5 billion.

That’s just over 2% of television. Yes, online numbers are growing but remarkably, so are television’s.

So what this really means is that things won’t be getting any more obvious any time soon.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


Learning To Promote Sharing

As a parent, you want to teach your child to share; it demonstrates a good nature and assures that your child will be welcomed into their communities.  Sharing is critical to their personal development.

Today, it’s also critical to every advertiser’s development.  Our biggest new challenge is understanding how we can encourage our market to share the video and promotional content we create.  How can we shape our ideas to encourage our audiences to pass them along?  That’s a radically different challenge for video messages created for broadcast on social networks as opposed to television networks.  More critically, it’s one where our success or failure  is easily measured.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingFor years, the challenge of brand video production was creating something that would make your audience feel “Wow, that was cool/real/hilarious.”  In today’s socially networked world, that challenge is now a compound phrase: “Wow, that was cool/real/hilarious, and I have to pass that on to my friends ____ and ____.”  The true power of new media like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter lies in it’s ability to leverage low cost, highly effective recommendation, to activate crowdsourced PR.  Today, the best online video content becomes curated by key consumers to engage other key consumers.  So broadcasting these videos is not merely cheap, it’s highly selective and effective.

So what triggers a consumer to take your brand content and pass it on to other pre-qualified audiences?  In an entry on MediaPost yesterday, David Murdico, ECD of the rather hubristically-named Supercool Creative, takes a shot at defining what drives people to pass along video.  He lists seven ideas, but ultimately, the image that sticks in my head is of that kid back in grade school with the comedy record.  You know, the one who played cuts from Cheech and Chong/Steve Martin/Richard Pryor/Sam Kinison/Chris Rock/Dane Cook for his friends and somehow, through a mysterious bit of entertainment osmosis, accrued cred for his find.  These kids were never the entertainer, but they were the presenter, bringing their discoveries to a group of like-minded people sure to enjoy them.

That’s who we have to try to reach today.  And it will be a hill of fun to watch and see how different brands do it.

Because right now, it’s pretty much all fresh powder in front of us.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Rethinking Video from Broadcast Networks to Social Networks

As an industry, we have blathered about “Content” for so long that today, when it makes broad, immediately-obvious sense for mainstream advertisers to leverage it, many clients discount it’s mass relevance.  Shame on us.  With the massive changes brought by Facebook and other social networks, our audience now expects content to find them.  And not just content–good, relevant, engaging content.  After all, it’s been pre-vetted by their own trusted peers.

Element 79, Chicago Advertising, Dennis RyanAll of us view friend-forwarded videos everyday and yet the the perception of online video as somehow exotic persists.  We’ve allowed it to become the purview of highly-specialized marketing firms and that’s incredibly stupid.  Despite being oft-dismissed as no longer relevant, no other marketing organization has more experience creating emotionally-compelling, strategically-relevant video for clients than a ‘traditional agency’ that has perfected video-storytelling over decades.  Studies prove that viewers invest three times more time watching brand videos when they are shared by consumers.  With that kind of deep engagement, it’s no longer about using the web because it’s a cheap video medium–it’s leveraging the web because it’s a more powerful video medium.

Creating video content for social networks is not hard.  It’s not exotic.  It simply requires we adjust the messages we’ve long created to suit the medium.  We need to make ‘sharing’ the video strategy.

And whether we want to call that ‘content’ or ‘online video’ or ‘shareable stories’–the final measure of success here boils down to whether our video storytelling engages or not.  The traditional elements of story, production value, and visual editing most determine success or failure with online video.

Like it or not, those are traditional skills.

And if we want to reassert our value to our clients, it’s time ‘traditional agencies’ get back to another traditional skill–salesmanship.  Of ourselves.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Exploding Hamsters! Volcanoes in Manhattan! Juggling Babies!

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingDag it’s tough to get noticed any more.  Back when there were only three channels, you watched whatever was on whenever you watched.  Want to see “Wizard of Oz”?  Sorry kid, you gotta wait a year…  But in today’s world of infinite distraction–these hyper-documented, endlessly updated, exhaustively posted, multi-channel, multi-platform times when more people are spending more time watching more content than ever before in human history– you can’t assume an audience.  Because even when viewers are in front of a TV, you can’t be entirely sure they are absorbing your message.  They could be on their mobile texting oron their laptop updating Facebook.  Attention shifts like quicksilver in this age of the imMedia.

And if you think that’s bad, you’re gonna hate this:

An unprecedentedly-comprehensive new study from Visible Measures shows a 20% drop off in the first ten seconds of watching any online video.

That’s 20%: one in five…lost in less than ten seconds.  And it goes downhill from there.  Fully a third of all viewers leaves in the first thirty seconds and nearly half by the end of the first minute.  Worse, these defections aren’t predicated on the length of the clip; the numbers hold whether the video is thirty seconds or two minutes long.

This was not a tiny sample with a few pieces of stimulus: Visible Measures tabulated seven billion video views of forty million unique video clips (7,000,000,000 of 40,000,000).  Technically speaking, that’s a boatload.

All of which proves today’s challenge when creating marketing materials isn’t merely hewing to a strategy and buying strong media, it’s earning attention.  We can demand all we want, but when sports, jokes, and porn are mere clicks away, introducing a remarkable new breath freshener with the news that it works nearly fifty percent better than the competition won’t engage an audience with the attention span of tree frogs.

This can be a particularly painful truth for clients to recognize and value; their careers, their livelihoods, their kids’ college funds depend on these products.  To them, this news is vital.

But to the rest of the world, it is about as fascinating as watching a neighbor’s vacation slides.  And as soon as they feel bored, they’ll click on to the next bit.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Even Online Video Consumption Bows To Dinner

Engagement matters more than ever in these hyper-connected, hyper-distracted times. As a connected culture, we want to know, we don’t want to miss, we can’t wait to forward the next sparkly, shiny, useful message thing that comes our way.  And yet a recent poll from Interpret regarding online video viewing patterns proves that even this always-on medium bows to the dominance of dinnertime.

Yes dinner, that lovely day-ending repast that delineates “on” from “off” and “work” from “play” stands out as the sole time of day when the consistent consumption of online video takes a break.  From 6pm-9pm, we set aside the keyboards and pick up forks and spoons.  As a human being, I find that deeply, deeply reassuring.

Come Back After Dinner

Come Back After Dinner

Because how many times have you ridden an elevator where everyone scanned their Blackberrys and iPhones, desperate to fill the silent, yawning moments between floors?  How often have you noticed people sitting outside on a beautiful Summer day, focused solely on their laptop?  On a recent vacation, my own family spent more than one hour together, each of us tied to a different computer.

So the fact that online video must wait for mealtime?  That’s fine with me, just fine indeed.  LOL cats and Colbert clips can wait a half hour.  Despite being woefully underrated, analog conversation is still a skill worth developing.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

A Huge Television (and Online and Mobile) Audience Is There For Your Ad, But You Still Gotta Earn It

We’re still watching.  Actually, we’re watching more than ever.  The three-screen audience for video content has never been larger or more active, that is, if you define ‘active’ as sitting still and watching other people do things.

...And Everyone's Watching

...And Everyone's Watching

For advertisers, that’s terrific news. But candidly, it’s even better news for traditional ad agencies that long specialized in television production. Because despite the flurry of new formats and technologies, the fundamental consumer desire to watch video thrives unabated in a platform agnostic manner.  Clients who ran to new media shops based on the strength of their technical prowess alone may want to reconsider; the viewers are there, but you can’t assume they’re an eager advertising audience.  It takes compelling content to earn an audience, and that starts with story.

Two recent posts on this subject actually make for an interesting compare and contrast. Last week, Chris Rohrs, the president of the Television Bureau of Advertising (find their rather hideous website here), posted a persuasive editorial in Adweek where he cited recent Nielsen       time spent data that registered the highest numbers in their nearly sixty-year history.  Nielsen suggests the average American household spends eight hours and twenty-one minutes in front of the TV every day, with the precious Teen demo logging nearly three and a half of those hours.

He went on to cite a March study from Ball State’s Center for Media Design, hailed as the “largest observational look at media usage ever conducted.”  Rohrs takes great delight in that study’s finding that ninety-nine percent of TV viewing in 2008 was done on a “traditional” TV with less than 5 percent of that viewing using DVR playback.  Web video from YouTube, Hulu and all other Web/cell phone media accounted for less than one percent of all viewership.

Obviously Mr. Rohrs has a bias to present but still, he uses these facts well to rebut the conventional bromide of so many new media advocates: “television is dead.”

Of course it isn’t Chris.  Say it with me, won’t you?  “Television is not dead, it’s just diversified.”

And that’s the point Gavin O’Malley made yesterday on MediaPost: viewership on all three screens has never been higher.  Special events added extra fuel to online viewership numbers as people watched the Inauguration and the Final Fours from their desktops.  Again citing Nielsen, US online video usage grew thirteen percent year-over-year while mobile jumped more than fifty percent.

The two mens’ numbers around DVR use seem to conflict but the undeniable truth is that we are watching more video than ever…which must have something to do with this great nation’s rampant obesity, but that’s another blogpost.

Call me self-interested but my takeaway from all of these findings is that agencies deeply schooled in television production can no longer be cast as behind the times.  The collective skill and experience all that commercial production engenders gives us a leg up over any putative content provider, particularly if we’ve moved aggressively into new media anyway.

Like so many things, the means don’t matter nearly as much as the ends.  Facile skills on specific platforms mean nothing if the content isn’t there.

Stories, drama, ideas always come first.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Once Again, Television Is Not Dead, It’s Just Diversified

We Like To Watch...

We Like To Watch...

Yesterday was Day Two of the Advertising Age Digital Conference in New York City and the person whose presentation generated tweets that really caught my attention was Jen Walsh, Global Director of Digital Media for GE. Among the dozens of topics she covered, the ones that stuck out to me–at least among the posted tweets that our own Stephen Riley culled–were how GE’s data proves that online video-based ads telling their story generate interaction rates that are off the charts.  Further, among online ad formats, GE found their sweet spot when they used video to tell larger stories in a 300 by 250 unit (the one that most approximates television’s 4:3 video ratio).  It was such a strong performer that ultimately, they dumped all other units in favor of this one.  Finally, when it comes to online video, Ms. Walsh believes that to get a true sense of that unit’s value, you must look beyond mere click-through rates and consider time spent and qualitative tracking of control vs. exposed audiences. 

Many organizations champion online video and it’s ability to present a more dimensionalized brand message to highly-targeted audiences.  And I agree.  With the technological innovations in cable television, even offline video advertising soon plans to offer targeting down to the individual set box level.  When this happens, advertisers will no longer buy time slots, but demographics.

Aside from the practical challenges of hyper personalization and fragmentation, this is good news for those of us who earned our stripes on creative video production.  Telling a compelling, engaging story with video remains one of the most primal and powerful communication mediums today, even if the various technologies and formats have evolved.  Increasingly, we must tell those stories on two screens–HDTV and internet video.  Soon, that list will expand to three, as the mobilenet delivers ever better video content.

All of which demonstrates once again how our business has changed.  Yet convergence simply demands that we learn to adapt our video-based stories in a manner that respects the idiosyncracies of the various platforms.

Because ultimately, digital and mobile are merely regional dialects–they are not entirely new languages.  Creative people still need to lead with ideas.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79