Digital Video Is New Again…What?

Digital video has been around for a while now and we’ve actually become very good at distributing it, certainly via YouTube and other video hosts and as pre- and post-roll. Even traditional rich media and the delivery of video in ads are relatively mature.

But seemingly all of a sudden, digital video is back. Ha.

While it’s easy for us snarky digital marketers to scowl and think that all the renewed attention is because traditional marketers are finally realizing that digital is a good place to promote video, I think there’s more going on. A lot more.

There are at least four major trends that are changing the way marketers are thinking about digital video and why the excitement is building. They are:

  • Social media
  • Mobile apps
  • Connected TV
  • Content marketing

Social Media

YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Path, Vine, Viddy, and others have made it incredibly easy to distribute video. Primarily to our own networks and through peer-to-peer sharing, but with YouTube advertising, Facebook’s forthcoming video ads, and Twitter’s new adventures in segmentation and Cards APIs, we’re seeing a maturing of video distribution to audiences at scale. This is really important. For the first time the platforms have the ability to provide amazing levels of targeting, but at scale. Targeting at scale is truly disruptive and for the first time Facebook and YouTube can start to reasonably expect marketers to start shifting broadcast dollars into digital. As we all know, there are lots of broadcast dollars.

Mobile Apps

With HD video cameras in our pockets and amazing apps on our phones, every marketer is a video creator. While creating Vine videos is easy, creating compelling videos that drive business value is not. The divide between premium and non-premium video content at once seems vast and quickly closing. Ask any aspiring comedian or musician. The path to success today is through your YouTube channel.

On the consumer side, while we used to be constrained by bandwidth or devices, we now fully engage and expect video on our desktop and mobile devices. The mobile apps for watching video are amazing. Netflix and Hulu are obvious leaders but every entertainment and media company on the planet either has or is planning their own native apps.

“US digital TV and movie content audiences will grow faster than previously expected due to increased viewing on tablets and smartphones,” said eMarketer in April.

Additionally, we’re streaming live video more and more, especially on mobile. Not only is it incredibly convenient to be able to watch a live baseball game while waiting in the checkout line, it’s also magic.

Connected TV

Our home televisions, traditionally our primary video screens, are quickly becoming just another digital video device. While we wait for the next Apple TV (what happened to that?) to bring all of the apps and convenience of video on our iOS devices to our living room, the options we have today are already great. From Samsung Smart TV, Roku, the current Apple TV, and many others, it feels like the vast sea of digital video is available to us whenever and wherever we happen to be. And the lines blur further; for example, when my daughter who’s watching “Powerpuff Girls” on the iPad comes into the family room, taps a few times, and now it’s on the flat screen so her sisters can watch with her. “Digital video anywhere” is alive and well in my house.

Content Marketing

Nothing has forced marketers to rethink the content they create, aggregate, publish, and associate themselves with more than social media. No longer can brands create a few TV commercials, figure where to place them, and call it done. But that’s still as far as many brands and agencies go into creating digital video.

Unfortunately for some, the TV commercial format just doesn’t consistently work well in social or mobile. TV is communal, public. Social and mobile are far more personal, one-to-one. On TV I can mute or fast-forward a commercial if I don’t want to see it, but I must wait if I want to see what’s next. In social I just scroll on by or click away. On mobile I just push my home button and do something else. Gone.

Marketers are beginning to change how they think about digital video and how it drives their campaigns. It’s not going away, certainly not, it’s just changing. One or two well-tested :30 videos for millions of dollars seems insane now. Every campaign of significant size will need five to 10 great pieces of digital video content and the media/distribution strategy will have to play more of a role in the creative direction. A :15 version of the :30 video just isn’t enough. I’m really excited to see what will happen as the creative powers of the world’s best agencies begin to truly embrace digital opportunities.

The biggest opportunities for marketers are around reaching the right people (targeting at scale) and about using video in these much more personal contexts to not only drive awareness but to drive peer-to-peer sharing and deeper brand engagement. Video, done right, is still the most compelling media we have and the emerging discipline of content marketing is predicated on the shift from using content to drive awareness and brand affinity to driving deeper engagement, advocacy, and loyalty.

The biggest challenges are around creating great video content at reasonable expense and then mastering the “converged media” landscape where owned, earned, and paid all work together to drive outcomes. There’s nothing new here for us seasoned (jaded) digital marketers. Video is yet another “native” ad type to be leveraged across customer touch points, online and off-. A content type we’re really excited about if we can get the good stuff.

We’re talking about the big “channels” here – social, mobile, TV, desktop – and we didn’t even talk about digital out-of-home and the growth of screens playing video showing up on everything from our gas pumps to our taxicabs. See, I wasn’t kidding when I said there’s a lot going on here.

We’re in for even more fragmentation. Lots of it. Eventually there will be consolidation, especially as consumers simplify (will we?) our preferences, but I don’t see anything getting easier for marketers in the near term. Vine is the newest kid on the block, but I expect to see really interesting ideas that merge all of the channels and leverage the “convergence” of media well.

Twitter’s recent announcement around being able to target tweeters who saw a TV show or commercial is interesting. What will Apple be able to do? What about Netflix? Will it become the de facto digital video marketing platform of the future? Facebook is about to make a major play for traditional TV media dollars and that will be interesting to see.

Regardless, for marketers who are keen to try new things, the world will be your oyster for years to come.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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