Native Video: The Industry’s New Darling Devil

For most of this past year I haven’t been able to get through a morning without tripping over the topic of Native Advertising. Since ‘Project Devil’, the debate about effective placement, display specs and integrated editorial have borne an exciting amount of creative consideration around the visual realization and placement of this content.

Now, while the discussion continues, the topic of Native Video seems to be taking center stage.

Like Native Advertising, Native Video is nothing new. But, as the number of people turning online for their entertainment, infotainment and ascertainment continues to grow, it’s easy to understand why cracking the Native Video piece is so important. Moreover, being a multi-sensory vehicle, when done right, video can make a deep, lasting impression with consumers, leveraging site and sound to tap into, and direct, emotion that ignites action for a brand in a way display can’t.

An important detail to note, Native Video is distinctly different from Native Advertising opportunities on, in and around video. And, while there are many exciting things happening in this arena, the discussion around Native Video spans from placement, and the various levels of brand integration, to creation of video content specifically tailored for digital channels, publishing environments and finally those audiences.

As with Native Advertising, authenticity and a genuine consideration for the audience within specific publishing environments is important to ensure the protection of a brand’s credibility, the effectiveness of their message and ultimately to secure a meaningful connection with the consumer. Beyond the publishers’ requirement to maintain their audiences’ trust, disclosure of sponsored content sets the stage for a receptive viewer. That said, if the brand connection to the video content is right, fear to disclose shouldn’t be a consideration. Remember, users are savvy, socially connected, vocal and passionate about their content and their space. Any attempt to pull the wool over their eyes is a risk no brand should take. Backlash is usually quick and public. The PR gained from such events is not the type of attention brands look to attract.

Now, while all this may sound like a giant “duh”, you need only consider great brand moments like American Apparel’s Hurricane Sandy sales and NBC’s Golf Channel #IHaveADream to realize that even the most basic common sense considerations don’t always find their way into the conceptual or strategic filtering process. Add to this the fact that some marketers jumping into Native Video may have little to no video production experience or understanding of the video making process and you can begin to imagine the challenges publisher/brand partnerships face in this field. To be even more specific, while many brands and agencies may have fully staffed video production teams, they’re likely focused on traditional broadcast formats and it’s not yet a standard that these teams are fully integrated with the digital marketing arm of an agency, leaving marketers to fend for themselves amidst demanding digital time and budget constraints. This is where publishers can help.

Before we go on, a foundational detail must be stated; brands need to make connections with individuals. To that point, brands come to publishers to increase awareness and build relationships with future brand ambassadors. All the science, all the data, all the process and methodologies aside, that’s what it’s about.

This is where the editorial filter is key. When responding to RFPs, agencies/brands must realize that ideas pitched have certainly gotten the publisher approval. Resistance for a publisher to simply and outright endorse a brand through a native format, especially one as powerful as video, without calling out sponsorship should be recognized as a service to the brand; saving it from backlash and the negative effects of ineffective placement. Conversely, publication networks that readily run sponsorships or endorsements with little consideration probably don’t have genuinely engaged eyeballs or care much about their audience, and furthermore, much for the depth of impact of your view. Remember, we’re talking Native here. And to that point, even pre-roll should have forethought; while everyone loves kittens, surely Fancy Feast Pre-roll would be wasted on a male, 18-34, enthusiast site ahead of training footage.

Finally, before getting into “keys to success”, I want to iterate that when we discuss creating Native Video content, creative and publishers are excited to get it right. Pushback and refocusing on the end audience needs to be considered as care for success. Brands that lose site of the audience lose the effect of their message. Personally, in production I’ve seen concepts shift from an audience based focus to the creation of a product based piece that forgets the audience isn’t interested in watching the camera make love to the product unless Emily Ratajkowski is slathering it with BBQ sauce or Ryan Gosling’s dreamily staring at it, or even refusing it. Simply put, if you’re pushing, or stretching, too hard, to fit the brand into the content stream, there’s something wrong. Once you buy into the partnership, protect the process to ensure the brand to content to audience balance is right.

The Keys:

  1. Publishers know their audience. They’re excited to partner with you and are your key to the consumer you’re paying to reach. As they create the content, they can bridge the brand message to the native content experience.
  2. Short on time or budget? Publishers can point you to existing content that marries well with brand messaging, with built in audiences. Here, be respectful with branding. Less is more.
  3. Right context. Right content. Right Time; investments in real publisher/brand relationships can offer up an amazing amount of dynamic ability to tap topical opportunities.
  4. Size matters. While you technically can place your long form video content in front of audiences, you really need to consider the space. Is this a long form audience? Can you tease out longer video with a short intro? Can you serve the story up in shorter bits? Get to the hook, make the impact, leave them happy and not overwhelmed.
  5. Product placement – make sure the content is naturally integrated. You don’t want audiences rolling their eyes at your product by forcing a label out shot into the video.
  6. Bring users value. Improve upon what they come to the site for in the first place. For example, video is a great way to take deeper dives into reviews, behind the scenes footage, access to content or events they can’t attend, etc. Users will thank you.
  7. Enjoy yourself and respect the table. Remember, we’re all in this together. Unless someone is looking to sabotage their career, you can safely assume everyone wants to see a successful outcome.

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