Marketers and ad agencies, long accustomed to interrupting a television show or preceding a movie with their message, are now trying to learn the new language of video advertising on the Internet.
In an exclusive excerpt from the just-released book The Future of Web Video: New Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers, Jamie Tedford of Arnold Worldwide discusses some of the challenges of connecting with consumers online. Tedford is the senior vice president for marketing and media innovation at Boston-based Arnold. Arnold’s clients include global brands like Volkswagen, Fidelity Investments, Timberland, and RadioShack.
Q. What does it take for an advertiser’s video to go “viral,” and get spread around the Internet?
A. Advertisers think, `We’ll just put our existing TV spot up, and it’ll become viral.’ A lot of marketers are learning quickly that the rules for what makes something viral are a totally different set of rules.
Video also gets passed on because it’s surprising, funny, new, comical, sexy, or provocative. People want the currency of having found something first.
Many clients have a more traditional view: `Here’s the product message I want to come through, and if you can get some entertainment in there, great.’ Now, you’re asking someone to discover this on their own, and figuring out what would make a consumer forward it to a friend.
Q. On your list of some of your favorite Internet video ads, you mention “Tea Partay” and a Sony Bravia ad. One was made especially for the Web, and one was made for TV.
A. The fact that “Tea Partay” was built for the Web tells me that the agency was probably given much greater leeway from their client to be a little more outlandish and controversial. They’re also working in a format that’s way longer than 30 seconds. All those factors conspired to produce something more entertaining, more buzz-worthy, and more likely to be passed along.
But putting a couple hundred thousand dollars into production, without a guaranteed return is a scary proposition for most advertisers. With an Internet video, you can’t guarantee a certain impression count like you can on network television. That’s why you see more of the Bravia model today. Television distribution justifies the production cost, and as an add-on, you can reformat it for the Web – make it longer, shorter, or more controversial.
Q. So it seems like consumers are willing to watch ads on the Internet – they just have to be really good ads.
A. We are now talking about return-on-attention. Consumers expect some sort of return on them tuning into you, because they have some choice. That can be great news for an agency. It puts a huge new premium on entertainment and creativity. That can be a very freeing experience.
Q. Entertainment marketers still largely seem to be distributing movie trailers on the Web, or promos for TV shows – even though they have a lot more video they could make available. But then you have directors like Peter Jackson and Bryan Singer, who both made lots of video from the sets of “King Kong” and “Superman Returns” available.
A. When Volkswagen used to launch a car, it was cloaked in secrecy. No one could see it before it got to the showroom. Maybe it was leaked to a few taste-makers in the automotive press. But now, that content is currency. I think as marketers, we are thinking about the sequencing and distribution of our content a little differently, and trying to get it to your most influential and passionate fan base sooner than when it goes mass. People watching a Web site to track the development of “King Kong” are obviously total King Kong-o-philes or total Peter Jackson-o-philes. They’re waiting with bated breath for the next morsel. They can create the groundswell and the buzz.
Q. What about pre-roll and post-roll advertising? YouTube doesn’t make me watch an ad before or after a video, but when I watch a segment of “60 Minutes” on CBS.com, I have to see an ad first.
A. The rates for pre-roll and post-roll video are through the roof, because there’s not enough inventory. It’s what the media agencies are buying, but it escapes everyone that every consumer hates having to watch an ad before they watch their video. I just think consumers won’t accept pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll. Look at the growth of iFilm [a site, now owned by Viacom, which shows ads before videos] and YouTube [which doesn’t.]
But if a brand can figure out a way to give me the content I want, free of advertising, I think that will be an interesting model. I look at the brilliance of what Pepsi did with iTunes. Apple established a 99-cent value on a piece of music, but that allowed the brand to give it to you for free when you bought a bottle of Pepsi. The same thing could or should happen with video.
Q. What do you see ahead for advertising?
A. I don’t think the other traditional mediums are going away. But there is a huge new premium placed in our business on creativity and entertainment. Advertising will be an entertainment medium first and foremost.
Three Internet Video Ads Worth Watching
From Jamie Tedford, SVP, Arnold Worldwide
1. Ad: “Tea Partay”
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
2. Ad: “Sony Bravia Paint”
3. Ad: “Singing Laryngectomy Cowboy”
Advertiser: American Legacy Foundation
Agency: Arnold Worldwide
Scott Kirsner is a technology author and Variety contributer. He has also written for New York Times, Wired, Fast Company, the Boston Globe, The Hollywood Reporter, Salon.com, and Newsweek.