This article was originally posted at iMediaConnection.
Online branded video entertainment is swiftly gaining traction among both brands and agencies: as iMedia’s recent branded entertainment survey showed, nearly three-quarters of agencies have used or plan to use branded entertainment as part of a campaign in the next six months. Still, concerns about developing quality content, accurately compiling useful and detailed performance metrics, and – most of all – achieving scalable, targeted distribution are impediments to unlocking truly significant branded video budgets.
Of these hurdles, scale is the single biggest challenge preventing more brands and agencies from either using branded video or allocating more budget to it. Demand for high quality video, particularly video which is expressly produced for the Web, is far greater than the current supply, which is astonishing in the current economic climate. According to eMarketer, 80 percent of US internet users watched online video in 2008 – a figure that is predicted to rise to 88 percent, or 190 million people, in 2012. Accordingly, aligning quality video with a partner that can meaningfully scale distribution to satisfy this growing demand and simultaneously deliver marketers’ desired results is crucial to the continued growth and adoption of branded entertainment.
Push to Scale
“Scalability” is a buzzword that’s often thrown around, but how do we get there? It’s not through portals like YouTube, branded channels or microsites, though those are all parts of the solution. It’s by pushing content to users on every part of the Web that we can achieve significant scale. I call this the “push model” of distribution.
By delivering branded video to users wherever they are on the Web, from their email to a social network to reading about last night’s game, that content becomes more discoverable. As it stands, portals and destination sites require users to search out this content on their own – if they have time and remember to do so. Pushing content out to where users are enables them to consume quality video content – which they want – in many more places than they previously could.
Think of the push model of distribution as the new online television network.
Combining Scale with Accuracy
Of course, simply reaching massive numbers of people isn’t adequate – as we know, it’s reaching the right audience in a meaningful way that brands and agencies are looking for. The push model lends itself to targeting based on traditional ad network metadata, including demographics, geography, channels and behavioral targeting, all of which enable the precise delivery of relevant video where it is most likely to be consumed and enjoyed. This method also emphasizes the highly-sought after metric of considerable user engagement.
Indeed, branded video delivered using ad network content serving infrastructure backed by metadata tags is very effective in this regard. For example, Adconion, through our wholly-owned subsidiary RedLever, uses this structure to syndicate Vuguru’s made-for-the-Web series Back on Topps, and the performance data we’ve collected thus far shows that engagement with Back on Topps is well above industry average. Google, with Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy, and ON Networks, with Smart Girls at the Party, have also made advancements in this vein.
High levels of engagement with carefully targeted users who are active all over the Web – not just on video destination sites or portals – is the most important yardstick that brands and agencies want to measure their branded video campaigns by, and the push model of syndication will deliver the best results against this scale. Reaching Web users who do not frequent the portals or destination sites will also expose coveted new consumers to brands.
Particularly in the case of episodic programming, careful user targeting ensures that videos are displayed in the proper order – that is to say that the first video in a series is always served to users who have not seen it before, while users who have previously viewed the content can be served subsequent episodes. Brands will undoubtedly find this accuracy attractive, as it allows the brand the ability to sequentially target their embedded ads, providing a superior brand experience and ROI, in addition to increasingly the viewership of a series.
Nuts and Bolts
Today, the push model is based on delivering a branded video experience using rich media ad units that dynamically appear on a page (versus being fixed on the page) and are fully targetable. The benefit of a targetable video player versus a fixed one is that the marketer is guaranteed that only their target audience is watching their branded video content or pre-roll ad, delivering superior performance. The majority of interaction and consumption comes through these targetable ad units, though content is also added to static players like those found on YouTube and Hulu.
The network of an aggregated audience is the real power here. A great example is Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy which was hosted on the homepage of YouTube and distributed over the Google Content Network. From what we can tell, 86% of the 14 million streams delivered during its first three weeks came from the network and not YouTube.com, the destination. Similarly, Back on Topps racked up 2 million views in just 48 hours when distributed across our Adconion.TV targeted network.
Both of these networks demonstrate the power of the push model. Portals, on the other hand, do not offer much in the way of targeting, though they do provide scale. The key is to unite volume/scale and targeting.
As brands and agencies’ focus on performance and ROI continues to sharpen, scalability combined with precise targeting will demonstrate the special value of branded video done right. Moreover, campaigns using distributed branded video will be backed up by a wealth of metadata and detailed measurability showing how much of a video was played and whether it was paused or muted and so on. This superior performance will in turn pave the way for larger campaigns and bigger budgets, which feeds into the ongoing creation of more quality content ready to be consumed by the growing audience of users who are hungry for video – branded and otherwise – online.