Consumers have come to expect some form of commercial interruption when viewing digital video. That being said, several brands have gone well beyond the basic 15- and 30-second pre-rolls, gracefully packaging branded content for both television and the Web. When done well, this more-integrated content strategy earns brands the chance to participate in the viewing experience, rather than disrupt it.
Branded content should be part of every successful ad campaign, provided it is built and executed correctly. Advertisers need quality video assets that are pertinent to their targeted audiences, ensuring that the intended (and hopefully authentic) message is delivered the right way. These five guiding principles are key to the execution of a flawless branded content experience:
1. Maintain coherence. While high quality, engaging material is a prerequisite for success, content that does not fit sensibly and comfortably into a larger brand experience can confuse consumers and even turn them off altogether. It is imperative that brand messaging enhances (and does not distract) from the content experience.
2. Be authentic, and do not under-invest. Viewers can read right through content that is not authentic or has had corners cut to save a few dollars. There is a huge difference between video shot in a studio by quality producers compared to amateurs with a video camera in their basements. Beyond introducing an unnecessary liability to the health of the brand, a low-cost or disorganized approach to producing digital content is simply a waste of both energy and resources.
3. Do not replicate the TV experience. Reinvent it. Brand integration should be seamless and platform-relevant. If consumers found heavy-handed, one-way communication acceptable with TV ads, this was partially because the platform did not allow innovators to move further. An overly “salesy” or persuasive approach risks alienating Internet-savvy consumers who expect an interactive give-and-take with both their content and their media. Consumers will quickly lose interest in material if it feels too much like an ad, so developing engaging content must be the first priority, with earned media and social sharing serving as the ultimate drivers of any sound strategy.
4. Smart distribution is crucial. A high-quality video experience only works when brands drive engagement through a meaningful and diversified digital distribution strategy. Online content marketing is not a world where “if you post it, they will come.” Simply put, posting a video onto only one site does not provide anywhere near the return necessary to justify the investment. Content creators need to proactively seek out and find relevant audiences through nonexclusive syndication arrangements. Or, feel free to sit back and hope that YouTube channel views grow enough to cover the content investment, a strategy that rarely pays off.
5. Monitor responses. Do not appoint yourself the proud captain of a sinking ship if results are not as positive as you would like. Test, analyze the results, and then retest every video element of every campaign. Be prepared to tweak and experiment with the necessary components of the approach in order to improve it. Not least among the benefits of digital content over traditional ad strategies is the heightened degree of control and quickened responses it affords users to this end.
Data from comScore's Video Metrix indicates that a record 188 million Internet users watched 37.7 billion content videos in August of 2012. While pre- or mid-roll video advertising puts a message in front of those viewers, consumers are not being overly inspired. Closely aligning a brand message with video content that adheres to a brand’s vision and goals is a great way to get consumers to pay attention. Fortunately, producing this effective material is not as difficult or cost-prohibitive as it would have been in years past. When proactive brands develop thoughtful, appealing programming and amplify viewership through a sound distribution strategy, everyone (consumers, publishers and advertisers) in the ecosystem wins.