Why The Anti-ROI Bloggers Are Wrong About Video

If you've been paying attention to the big marketing blogs over the past several months, you might have noticed the anti-ROI movement starting to gather momentum. In short, the popular marketing bloggers are spending quite a bit of energy telling us that we should focus less on metrics and more on the process of delivering entertaining and/or informative content to the masses.


Did you catch the contradiction there? According to the power bloggers, we should spend more time creating effective messaging, and less time measuring its effect. Of course, there is no way for us to know if our messages are effective without quantifying the revenue they generate in some way.

A large part of the anti-ROI rhetoric you see in the big blogs talks about things like hiding video content (or any content, for that matter) behind a registration page, and how detrimental such a practice is for allowing your video to spread among the masses. The argument is that because gathering lead data inhibits sharing, we should stop trying to gather lead data.

Yes, it's true that form-based gates are a detriment to sharing. And while for static media like eBooks and white papers this means abandoning standard lead-generation tactics, video most certainly does not play by the same rules.

Every day video players are becoming more and more dynamic. Still, at their core they are simply objects that can be placed anywhere on a Web page. As such, they can be combined with any other kind of object on a Web page. There is no rule that says, for example, that video can't appear alongside a registration form; in fact, this practice is incredibly useful for lead generation. And because both the video and the lead-gen object (in this case a form) appear on the same page, viral sharing is in no way inhibited.

But let's take it one step further: imagine using video for lead generation without using a registration form. Oh yes, it's possible. As technology progresses, older tools are being revamped for modern needs. Here I'm thinking specifically about email. There are a variety of services on the market that let you connect email messages to specific engagement data by associating this data with an email client's merge fields. (Disclaimer: I work for such a company.) In other words, if I create a video with a certain application, and if I sent out a link to my email database, my video application could tell me the email addresses of my viewers. And all without a registration form.

While I'm thinking specifically about email, the very near future may well hold similar developments for social media. Imagine being able to gather specific viewer data related to the Twitter addresses of each and every viewer that clicked a link on one of your tweets. That might change the answer to the nagging question, "What's the ROI of social media?"

We don't hear about any of this from the anti-ROI crowd. The disconnect seems to be that as new marketing bloggers are caught up in the whirlwind of social media applications they tend to forget about the ability of Web video to be relevant without sacrificing a constantly updated list of best practices. The onus is on us, their readers, to remind them.

11 comments about "Why The Anti-ROI Bloggers Are Wrong About Video".
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  1. John Allen from Mogreet, February 8, 2010 at 4:49 p.m.

    I agree completely. So much in fact I will take it even one step further. If you are thinking of using email as a distribution point, how about sending video via text/mms? Why not leverage the ubiquity of text messaging and the power of video messaging? Not only that, but with mms delivery, we are not constrained to the 160 character limit that can accompany an mms message? You get the reach that texting can deliver, you get powerful messaging of video and you have the ability to gather data. Bam, game over!!!

  2. Matt Kaplan from VisibleGains, February 8, 2010 at 5:09 p.m.

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your insights. We recently ran a video-enabled email campaign to promote a webinar with David Meerman Scott and IBM's Tim Washer with great results. You can read about the results of this campaign on our blog:

    Matt Kaplan

  3. Richard Monihan, February 8, 2010 at 5:10 p.m.

    Agreement in spades...
    What good is a focus on content if the message in the ad, or the way it is delivered, is not engaged or engaging?

    ROI is the only way to determine overall effectiveness, but ROI is not only determined by click through rates or other methods of this nature.

    Were an advertiser to love the particular content of a site, and place their ads on said site because the content was interesting - but they got few views, let alone clicks - what good is it? What if they paid $60 CPMs for this?

    It's always about return...

  4. Scott Morgan, February 8, 2010 at 5:11 p.m.

    Hmm. Interesting comments about video and ROI. How about combining mobile video, lead tracking. advertising media, texting, email and telecom into a single user experience? It is available! VoiDaVi (voice, data and video) creates an environment for rifle shot media targeting. See what is happening in the real estate market to get some ideas. Visit Interesting way of looking at the solution. Kinda like turning the telescope around and looking though the other end.

  5. The digital Hobo from, February 8, 2010 at 5:38 p.m.

    @Scott Morgan - But you aren't combining it with any best practice. There's no mute button, no player controls, no info on how to pause or rewind the video. The only way to pause it is if you click on it, which is counter-intuitive for the web.

    @ the rest of the commenters: Agreed that there is plenty of yet-to-be-played with possibilities for video. Lets start experimenting instead of waiting for someone else to.

    @Matt K - Great case study for using teaser video to promote that webinar. Woot to you!

  6. Matthew Shaw from Flimp Media Inc., February 9, 2010 at 9:43 a.m.

    Great comments everyone. Let me take a whack at answering some of them.

    @John Allen and Scott Morgan - MMS marketing with video is an alluring concept. I'm eager to see what comes of it, but right now I think it's still too early to say that the data generated is not the result of it being a new medium -- people watching mobile video because mobile video is cool, for example. As it becomes more widespread I'm sure we'll be able to more accurately judge its efficiency.

    @Matt Kaplan - Excellent use of video. I know Mr. Scott is a big fan of your product. The United Way ran a similar campaign with Flimp (disclaimer: I work there) to increase attendance to their annual Women's Leadership Breakfast. We'll have that case study up soon; check our case studies page for updates:

    @Richard Monihan - I don't know that it's ALWAYS about return. To the defense of the very bloggers I criticize in this post, there is something to be said for putting out a message if you think it is a very important message irrespective of return. But while this is okay for a campaign, by no means is it a sustainable strategy.

    @The Digital Hobo - Yes, we must be active innovators in order to gather the fruits of the digital age. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm excited to be a part of it. (Great handle, by the way.)

    Thanks for reading, everyone!

  7. Mark Laudi from Hong Bao Media (Holdings) Pte Ltd, February 9, 2010 at 12:54 p.m.

    I didn't have the benefit of reading the original blog posts that are the focus of your critique, but possibly the reason why they - and, frankly, thousands of people who manage marketing and communications budgets - are against the idea of measuring the return on investment in online video is simply that they are not used to being accountable.
    Remember the adage, "50% of advertising budgets are wasted - we just don't know which 50%"?
    Now, what would happen if these marketing folks produced content which failed to meet their expectations? The answer is obvious.
    Under these circumstances it's understandable that they think it's best not measure it at all.

  8. Nelson Yuen from Stereotypical Mid Sized Services Corp., February 9, 2010 at 4:18 p.m.


  9. Matthew Shaw from Flimp Media Inc., February 9, 2010 at 4:29 p.m.

    @Mark Laudi - I wouldn't go so far as to say that the big marketing bloggers are telling people to abandon ROI because marketers with bad ROI are embarrassed to talk about it. I think that the premise is a good one -- that many methods of calculating the number of leads a piece of content generates is often intrusive, abrasive and prohibitive to sharing. But the conclusion they draw -- that we should therefore abandon ALL methods of measuring return -- is a bad one.

  10. Richard Monihan, February 9, 2010 at 4:57 p.m.

    Matthew - I agree getting an idea out there is SOMETIMES worthwhile. But to say it's worthwhile irrespective of return is to say "when a tree falls in the forest, nobody hears it".
    OK, trees need to fall, and sometimes they fall in the forest where there is no audible receiver, so there is no sound. But if the sound is the meaningful part of the tree falling - what's the point? Several years later, somebody may find this fallen tree and, without hearing a sound, say "hey a tree fell and it must've been really loud". But the point is lost, the returns that one would hope to gain from said falling tree is wasted.

    Return is ALWAYS the point. As a blogger, there are many types of "return" that you (personally) hope to achieve. Perhaps one is monetary. Another may be promoting a discussion or debate. Another may be to simply ease your mind of thoughts which you just feel better having "out there". But each one is a return on the investment you make. Defining that return, and developing a value judgement regarding it, is key to the success of your blogging.

    In marketing and advertising, there is only one return of value - getting the message out there and spreading. I don't care if it's via a traditional or viral campaign, the point is to get something back for the money and effort put into the product development. If you have no legitimate ROI on a marketing campaign, then you have wasted your client's time and money.

    Nobody knows who said it, oftentimes it is said to be from Wanamaker, others say Lever...but "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don't know which half." Why is this quote alternately funny and vexing? Because it is true. Clients want to maximize their ROI. Return is everything. Just make sure you define what that return is.......

    An example, without naming names, is a marketing company which came to me with a way to "boost our visibility for a low cost by running a sweepstakes on key related sites". I asked how I would recognize the return on investment. They replied "increased visitors to your site". When the campaign was over, and the return they promised wasn't there, they shifted the return to "increased visibility of your product and recognition of your site". I never used them again.

  11. Fraser E from Opinions expressed herein are solely my own, February 9, 2010 at 7:45 p.m.

    Can somebody point me to the blog entries in question, so I can see for myself whether it's really an unwillingness to be measured, as the sneering echochamber always insists is the case, or if it's what I think it is, which is a reluctance to be held to measurements that may be improper at best?

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