Have you heard the latest video advertising pitch?
"Buying impressions is dead, buying engagements is dying... the future is in buying video sharing! You only pay when your videos are watched by self-interested consumers and they can share it with their friends!"
Yes, "shared videos" are being positioned as the new "going viral." And in a never-ending quest to find media that is completely controllable, yet entirely consumed by self-interested consumers (read: the holy grail) buyers are beginning to ante up.
Unfortunately, the only viral in this cleverly packaged snake oil is the virus you wake up with in the morning when you fully understand what you purchased.
Let me clarify.
First, video-sharing companies primarily syndicate content through display inventory. For all the social, sharing and viral components of the pitch, they are all irrelevant relative to the number of views that will come from display. So, what's positioned as video sharing is really cost-per-click display advertising.
Second, video-sharing companies are event-based ad networks. They may charge on YouTube views, user engagements, video completions or whatever metric they can create, but they are arbitraging the cost of the media they buy with the amount they are getting paid. So essentially, what we're really talking about is paying for performance, which should be priced comparably with performance metrics rather than branded CPMs.
Lastly, and perhaps most ironically, video-sharing companies actually generate a very limited amount of video sharing at all. The total views generated via sharing often equal less than 5% of total views generated during the life of the campaign.
On the positive side, if a buyer's goal is aligned with the reality of a display-based content syndication world, then these models can actually be very successful. For example, if you want to reach 1M views on YouTube, hit a large number of unique users quickly or behaviorally target a long-form video, display-based content syndication is for you
This, of course, cannot be separated from the issues of price and performance. On pricing, we are really talking about cost-per-click, not guaranteed views, and this pricing ecosystem is relatively mature. On performance, you must measure your syndication vendor on a post-click metric, the same way you measure search, or you will end up with garbage clicks (or, in this case, garbage stats).
On the negative side, , you are paying to get your video in front of consumers who most likely are simply bored rather than engaged. Engagement cannot be measured by simply getting someone to start a video in a display ad.
In summary, if your goal is to drive authentic social sharing of your video content, the best advice I have is to focus on creating content worth being shared. Anyone who claims to have solved this across the board for advertisers is simply sharing a sales pitch.