The Mobile Video Landscape: What Brands Should Consider

Countless studies have shown growth for mobile video, both in tablets and smartphones. For instance, eMarketer forecasts double-digit growth for video consumption among smartphone users through 2015. And a recent study from Keynote Competitive Research showed that 76% of tablet users watch video on their devices. But while user consumption is seeing rapid growth, it’s still unclear what role brands and advertisers will play in mobile video.

While many marketers, including myself, are promoting dynamic design that allows for device-agnostic display, consumer usage and expectations vary depending on device. Right now, 63% of tablet users  use their device mainly for entertainment purposes. Because these users understand that ads are part of the experience and reduced cost of content, there is a lot of opportunity for brand marketing video on tablets. If a tablet user sees a video ad in the middle of consuming leisure content, it’s not as disruptive as it is for the person who’s using the smartphone to find directions.  That’s why we’re going to focus below on the  smartphone,  a more difficult area to tackle.



Smartphone Video Usage

Let’s break mobile usage down into three behavioral pieces: Multitasking, Saving Time, and Killing Time.

Multitasking is, for my purposes here, the use of mobile content as supplemental or even disassociated activity while doing something else as a primary activity.  It could be dinner, attendance at a sporting event, watching TV (the second-screen experience), attending a lecture, and so forth.  The issue is that with many of these activities, the multitasking occurs in an environment with other people  -- and unfortunately, that can minimize the effectiveness of video.  While there’s plenty of ways for brands to reach multitaskers on mobile, the self-defined reduced attention provides limited opportunities for them to do it through video.

Saving Time is the use that revolves around making your life easier and more immediately convenient, such as looking up directions, finding the nearest pizza parlor, comparing prices, and more.  To that end, unless we can think of a way for advertising video to deliver information in a quick and convenient manner (as compared to text or stills or data), then I think we should eliminate video as a best use for this behavior.  Put simply, you won’t find a lot of people who are receptive to video ads when they’re just trying to locate the nearest gas station.  To be clear, and to highlight the reason that branded video cannot be device-agnostic, this is slightly different than the role video can play in making your life easy and convenient on other devices, such as how-to DIY or cooking videos.

Killing Time  periods can include everything from waiting for a flight, commuting on public transportation or avoiding a long conference call.  This seems to be the most fertile ground for marketing video distribution, and is why we see more references to “snackable” mobile content, a term previously reserved for Web video but no longer universally applicable, due to increased long-form consumption. Smartphone users are always “snacking”; they don’t tolerate dull moments. They proactively look for content to distract them. This is the behavior that mobile video advertisers should home in on. It’s not the same as tablet users who likes to relax with their device before going to bed, but it follows a similar drive: the need for entertainment.

Native Digital Video in Pop Culture, News and Gaming

Mobile users’ need for entertainment is why I believe that the biggest opportunity for video on smartphones lies in pop culture, news, and gaming. These three areas are part of the content backbone, if you will, of smartphone mobile use  particularly when you’re just looking to kill time.  Some of the best examples of  content for this use case are Angry Birds and other kill-time mobile games like it, Twitter (which is itself a snackable content delivery system based on in-the-moment information streams), and Buzzfeed, which is “viral” news packaged in snackwrap nuggets.  These companies and their content, to varying degrees, are both creating and surfing waves of cultural interests in a moment. And they are doing it at scale and with a consistent audience.

Put differently: Given the recent cancellation of Anderson Cooper’s TV series (due to lack of audience), and the companion ruminations on the difficulty of achieving scaled audience for talk/news content on television, I’m beginning to look at mobile and tablet as the future drivers of news and pop culture information.  They are more responsive, more immediately relevant, and with you all the time. 

So what does that mean for brands and marketers? Our industry needs to use this kind of  information  -- usage habits, success stories -- as a filtering system, as we consider how to connect in new ways with the ready audience on smartphones.

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