Cracking The Code On Paid Social Video -- Or Not

Even the geekiest among us don’t spend much time thinking about social video on a Saturday morning, especially a Saturday morning in Montauk. However, this past Saturday at 9 a.m., we were still in session at the Video Insider Summit, so some extracurricular geekiness was required.

At times like that, one instinctively reaches for the coffee pot, but during the first panel --  “Finding the Right Format, Or Not Defaulting to TV Ad Units” -- it actually wasn’t the caffeine that woke me up.

What got my attention was the grand takeaway from the session: that social video only seems to really be working when it is owned and earned. So geeky! I know! But as the two agency panelists on the session said, their experiences with paid video vs. socially distributed video bolsters Facebook’s stance that it needs to take time in rolling out its full-blown video product.

Explained Corey Gehrt, strategy director of Code and Theory: “Out of personal experience with some of the brands we work with, video is actually usually the least-performing content format that we’ve seen in Facebook.”

Added Maurice Riley, strategy director at Publicis Kaplan Thaler,  “With some of our brands, we’ve had some very impassioned fans. We’ve seeded our videos out there; that has worked. But when we put paid dollars behind it, it doesn’t perform very well.” (Side note: right now, it is possible to use paid media to promote videos on Facebook using Promoted Posts, but that’s as far as paid video goes on Facebook.)

Now, what the two of them said may strike you as being as brain-dead obvious as the fact that Saturday morning is no time to be discussing social video. (I kid, MediaPost colleagues!)

But here’s the thing: it’s actually exactly what has gotten lost in the paid video shuffle, from TV ads to pre-roll. Paid media gives many brands a sense of entitlement that is almost entirely driven by the fact that they have a lot of money in their wallet. Too often, the very fact they can afford the medium they are advertising in gives them license to create ineffectual, uninspiring advertising.

In organic social, that strategy doesn’t work, and because it doesn’t work, it should send a strong signal that creative -- all creative -- should live up to the same standard of engagement that for earned media is the price of entry. “Anything I can learn from what we’ve done with earned … I want to take those learnings in creating content and then use that to drive out in paid,” Riley explained.

Think about this next time you’ve convinced yourself, and your client, that a so-so- piece of creative, and an expensive distribution strategy, are all that’s required for online video success.

And also remember that there’s an even deeper, more depressing truth in the fact that paying for distribution in social doesn’t necessarily work: The very fact that something is designated as “paid” may hurt users’ willingness to engage with it. Many of us ignore promoted posts because we figure if an advertiser paid for it, how good could it be?

If that doesn’t wake you up -- especially in the middle of the night -- I’m not sure what will.

(Thanks also to moderator Noah Mallin, and the session’s other panelists – EXPO’s Daphne Kwon and Innovid’s Zvika Netter -- for being part of such a thought-provoking panel.)

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