Redefining 'Video'

When I was growing up, a trip to the video store was always exciting; it meant the chance to rent a movie -- new or old: something we could hold in our hands, put into the VCR and kick back to watch. 

Those days are gone.  “Video” stores are a thing of the past, and any that still exist carry their highly specialized inventory on DVD or BluRay rather than videocassette.  People 10 years younger than I am have probably never been to a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video – and yet, “video” is still a part of their everyday vocabulary.  YouTube has become ubiquitous; “Vine” is poised to become a verb the way that “Google” did last decade; and Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime are all offering serious competition to the TV and film industries.  Consumers no longer have to drive to their local strip malls looking for video content; they’re being bombarded with it.

But what exactly constitutes video these days?  Streaming movies and TV shows?  Viral content?  Ads on websites, in the backseat of taxis, on elevators?  Video no longer means a VHS tape; there’s a lot more to it than that.  And the way that advertising works across these platforms, by necessity, is rapidly changing.



Adjacent Video Content

Adjacent content belongs to another screen (TV) first, but is broadcast digitally through such services as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.  Although Hulu is the one with overt advertising, the nature of the format is such that any of these platforms, when they feature ads, will do so in a way that feels organic for an audience accustomed to advertising interrupting their programming.

That isn’t to say that either adjacent video content or the ads associated with it are just like television or film.  Because this content is generally broadcast on a personal device it’s possible to customize the ad content based on what is known about the individual or household consuming the content. But this ad content should feel organic and in-tune with the format: straightforward commercials that would be as suitable for television as they are for streaming. 

Original Video Content

I’m referring, in this case, to user-generated video content: Vimeo and YouTube, for instance.  Because visitors to these sites are generally more “lean-forward” than those merely watching TV shows online, pre-roll ads should not only be tailored to what the consumers would want to see, but also how they want to get the message.  Consumers’ viewing habits on these video platforms can tell us a lot about them, even with personally identifiable information set aside: how much content they consume, their preferred types of content, even how long they’ll watch something before turning it off.  So while we may know from other information that a consumer likes cars, we might learn from his viewing habits that he tends to skip ads longer than 15 seconds -- so a 15-second cut of one of Toyota’s Super Bowl commercials might best resonate with him.

Sponsored Video Content

Unlike the other two types of video content, where advertising is secondary, sponsored video content is created specifically as advertising.  It can coexist with other video forms, but it doesn’t have to.  One notable recent attempt at sponsored video content was made by Facebook, which was forcing video advertising in the feed to exist outside of a traditional media platform without any adjacent or original content.

A big potential problem with sponsored video content in or on platforms where it’s not expected, such as Facebook, is the forced nature of the viewing experience.  Why should I have to watch a 15-second commercial as I scroll through my social media feed?  While consumers are used to ads on Facebook by now, the insertion of video seems inorganic at best — and I’m sure most Facebook members will just keep scrolling.  And even if they don’t, they certainly won’t be actively seeking the sponsored content out.

The fact that consumers aren’t specifically tuning into sponsored video content, however, doesn’t mean it has to be a forced experience.  Location-based video -- for instance, screens in cabs or on elevators -- provides value to consumers with relevant and tailored information leading to both engagement and valuable video advertising opportunities.  It’s on this platform, I believe, that sponsored video can thrive. As such location-based screens become more commonplace, they will become a more accepted and welcome platform for sponsored video content.

Video has come to mean a lot of things, and will continue to evolve as technology develops.  But as consumers have more access to different forms of video, they’re bound to get more selective about what they consume, and when.  Making sponsored video less of a burden and more of an additional channel for entertainment -- specifically out-of-the-home -- will help all forms of video to thrive.
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