I’d like to begin today’s dispatch, by suggesting you first read another point-of-view published by MediaPost this morning: Carat Global Head of Innovation JR Little’s op-ed, “Content Overload: Are We Creating Clutter.”
I’ll explain explicitly why it relates to video in a moment, but first I want to say Little’s piece is one of the most articulate expressions I’ve heard yet of what is one of the biggest challenges our industry faces -- maybe it’s biggest: a paradox of choice.
As soon as I read Little’s take, it reminded me of something I heard another Aegis Media executive said not too long ago.
Some months ago, I listened in on a conference call some securities analysts held with Aegis Media chief Nigel Morris. When one of the analysts asked Morris why the media marketplace has grown so confusing and complicated for agencies and brands, Morris replied, “Because we’ve moved from an era of information scarcity to one of information ubiquity.”
If you ask me, that is the biggest threat facing not just Madison Avenue, but all forms of establishment. Because one way or other, establishments -- whether they are industries, governments, churches or philosophies -- exist fundamentally because they control the way information is organized.
Sometimes they do that by constraining information; people only have access to what the establishment wants them to know. In other cases, they simply do a better job of organizing information that people actually want to know. But without those constraints, those establishments cannot exist.
It is what has been happening to the media establishment for some time now, and now it’s beginning to impact brands.
The best proof of that is Havas’ “Meaningful Brands” study, which shows the greater the number of brands that are available to people, the more discretionary most of those brands become. According to the Havas findings, we are reaching crisis proportions in terms of brand relevance, because there are now so many brands in the world that consumers say they could live without 74% of them.
In the U.S., where the number of brand options is most dense, American consumers say they can live without 95% of the brands available to them.
Havas has not provided me with data on media brands specifically, but I’m going to guess the same thing is true for them. There are just so many brands and so much information available in the world today that all but a few are actually meaningful for most consumers. So how does this relate to video? Because the number of video brands, in particular, is exploding dramatically.
And ironically, Madison Avenue is one of its biggest factors. The rush to content marketing, as Carat’s Little points out, is part of it. But access and distribution are the real reason. Every new variant of video distribution technology that comes along, just piles on top of what consumers can access, be distracted by, and potentially consider more relevant than the next guy’s option.
If you’re a big brand -- an established video content brand or an established consumer marketing brand leveraging “video assets” -- there’s little you can do except do the best you can do to stand out, remain differentiated, better and (Madison Avenue’s favorite word) more “creative.”
I recently had an opportunity to sit down for an in depth interview with Brian Lesser, global CEO of WPP’s Xaxis, during which he provided a new insight related to this. Stay tuned for a full take on our conversation, but the part that relates to this column was something Lesser said about the way advertisers, agencies and the media are trying to create “premium” markets within all this ubiquity.
Lesser divided it down to four quadrants of “premium-ness.” One is still the editorial environment of the medium a consumer is experiencing when they are exposed to an advertising message. (Thank goodness). Another is the value of the data the advertiser, agency or media has about the consumer being exposed to it. The third is the “creative” power of the advertising message or experience being served to the consumer. The fourth is the “format.” And the most powerful, engaging and “premium” format, according to Lesser, is video.
The problem is there is so much of it. And it’s growing every day.
On the plus side, if Lesser is right, then Madison Avenue can greatly reduce the amount of tonnage it has to deal with simply by shifting its focus from the ocean of what it increasingly believes are commoditized impressions -- you know, display -- to the relatively smaller sea of video impressions. But that sea is growing everyday too.
In fact, the thing that prompted me to weigh in on this in today’s VidBlog was part of that rising tide: Twitter’s Periscope.
I started becoming cognizant of the live video streaming marketplace during SXSW Interactive earlier this year, mainly because of the pissing match between Twitter’s Periscope and upstart Meerkat during the festival. But my big question was why everyone was making such a big fuss about either during the festival, and I was scratching myself to understand the value, the use case, and yes, the meaningfulness of how and why brands would leverage and apply it.
Mainly because we had already reached the point of ubiquity. There’s already too much video content. More content than anyone could actually experience. And by that, I mean even the most “premium” content. A couple of years ago, my good friend and TV critic Ed Martin pointed out that there now were more original hours of bona fide TV programming being produced and distributed than any viewer had time to actually watch.
Add to that a torrent of ancillary network TV video programming, other non-network, but professionally produced, less-than-professionally produced, prosumer and user-generated content. And, oh yeah, brand produced video content. Let’s not forget about that. Then you end up with the kind of scenario painted by Carat’s Little.
So why am I weighing in? Because I just sat through my first brand-generated Periscope live video stream. Actually, it was a live Periscope video stream of a conversation between Twitter’s Mike Park and Verizon Director of Social Media Rick Haring about why Verizon is using Periscope to create live video experiences promoting its brand.
My experience: I wish I could recapture the 20 minutes it took to sit through that session. It was a lot of gushing about how great Verizon’s Periscoping of the VMA awards were and some teases about something “pretty big” coming next week.
The most meaningful part of the discussion came during the Twitter audience Q&A, in which some savvy followers asked pointed questions about the business rationale of doing it.
One asked what the value of its “reach” was vs. the “conversation” it generated. Haring didn’t exactly answer the question, but seemed to side more on the conversation value, noting it was mainly about “engagement.” Whatever that means.
He did add that the ultimate goal was higher-level “business objectives” like “making sure we can retain our customers” and “providing value to customers that may not be with us.”But I suspect that one unspoken objective is the fact that Verizon, now parent of AOL, isn’t just any brand marketer, but one that also is contributing to the rising level of media's ocean of content, as well as the sea of video content. And after all, what do you need to gain some visibility when you are under a sea? Well, a periscope, of course.