The Golden Fifteen Seconds

Broadband isn't TV -- it's better. And we're wasting our chance to reach engaged users by recycling the same, long creative.

Let's rewind. It's 1999, and the "Bud - Weis - Er" frog commercials are still fresh in everyone's minds. As a young, idealistic media seller, I'd often pound my fist on an agency buyer's desk and declare "you can do this for your client, too -- except since it's online, it'll be better! We can sequence creative, so we don't just keep showing users the same static image. We can tell an unfolding story over time."

As unique as I thought my pitch was, every ad-serving platform has always had this ability. Still, I've yet to see any major campaign make use of this basic, but charming, approach.

Ten years later, video offers us an unprecedented chance to speak directly to our audience at a highly personal, intimate level. Sadly, as with the Budweiser frogs of yore, we squander this opportunity by digitizing and uploading the 30-second broadcast creative and then calling it a day.

Consider Apple, whose Macintosh product is at once deceptively simple and limitlessly extensible. Any talk of "processor-based virtualization" or "multi-core GPUs" would leave the non-techies darting for the fast-forward button -- or, even worse, runs the risk of cannibalizing the "deceptively simple" part of the message. So, Apple keeps its advertising targeted to the general consumer. It then needs to hope that the techie segment will meet up with them somewhere after the call-to-action. In broadcast, this makes perfect sense.

But online, of course, we know where the techies live. Moreover, we know where my mom lives, and your teenage son, too. Apple should keep running its suite of existing TV spots on content friendly to my mom. But it should also shoot a 15-second spot specifically targeted to its other key segment: the techie. Imagine the branding impact that we could achieve once we lose our fear of talking to geeks on their terms.

The narrowcast nature of the online space allows us to do things that would never fly (in the U.S., at least) on broadcast. We need to experiment, take risks and show the more personal side of our brands. The brilliant (and likewise unauthorized) JC Penney spot which so horrified that company could have served as an ideal bridge between the aging department store and Millenials -- were it only a real spot.

Instead of recoiling, JC Penney should remember that users do click the play button beyond the city limits of Peoria.

I often hear from agencies that it would be cost-prohibitive to create spots "just for the Web." First, an ever-increasing number of consumers get their news and entertainment exclusively from online sources. More importantly, creating a broadband spot need not be a $500,000 proposition.

Let's face it: your beautifully lit, ideally scouted, model-perfect spot is likely going to be consumed in a 320x240 window. In that environment, Martin Scorsese would have a difficult time distinguishing between something shot on a Panavision Genesis versus a $150 Flip. You've got unprecedented access to your target, so shoot the work you always wanted to create, the spot that communicates on a highly personal level. Then, shoot another for your next audience segment. And so on.

Users are increasingly tuning out recycled 30-second TV spots. Capitalize upon the "golden fifteen seconds" users offer us as they lean forward, ready to be entertained. Use broadband video to create connections, inspire dialogue and challenge users' preconceptions about your brand.

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