Seven myths about branded video content

Evian Baby and MeThe top three branded ads of 2013 were shared 11.6m times. That is 11.6m people clicking on a button to tell a friend about a piece of marketing from a company. It is the sort of active engagement that brand wonders dream of and so it is little wonder that 70% of marketers now use video as part of their online marketing mix.

The numbers are compelling. Originally a text medium, the internet is becoming increasingly video-based: currently 50% of internet traffic is video, and according to a January 2014 Cisco report by 2017 that figure will have reached 69%.
It is not merely the number of eyeballs. Video has the power to engage, inspire and move an audience in a way that other forms of communication are unable to replicate. To give just one statistic that demonstrates the power of video, after 72 hours the average person will remember 10% of text, 65% of an image, and 95% of a video.

Finally, there is the sharability of video. According to The Unruly Viral Spiral, the sharing of video ads has increased almost 50 times over the last eight years. The technology now exists to allow us to stream and download high quality videos wherever we are, and equally the ability to create professional-standard video content is now within the reach of brands.

Yet, it is not easy to get right. For every Dove “Real Beauty Sketch” or Evian “Baby & Me” there is a branded video that fails to interest consumers, looks clunky or wooden, or worst of all no one sees. And it is a field that is rife with myths. Here we explode seven of those myths.

1) Number of views is the best way to measure the success of a video marketing campaign

For many years marketers have assumed that if a video is seen by many people it is successful. After all, that is how television companies have measured programme popularity for decades.

Steve Doyle, commercial director at InSkin Media and chair of the IAB’s video marketing council, disagrees. “It is far more important to understand what happens to a viewer after seeing the content,” he says. “To have one person who feels positively about a brand having seen content is far more valuable than to have 100 viewers who instantly forget it. The focus should be on the quality of the engagement.”

He believes brands need to start using more sophisticated tracking tools to understand this viewer journey and so to start producing and distributing video content that genuinely achieves marketing objectives.

2) It makes sense to start with a small media budget, and invest once you see a video gain traction

Senior marketers have spent entire careers allocating media budgets according to that principle. It works well for television, print, even online display ads. Yet Olly Smith, commercial director at Unruly argues that with video if you are to succeed in getting to the top of the Viral Video Chart, you need to invest large amount of ad budget as soon as it launches.

“A full 25% of all shares from online video come within the first three days,” he explains. “So videos that are seen by few people in those crucial three days never get off the ground. It is the videos that get an early wide viewer base, and so build early momentum, that are the most successful. When it comes to branded online video you need to go big and go early.”

3) Branded video is expensive

They say that producing a short film is as difficult as producing a feature length film. So, does that mean marketing directors need to hire Peter Jackson or Pedro Almodovar to direct their branded video? Fear over the cost of producing a video that is going to look suitably professional and achieve the desired objectives holds many brands back from using this emerging medium.

Ben Sinden, content director at Videojug Networks believes there is much that brands can do to keep costs down and still produce high quality videos. He says: “Consider non-viral formats such as branded entertainment or ad-funded video. Think about piggybacking onto existing events to gain views of your content.”

Newcastle Brown Ale’s recent hijacking of the Superbowl with a spoof ad involving Hollywood actress Anna Kendrick is a famously successful example of this last point.

Sinden adds: “You can make major savings in pre-production. Do you really need storyboards? Probably not. Do you really need studio space or could you film in a free location? How can you minimise revisions post-production?”

Finally, he advises against hiring the biggest names for video endorsement. “While most brands would aim for well-known celebrities such as David Beckham, Gok Wan and Heston Blumenthal, when it comes to video the key factor to consider is subscriber numbers,” he explains.

4) Video marketing is all about going viral

“Viral is an incredibly unhelpful word when it comes to video marketing,” argues Smith. “Far too many marketers see video as a way of taking an inexpensive punt, and fixate on generating the idea that will go viral. In fact most of the videos that are thought of as viral, such as Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches and Evian’s Roller Babies, have had huge media spend behind them.”

5) Branded videos should always be short

“In general less is more,” argues Smith at Unruly. “You want to get to the point quickly, but there are circumstances when a longer treatment is suitable. Essentially the length of a video should be determined by the emotional trigger you’re aiming for. If it is humour or shock then short and sharp is the way to go, but if it is nostalgia or pride then you need a longer story arc.”

6) Video marketing is all about YouTube

YouTube dominates online video, accounting for 40% of views. Yet, that means that 60% – the majority – occurs outside of YouTube. This is a highly fragmented market, and the most successful campaigns recognise this fragmentation and allocate their media budgets accordingly. They spread themselves thinly and so maximise their exposure.

7) Build subscribers by running an episode once a week

Another myth that has come from television is that serialisation builds subscribers, as people will come back at the same time every day or week for the latest instalment. “It just doesn’t work like that,” says Olivia Rzepczynski, global business director at Ogilvy & Mather who leads the Philips Lifestyle Entertainment & Domestic Appliances team.

She adds: “We would never have got the number of views we did by taking that approach with our ‘Mothers-in-law Anonymous’ campaign in Italy. 60% of all divorces in that country are attributed to problems women experience with their mothers-in-law. So this campaign used humorous videos to show women how judicious use of Philips domestic appliances could stave off the worst of the problems that arise in these relationships.”

“It is far better to put it all out there in one big hit,” she concludes. “Provide links between episodes, and allow viewers to decide which ones they want to watch and when they want to watch them.”

Sarah Gavin is head of marketing Europe at Outbrain