Online video: ‘Learn to think like a documentary maker’

Six experts discuss the different ways of using video online to engage customers, how all brands should act like media owners – and dispel some entrenched myths about cost and quality.

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Marketing Week (MW): Is the world of online video still very new for most brands?

Bruce Daisley (BD): Most brands are going through an accelerated period of learning. Marketers have always believed that audio-visual content and TV ads are the most effective way to communicate a message and get results, but now online video can bring the potency of audio-visual communications to a wider group of brands.

Online video can appeal to tightly targeted audiences and brands are looking for anything that brings the currency of data to their experiments. Data can be provided in a number of ways: we are working on showing companies their paid media and earned media through simple interfaces. Marketers need to know if they have invested in getting a campaign to be seen by a million people and then 8 million end up viewing it.

Lindsay Nuttal (LN): It’s really useful that online video provides marketers with a return path [where technology allows viewing data to be fed back to the brand] in a way that traditional media doesn’t. But I don’t think we should get overly hung up on the number of clicks involved online.

At ASOS, we are trying to look at models that show all the different influences on our consumer conversion and journey. Someone might have watched an online video in April, then received a newsletter in June. Both those things might have influenced that person to buy something in August. I think there’s a real danger in focusing too heavily on the last place or first place that someone encountered the brand. There will be hundreds of different influences in their purchasing cycle.

MW: Marketers need to measure the success of video. How should they do this – through sales, viewing time or recommendations?

LN: It depends what you are trying to do. If you are simply driving a customer towards a sale, it may be a quicker process than if you want to give them a brand experience through content. So it’s important to be clear about your aims – are you driving views, clicks or sales?

We look at sales and customer behaviour with a long view so we won’t necessarily measure if a piece of content has resulted in more sales than we had yesterday. We look at the types of customer that come in through any particular experience and then examine their behaviour over the long term. Did they stay longer than on previous occasions? Are they higher value customers than people who have come to us from a different way?

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BD: We measure the number of people – about 4% – who say they will always skip ads. To be honest, I’m not sure they would be of much use to the advertiser anyway. But we always need to improve targeting and make sure an ad is going to be well-received.

Sometimes the experience of online video can be intrusive. If you are watching a 30-second clip and there’s an ad in front of it, this can feel too much. Users will abandon clips. If we get data coming back to us that the ad feels wrong, we’ll use that as a signal to benefit the advertiser.

This way, we can learn what the better ads are and only charge if an ad is watched. We’re also able to charge good ads less. If no one chooses to skip an ad, clearly it has been well received and so gets more interest.

MW: How are you using video in your businesses at the moment?

LN: Video is a central pillar of what we’re doing. It touches so many parts of our communications strategy. We use everything from lo-fi ’how to wear’ instructional videos right through to more engaging set pieces.

The largest video project we have done so far is ’Urban Tour’, which showcases our menswear campaign and was launched in September. It is a video-rich microsite to help us sell the men’s autumn/winter range. The trick is making it shoppable. We’ve seen it done before but it’s never quite managed to marry the beauty, engagement and filmic quality of TV advertising with a shoppable feature. We got closer to that than ever before with Urban Tour and we’re seeing great results. It’s had more than 6 million views on YouTube so far.

Heide Cohu (HC): Over the six years I previously spent at Red Bull, it became much more of a media company than solely being about selling fizzy drinks. Our consumers had a real enthusiasm for engaging with us about entertainment.

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We made the decision to build our own content platforms, but it was a shock to discover that you have to fill those platforms for 24 hours every day with content that people want to see.

Building platforms is one thing but getting people to come to them and continue coming is a real responsibility. One of the reasons I was hired by Bacardi was to bring those learnings to the brand, along with my understanding of not just moving images and the digital space but content and broadcast channels.

BD: We have seen a tongue brush, a unique product that had 93% of people saying they weren’t interested in it. So it created a series of fantastically inventive videos, each costing £500. The idea was that if the business could get people to watch the videos, one in four people would go to its website and of those, one in five bought the product. So if it showed people the video, it could turn that into a sale – one in 20 people bought the product.

You could say that is a mundane and boring brief but the company saw audio visual content turning consumer disinterest into active purchasing.

MW: How did you justify investing in online video in the first place?

HC: Red Bull started out sponsoring key athletes, then started to build its own events. The experiential stuff was very important, but you can only get so many people to an event. We saw an opportunity to bring people in their millions to events through outreach in digital channels and broadcast.

Red Bull now always creates its own events rather than sponsoring already established ones. That way we have total control of the content. That’s why Red Bull owns two Formula 1 teams [Red Bull and Toro Rosso].

This was an important learning to take to Bacardi because when I joined, its content revolved around the production of beautiful TV ads, most of which was outsourced to creative agencies.

I think there is a myth surrounding video content that it’s very complicated, difficult to start and you’ve got to spend a fortune with a huge creative agency to do it. The big eye opener for Bacardi was that it didn’t have to spend a fortune on getting high quality content that’s engaging. It’s a totally different world from ad production and it’s very simple to do.

MW: So it’s vital for brands to start creating their own content?

Elizabeth Jones (EJ): We’ve just launched a car called the Range Rover Evoque that is providing us with a great deal of content and driving a multichannel strategy. This car’s audience is very new for us. Land Rover is an iconic brand and people have a perception of what it means. We tended to have quite a traditional male audience in the past but with Evoque, we were keen to have a male and female audience.

The problem we face as an automotive brand is that people don’t buy a car each week; there are long periods between purchases. But our customers are very engaged with our brand and they have a lot of stories to tell. We have 33 [driving activity] experience centres round the world and our customers are telling their stories and creating their own user-generated content.

So we have fantastic content not just about the car but associated with it too. Of course we’re an automotive brand but we’re also a passionate, emotional, human brand. We have a programme with 66 global city shapers [influential consumers] ranging from fashion to design to technology. They all have a story to tell about their passions, which fits nicely into our world as well.

We wanted to engage our global audience – China is doing exceedingly well, as is India and Russia. A lot of these markets are exploding digitally in terms of opportunity.

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HC: It’s a huge challenge to create your own content as a brand. Red Bull rarely engaged agencies to do much of the work for it, so the idea of creation and execution came from within. We then had to help our communications teams, which became digital and moving image teams, to start acting as producers.

I think at Red Bull we were ahead of our time in that we were going to broadcasters and saying “there’s an opportunity for us to act as producers and content creators”. It’s different at Bacardi because there was no existing framework available, so there is no understanding of the opportunities within content creation and distribution because one skill goes with the other. You can’t produce content without knowing where you want to put it.

MW: Is it difficult to convince others in your organisations to invest so heavily in content?

EJ: No, not at all, because content is about customer retention. You may not buy a car often, but you might use it every day, so you do have an emotional attachment to it.

We’ve got so much content that we make or others create and it needs sorting and putting in one place. Our consumer is happy to engage with that.

And it’s an exciting period for the company. We have diverse communities. For example, we have a robust farming community in the UK and our vehicles enable people to do their jobs. Then we have people buying the Range Rover Evoque, which sits in the space for young, hip people. Those consumers have wide-ranging interests – Paris Fashion Week or going to festivals – and the car is an enabler of their lives. Meanwhile, in the developing world, our story might be about African zebras and the Red Cross.

HC: I’m lucky in that I have a boss at Bacardi who is passionate about trying to engage with consumers in a different way and there’s lots of opportunities to try things out. As someone going into this job, I have to be totally committed to the fact that I’m going to have to champion this content mentality from scratch.

There’s no point going in and saying: “Right guys, hand over your TV ad money”. You have to work really hard to engage, influence and convert people to move some of the budget earmarked for TV over to content production.

We didn’t want to do what is traditionally done, which is go through third-parties and creative agencies and ask them to produce content for us. At Bacardi, I’ve set up a network where people work with the moving image manager. He can go direct to production companies, brief them and together we work out what we want, so we’re editorially in control. That’s essential for me in terms of getting our brand messaging right.

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MW: So does online video generally get created by one internal department or do business silos collaborate within your organisations?

Mike Harp (MH): The most successful cases are when we are working with a cross-functional team. Rather than just having a social or digital conversation, we’re having a brand conversation, so it’s vital to get all the key stakeholders involved in telling the brand’s story in one room.

You’ve got to start thinking like a broadcaster. Start with your tone of voice; what are the relevant stories your brand has to tell? What kind of assets do you already have? In terms of channels, rather than treating Facebook as one silo and TV as another, look at how you can make all of these elements work together.

BD: There are two types of mindset here. First, there is the traditional TV advertiser who spends a lot of money creating a beautiful 60-second ad. Then there are those who are creating new content and trying to do new things. We’re trying to operate in both worlds.

We are saying to people in organisations which have got these beautiful pieces of creativity that there’s value in trying to explore using that in different ways online. Don’t think your content and creativity doesn’t have a value online.

LN: We have in-house creative teams and we have an in-house magazine team. We use external creative resources as well, so often we’re blending in-house and out-of-house teams together. We’re very much about trial and error.

MW: Does the success of video always come down to relevance?

MH: Everything we do is centred around what’s going to bring value to our users. We focus on providing the technology that enables people to connect to the things that are most important to them – their family or brands. Storytelling content is a great way to do that.

Brands have always been storytellers but what’s exciting is that they now have so many more tools at their disposal. Previously, traditional advertising was like giving a speech. Now it’s hosting a dinner party. You’re trying to start the conversation but you want to get people engaged and start adding to the story. That’s going to give brands a longer life and opportunity to build stronger relationships.

If a brand tells a story well – not only on Facebook but anywhere relevant – it will not only be able to reach a much broader audience but it’s much more influential.

LN: We’ve experimented a lot over time. The more that ASOS put into its Facebook page, packaging it up with editorial thoughts in our posts, the more our stream impressions went down. We needed to be quick and responsive, making it about the consumers and their outfits rather than us. That has made the consumer much more likely to interact, which means that our content gets spread more easily.

Andy Bryant (AB): From my previous work in creative agencies, I’ve seen how hard it can be for brands to tell their stories. One of the key things we always say to our clients is that they should learn from broadcasters. Don’t just say: “Great, we can make film press releases”.

Brands need to learn from the great documentary makers out there and broadcasters who understand a filmed narrative. You need to understand how to make compelling, convincing stories. Ultimately, you’ll have all the data you’ll ever need to know whether those stories are engaging or even watched.

MW: What makes a piece of online video shareable?

BD: Nike does something intriguing. For every one of its ads, the brand creates several entry points [for consumers].

For its long ’Write the Future’ ad, tennis champion Roger Federer featured for about three seconds. Nike created a 60-second version of Federer talking about his part. In the ad, Federer was playing table tennis with Wayne Rooney. At the time, Nike knew that Roger Federer was going into the French Open and Wimbledon so his name would be a highly searched term online.

So a lot of people searching for ’Federer’ got that video in the results. It was a football ad but it was bringing tennis fans into that territory. It was a clever use of assets to create more impact.

MW: How else can you engage consumers with the content of your videos?

AB: It’s about the audience and understanding the extreme fan. We created a multi-platform approach for TV show Red Dwarf, which was relaunching on Dave after a 10-year absence. It was very much a cult, lo-fi, sci-fi programme. We created a game that wasn’t high-production value stuff, but it was something fans engaged with.

New technology is enabling all brands to create content at a much higher quality than they could before. Previously there’s been a polarisation between glossy ads and low-level viral content on YouTube. The opportunity now exists to create higher quality content but these days quality can be defined by great talent, writing or visuals. There are no rules. Each brand needs to look at its own specific needs to produce content that will ultimately be enjoyed and shared.

MW: How is social media impacting on the online video environment?

MH: Facebook is offering more tools for brands to connect [with consumers]. The opportunity for brands is to have intimate connections with their customers. In order to do that, they need to offer a value exchange. Content is a really powerful way to do that either through video or brand pages.

LN: An important thing to note is that if you’re going into production, you may invest in one piece of content but you can then show it over a number of different platforms that have video. Facebook and your own websites are just some of the places you can do that.

Video is a great way to monetise one investment rather than taking it to radio, print or other environments. We will always look for devices that will work well as a call to action on our own homepage or Facebook.

The rate of innovation these days means that we can try out different things. But we do know that just ’porting over’ the same idea from one format to another doesn’t always work. Our style guides and ’how to’ pieces look very at home on Facebook but they wouldn’t necessarily generate a huge number of viewings on YouTube.

AB: Internet-connected TV is going to be 90% of the TV market by 2014 – not so far away now. That will be the mainstream. This will inevitably open up huge opportunities to pinpoint who is viewing what content; are they the core audience we want to reach; and how are they responding? It’s a transformational phenomenon.

HC: Keeping abreast of technology, knowing what’s possible and trying to be innovative and ahead of the crowd is hugely important.
We’re building our digital capability but there are many other brands that we don’t want to emulate – we want to be better than them. It’s about trying to be continually relevant to the consumer. If I ever feel comfortable, I know we’ll lose ground.

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