The evolution of video is characterised by decentralisation and democratisation, and that trend is set to accelerate. With plurality the defining factor, how will marketers navigate the video landscape?
In the early days of cinema only a few had the means to produce film, distribution was limited and access was only for those who could afford a trip to the movies. The content – feature films and news reels – was determined by these factors.
As the 20th century wore on, each advance brought with it easier access to consumption. The distribution of these formats remained with large studios and TV channels; production remained limited to those with expensive equipment.
But since the turn of the century, video production, distribution and consumption have been democratised. This has brought about a complete paradigm shift, to the extent that we now have more formats, channels and producers than ever before. For marketers it can be bamboozling, and looking to the future this will only intensify.
The individual creator
Individuals can now create video and make money through advertising or sponsorship. This revolution in video production points towards a future of billions of content creators. Naturally it provides marketers a multiplicity of opportunities to reach granular audiences, if we can target effectively.
The innovative ways in which the tech sector has sought to bring video to the masses means that definitions have yet to be set. Monetisation models continue to evolve; measurement, prices and standards will fall into place, only to be disrupted again – this is the new normal.
But we can expect the dust to settle a little in the coming years. Formats must become standardised to enable their sale to advertisers. Economically, advertising needs to pay for the production of the video content. Our marketing budgets hold the key to doing this, and in that sense, the future of video is in our hands.
Meanwhile individual creators will continue to increase the moments in their lives they share though video. These will be augmented via (sponsored) filters and lenses, or live-streamed.
Brand safety challenges will need to be addressed before this mass live individual production becomes a viable marketing channel. But if the history of social media has taught us anything, it’s that they will find a way.
We must create using a mixture of disciplines, as the language of social platforms creeps into creative. Nike’s ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ film is one example of a bricolage aesthetic where filters and gifs are incorporated into the film.
Production companies, already in possession of vast amounts of footage, will find ways to create value from an increasing array of assets. Journalists will create video as they go about their day job, either shooting from a GoPro, or filming interviews, reducing turn-around time on news. New platforms and channels will emerge allowing us to tap into live created streams based on our interests.
For brands and marketers, these new platforms bring with them new considerations. Each has its own rules of use, audiences in different frames of mind and structural limitations. So our campaigns must embrace ‘transmedia’ – the art of adapting a creative insight and strategy to a plethora of channels.
Rather than cutting the same campaign many ways, this more strategic transmedia approach sees creators consider the point of usage, and create assets and messages appropriate for that. We’ve just begun to see this happen with vertical video, with campaigns for Guinness and Dior being shot and distributed vertically, optimised for mobile screens. This is where we must be at our most resourceful.
Mirroring technical advances in wider culture and industry, the next great revolution will be in automation. The darker corners of YouTube are already populated by automated production of videos, exemplified by the fake cartoons unearthed by James Bridle in his now legendary medium post.
As it becomes easier to predict what videos users will respond to, so producers will set about creating videos using machine learning. The creation of these videos will become instantaneous; publishing and monetizing them will be just as easy.
Users looking for information (recipes, travel ideas, sports results) will become accustomed to automated video content. Marketing simply must get its head around automation if we want to remain relevant. Rather than visualising a dystopian future where we become redundant, we can use machine learning to supplement our creativity. Automation allows us to design campaigns that reach users in the right context, with more tailored messages.
Tailoring will be crucial. Marketers must be thinking of user experience first, and working it into any brief. The skills of psychology and semiotics will be more valuable than ever. For planning, those with dynamic, problem-solving personalities will thrive.
The next phase of video will see screens appear in surprising places – don’t assume video is an online-only discipline. Print ads will become an entry point for interactive video experiences. This stuff gets brands excited, and rightly so. Or look to the design for London’s new Elizabeth Line tube stations: digital out-of-home advertising provides an opportunity for interactive, responsive campaigns, as well as automated buying of ad space. We should be considering the contextual advantages of video in the urban environment.
Interactivity too is the new normal in video. Shoppable videos offer huge potential for consumer brands, and platforms such as Instagram will be sure to push this kind of format. If your client is after conversion, this could be a key area to invest in. Shazam-ing an outfit, car or location in a film is no longer science fiction. Cross-device storytelling here comes into its own.
The future is ‘the multitude’
So the future of video looks to accelerate the democratisation that we’ve witnessed over the past century. We’re all video consumers on-the-go, we’re increasingly becoming distributors with our own channels, and more of our lives are seeping into video through creation tools.
But consumers are savvy to marketing, so marketers will need to find ways to tap into video culture in ways that seem natural. They’ll need to have context front-of-mind, as we look for coherent experiences on- and offline.
The years ahead will see more producers, more channels, more opportunities to augment the video experience. Strategy, insight and resource will be crucial in navigating transmedia video marketing. Welcome to ‘the multitude’.