By Todd Lombardo
“America runs on Bulova time.”
This was the first TV ad, a 10-second spot from 1941, simply a radio announcer’s voice over a graphic. Looking back, you can’t help but think, that’s it?
It’s easy to feel that way from the perspective of 2016. But, at the time, the industry was still operating out of the radio rule book, and the notion of TV as a visual medium hadn’t yet taken hold.
Today, we are in the midst of another sea change in video, where many of the old rules no longer apply. We may hold fast to what we know worked in the past, but, in the meantime Snapchat is getting eight billion views every day.
At CakeWorks, we find ourselves fielding this question more than any other: what should we start doing with video? Sometimes the better question to ask is, what should we stop doing?
- Stop resisting video distribution as a strategy.
One of the toughest questions that drives vibrant discussion is, should we post a video on our own site or somewhere else? Anyone who is quick to answer is missing the nuances of the bigger picture. A single video can have a home in many places — teasers on YouTube, previews on Facebook, behind-the-scenes on Snapchat, ans full episodes on owned properties. You can build it and get them to come, and you can go to where they already are. Different platforms play different roles: Facebook is great for initial social sharing and buzz, while YouTube might achieve more views over the long term.
Take these examples as best practice exploratories: Hearst is developing video for Verizon’s mobile video service Go90, MTV now “airs” on Snapchat, 56% of video views for brands are via Facebook, and Buzzfeed now publishes video on more than 30 platforms.
- Stop re-using TV spots for Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube (and everywhere else).
We’ve given a pass to 30 second pre-rolls, because we know the tremendous effort that goes into producing TV ads. But Geico’s “5-second skip” campaign was one of the first to make the differences between TV and video part of the conversation. We should be producing platform-specific video ads — especially since they have the potential to deliver millions of views.
An initial framework: get attention in the first three seconds, don’t save the brand reveal to the end, shoot vertical options for mobile, shorter is better, and plan for storytelling that works, even with muted autoplay. Agencies, their clients, and publishers all need to push the boundaries, because we’re not going back.
- Stop making it so hard for cord cutters.
Hey, cord cutters, what was your scramble like to figure out how to watch the Oscars, or the Grammys, or many of the presidential debates? when all else fails, find a Periscope? Meanwhile, Super Bowl 50 fully embraced live streaming and broke records. What makes this interesting is not that viewers are cutting the cord, but how it breaks down by generation:
Millennials are leading this transformation, and, as any historian or marketer knows, parades of change are led by the young. Resist or embrace, but the river is already flowing, regardless of the entrenched cable industry. TV is not in decline. It is in transition to streaming video.
- Stop thinking, the more ads the better (or embrace the spirit behind ad blocking).
Here’s something that happened when nobody was looking: viewers started asking, “Why am I seeing so many ads?” In the land of linear TV, there was little that could be done to address this, save the DVR. But with the rise of tech-based advertising, it was only a matter of time before ad blockers would give viewers some control over the ads they were exposed to. And it’s a choice they are embracing: 25% of smartphone owners have downloaded ad blocking software.
Let’s be clear: great content isn’t free, and advertising, subscriptions, and other monetization models are all pieces of the puzzle. Publishers should define succinct advertising strategies: regarding how many ads will a viewer tolerate in a given video or page. For advertisers, digital GRPs matter, but at some point there is a price paid for overtly interrupting people’s lives (e.g. frequency capping — hello Hulu). The rise of ad blocking is happening for a reason. It’s up to us to fix it.
What other changes does the video industry need to embrace? Tell us in the comments.
Todd Lombardo is the head of marketing at CakeWorks, a video consulting firm. He has held digital marketing leadership positions at advertising agencies, Fortune 500 media companies and Silicon Valley start-ups.