By Greg Isaacs, EVP, Product and Marketing, Branded Entertainment Network (BEN)
Sometimes following the traditional advertising industry feels like watching an aging boxing champion struggle to roll with the punches as they battle to stay on their feet. YouTube’s latest decision to discontinue the previously un-skippable 30 second advertising slot by February 2018 was the latest such body blow to advertisers.
Why is YouTube looking to banish brands from utilizing the format most akin to a conventional TV advertising slot? Well, quite simply, it’s hugely unpopular with its user base and therefore ineffective. YouTube doesn’t want to risk viewers leaving for other options before the actual content has ever been displayed. The brutal truth is advertisers have failed to invest the required time and attention in understanding this digital channel and the need to tailor their approach accordingly based on differing viewer behavior. YouTube is now taking steps to hasten them towards creating a more engaging, bespoke YouTube experience.
This is of course just the latest example of backlash against traditional advertising. There’s still no shortage of discussion about ad blocking, the damage it’s doing to brand revenues, and what the appropriate brand response to it ought to be. Make better ads? That’s easier said than done, not to mention overlooking the broader trend which is, quite simply, that the nature of advertising needs to change.
Viewership is migrating quickly away from traditional broadcast environments and into subscription based non-ad supported platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. In the US, for example, eMarketer estimates that by 2018, 138.8m adults will be watching streaming TV. The shift is even more pronounced with younger demographics who increasingly use social video as their primary form of entertainment. Pumping money into TV advertising, and then attempting to replay that TV content within a digital context, is only going to prove less and less effective going forward.
The answer for brands is to take the time to understand this new landscape and look for ways to integrate more effectively with screen entertainment, rather than disrupting or distracting from it. Research from PQ Media emphasizes the recent growth in the branded entertainment sector, yet just two percent of today’s ad spend is allocated towards the non-ad supported environment, despite it accounting for roughly 25 percent of viewership.
Technology platforms can now make the marketplace of all available entertainment opportunities far more readily accessible to brands, giving them the key audience and contextual details they require to make quicker, smarter decisions about where and how to integrate into entertainment content.
This last point is vital given the plethora of different channels, not to mention content opportunities now available for savvy brands to consider. Brands should consider integrations across entertainment based on where their audiences can be found and what is most relevant or appropriate for their brand; this can range across film or TV to SVOD or vlogger. They must also pay attention to how performance will be measured — from the number of impressions reached to overall ROI.
Beyond the metrics, today’s product integrations allow brands to seamlessly and authentically become part of the story. This is the new product integration opportunity — integrations that give the viewer an enhanced feeling of real-world context and sense of character development. Content creators love working with brands when this is the desired end-goal. They don’t want their characters drinking generic coffee or soft drinks because it loses realism, while, they don’t want a disjointed and inauthentic product integrations wedged into their script. The smartest brands in the product integration space understand the value that producers, influencers, artists and content creators bring in terms of cultivating and connecting to an audience. Once they’ve identified the right integrations for them, they form a partnership with these content creators to develop and deliver an authentic experience for their audience.
The influence of traditional TV may be fading, but one thing that isn’t changing is peoples’ desire to be entertained and to feel connected to the content they’re consuming, making the case for branded entertainment as a cornerstone for any forward-thinking brand’s marketing mix in 2017.
Greg Isaacs serves as EVP, Product and Marketing at Branded Entertainment Network (BEN), a Bill Gates company. Over his career, Greg has gained extensive experience in managing many facets of business, product, marketing and technology. Greg joined BEN after serving as VP and GM for the NFL’s Digital Media Team. Prior to the NFL, Greg served as VP and GM for AT&T Interactive. Greg began his digital career at eBay where he was the Director of eBay’s Developers Program.