The little CES gadgets transforming 2016

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CES is over and after just a week all the hype seems gone already. With the Tech giants releasing new products on their own schedule, CES is less and less about future-gazing ideas and quite literally a Consumer Electronic Show. On the flipside though, while Google, Amazon, and Apple work on big ideas which will change everything in the next 5-10 years, the gadgets at CES give us a peek into the smaller, more gradual changes which technology will drive in the immediate future. For businesses and marketers who plan their business on an annual cadence, these trends are the most useful to understand. Here is a roundup of the key ones.

 

1. Internet is transforming TV

On demand viewing has officially won. According to Nielsen data, a number of shows gather more watchtime on DVRs than live, and this trend has become more evident in the last six months. Netflix’s announcement about the launch of their service in 130 countries simultaneously left the industry paralyzed (before everyone started buying their shares – up again after yesterday’s earnings release, thanks to surge in subscribers also thanks to international expansion); we are witnessing the “birth of a global TV network”, as Reed Hastings put it. In the NBCU keynote, CEO Steve Burke explained why their investment in internet (Buzzfeed, Vox) is critical: “It’s like the regional TV companies that did or did not invest in cable”.

 

2. But TV fights back with some new tricks

While linear TV might not be the future, it is certainly still the present. JP Morgan reports that TV still accounts for 49% in the media mix (albeit down from 60%! – US figures) as it remains key to broad reach. However, advertisers demand more precision, flexibility, and integration with digital media. Programmatic TV seems more a reality; Dish explained how their new marketplace combines TV and digital buying, with more precise targeting and measurement enabled by set-top-boxes, even allowing on-flight measurement and optimization for TV.

 

3. AR as interesting as VR (if not more)

Virtual Reality was strongly showcased: Facebook’s Oculus Rift announces  launch at  599$ on March 28th, Fox added 3D VR for US Open 3D last year, Universal Music and iHeart radio will have VR on some artists, etc. But while most say it’s still early for VR,  AR (Augmented Reality) readiness seems higher, with some interesting products hitting the market this year: Lenovo announced launch of the first smartphone using Google Tango technology enabling AR; Target experiments with AR showing gluten free options in store.

 

4. Tech transforming automotive

Flurry of announcements and new products from some major automakers. Electric Vehicles were front and center, with GM announcing the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt for the masses, and VW showcasing Budd-e electric concept van. The topic of partnerships was the most interesting and talked about at CES. GM announced that it’s investing in Lyft to build a fleet of self-driving taxis. Ford also announced a big partnership, just not the one everyone expected… CEO Mark Fields showcased a partnership with Amazon that will allow vehicles to stay connected to smart homes via the Amazon Echo voice-recognition system. Also, Ford and Toyota (and others) are joining forces to make their own car operating system, called SyncConnect. However, Google’s John Krafcik (Head of the Automotive unit) also announced that partnerships would be the main goal of 2016. We just don’t know with whom yet.

 

5. IOT evolution vs. revolution

Lots of new weareables showcased at CES, including smart pet collars and even smart jewelry. However, the home remains the main target for smart devices. The Consumer Technology Association estimates that sales of smart home devices in 2016 will reach 9 million units (in US alone), including a very wide range of devices, from refrigerators to smart water leak detectors. Alphabet’s Nest and Amazon keep leading in terms of platforms and ecosystems, and most companies are either focusing on specific devices to serve narrow needs, or partnering with these players. For example, LG announced a partnership with Nest to work on smart objects that also ensure privacy and security (with no further details on specific products).

Finally, in case you wonder about my favorite speech at CES… It was Robert Kyncl’s keynote. Quoting him: “Digital video will become the single largest way people spend their free time by the end of the decade, other than sleeping and working”. Not sure I want that to happen to be honest, but if I think of the progress we have made in digital video in the last few years, it’s certainly something impressive.

Be Useful, Be Simple, Be Relevant. 5 Digital Marketing Trends in 2016

People have been able to avoid ads for a long time, much before the skip button became available to them. When the it officially appeared on YouTube ads in 2009, it only represented a way for users to say “I wouldn’t care about this ad anyway but now I can also tell you by clicking here” and to feel more empowered about the content they consume. In 2016, users will feel even more empowered by choice: they will be able to choose to pay for ad-free subscription services (e.g. YouTube Red – announcement here if you missed it), or use ad-blockers (now working with in-app ads as well) as a symbolic sign of protest to say  “I’m outta here” and keep the skip button permanently pressed.

This is where our journey begins in 2016: choice becoming a sharper weapon in the users’ armoury. Here are 5 trends I believe we’ll witness.

 

1. Even more screens

We have had smart TVs and smartwatches (and more supposedly ‘smart’ devices) for a few years now, but they have been mostly front-ends of other devices with more extended capabilities. In 2016, devices will go from ‘smart companions’ to ‘smart masters’. We will be able to convert any TV or screen with a USB port into a fully functioning computer, simply using a pocket-size $85 device (Chromebit is only the first of such devices, here is the announcement). New smartwatches (e.g. new LG Urbane 2) already offer 3G/4G coverage as standalone devices. In addition, increasing participation in the smartwatch sector by the traditional watch manufacturers (e.g. Tag Heuer first, and recently the more affordable Fossil) will contribute to mass-adoption and shift user habits. For example, we’ll be able to remain connected when we go for a run (soon even a swim) or out to dinner without carrying a smartphone anymore.

As a consequence, content will become even more ‘liquid’ as it travels across screens, providing user experiences that are orchestrated and possibly inter-connected, especially as devices start to talk to each other and users perform tasks using multiple screens (e.g. receive a push message on a smartwatch, research on a smartphone, and later complete a purchase from home using a laptop).

 

2. Branded content will continue to morph

As I wrote in my last article (here), as ad-blockers and ad-free subscription services give even more choices to users, advertising is bound to become less intrusive and more useful. For the online advertising industry to find a new balance, the ‘cost’ of ads on the user experience will have to decrease below the opportunity cost (material or practical) of paying for an ad-free subscription or downloading an ad-blocker. Ideally, such opportunity cost will become negative, if branded content is able to provide value to users. This becomes all more interesting when it happens across an increasing number of screens with different sizes and functionalities. If marketers and creatives have been questioning the impact of ads on the limited real estate of a smartphone screen, wait until they have to come up with something effective on a 1.6 inches smartwatch screen. As one of my colleague puts it, it will be “like painting a Mona Lisa on a stamp”.

As a consequence, content will become simpler, and the focus will partially shift from the impact of the creative to the utility it provides. An interesting recent example is the Star Wars campaign from Lucasfilm, based on a Chrome experiment at www.google.com/starwars. Once landed on the site, users are asked to choose between the light and the dark side of the force, and then they can experience a number of Google services ridden with Star Wars easter eggs. As they explore, users opt into an array of branded content, engaging at several touch-points across Google maps, YouTube, Calendar, and even Chromecast and Android Wear with customized watch-faces and push notifications.

 

3. Moment marketing

More screens mean more opportunities for brands to engage with users, but also more complexity. To remain effective, brands will have to adapt to new ways of finding their audience. For example, simply targeting a consumer demographic (still the most adopted type of targeting) will become less effective as it still leaves thousands of different engagement points across a variety of screens. On the other side, as the amount of available user data increases (e.g. with location-aware services), so does the ability to use such data for richer targeting. This will allow marketers to choose the most relevant moments to engage with users, and target based on signals of intent to provide more useful content.

A recent ‘Think With Google’ article (here) explores this concept for automotive brands: as the moments along the purchase journey become available to advertisers, the types of content that most matter are 1) test drives, 2) features and options, and 3) walkthroughs.

 

4. 360 degrees video become mainstream (more so than VR)

Cardboard and Oculus Rift have kept us excited about the possibilities of VR in the long run. However, the adoption of VR headsets to date remains very limited and I don’t expect this to change significantly in 12 months. However, the story about 360 degrees video, providing a more immersive experience even without using a VR headset, is completely different. Both YouTube and Facebook launched 360 degrees videos in 2015. As brands increasingly go mobile-first in their campaigns, 360 degrees video will provide a better canvas to engage with users. Put simply, we’ll turn around a lot more while we watch videos on mobile.

Here is a recent (and cool) example: for the launch of the new RX model, Lexus produced a video with a number of 360 degrees moments embedded in it. For the first time, the entire experience was embedded in the YouTube homepage (check it out here).

 

5. Video goes beyond branding

From the marketers’ perspective, one great aspect of mobile is that it collapses the consumer journey, bringing awareness, consideration, and purchase much closer within a few, immediate actions. As watchtime shifts to mobile, video platforms are giving brands the ability to leverage users’ choice by providing options to drive conversions. For example, YouTube has been introducing formats to drive conversions from video ads, with shoppable ads or app download promotions. These formats have already gone mainstream in 2015, and next year we’ll definitely see an increasing share of brands using video for both branding and conversion purposes.

 

More inter-connected, more immersive, and more useful. Is your content strategy ready for 2016?

The rising tide of branded content

TheRiseofBrandedContent

Branded content is a relatively new term and concept. It’s content marketing, but more narrowly refers to a specific type of video content. It’s different from ‘native advertising’ because ‘native’ refers to the canvas the content is placed within, while branded content refers to the nature and objectives of the content itself. It is defined by the viewers’ perception of it more as ‘content’ than ‘advertising’. It’s a relatively new space, and still largely up for grabs in the content ecosystem. Digital and media agencies are taking the lead, either directly (e.g. DAN with its Storylab) or through partnership (e.g. the recent one between GroupM and Buzzfeed).

So how can brands create content which people will choose without perceiving it as advertising, and at the same time achieve their marketing objectives? Here are four interesting examples.

1. Patagonia: Feeding passions with stories

Patagonia has been producing beautiful short films, generally in the form of stories, with clear links to the sports covered in the company’s product lines. The films are immersive, rich of simple values and highly personal, and very lightly branded. They speak to the hearth of a set of viewers with specific passion points, who will go back to the Patagonia channel on a regular basis. Below is one of my favorite short films, The Fisherman’s Son.

2. Blendtec: Will it Blend?

For years, Tom Dickson, founder of Blendtec, has been demonstrating the powerful Total Blender in a viral campaign on YouTube called Will it Blend? Starting with a box of matches, over the years Tom has blended a series of unusual items such as golf balls, marbles, phones, and even an ipad! His videos have impressive shelf life, often amassing several milion views from a large group of followers and near to 1M subscribers on the YouTube channel. For Halloween, in response to a request from his followers to blend his hand, Tom ironically responded with the video below.

3. Ziploc recipes

Ziploc is to sealable plastic backs what Kleenex is to tissues. Most people have bought or used Ziploc, and yet consider it a fairly ‘boring’ and purely functional product. To put the sexy back into the product and expand usage for the category, Ziploc has invested in videos showing how the product can be used in the kitchen and beyond. Cooking is a huge passion point on YouTube, and Ziploc recipes has become an established category, with most of the new videos being uploaded by loyal users. Here is a video playlist on Clever Tips & Tricks using Ziploc (link).

  1.  AT&T: Summer Break

To build affinity with young smartphone users and reposition the brand, AT&T created Summer Break, a YouTube channel with series of wepisodes for a young audience. All the videos and the entire channel are lightly branded, and smartphones are used in all episodes but definitely not in a contrived way. I like this example because for a company like AT&T it definitely takes guts to create videos which almost seem user-generated, like the one below.

If advertising isn’t dead, it’s certainly morphing. The rapid change in the video landscape is driving a form of evolution where generations have been compressed into years or even months. The abundance of video content, adoption of ad blocking software, and fragmentation of people’s attention in a multi-screen world, are driving great urgency for brands to become more relevant to the audience they want to engage with. In a world where the only certain way to be viewed is to be chosen, brands are becoming content machines.

2 Lies and 2 Truths about Made-for-Mobile Content

This blog post stemmed from recent discussions with my friend and colleague Phil Mattia, APAC Head of Mobile for Brand Solutions. Phil lives and breathes mobile, he knows our mobile technologies at Google and what they can do for marketers, he looks at performance metrics on a daily basis and understands what works and what doesn’t, and collaborates with the product team to continue innovating Google’s mobile offering for advertisers. He is as passionate about mobile as much as I am about content, and we love to discuss how the two can come together in powerful experiences for users and platforms for advertisers. When I ask Phil about his thoughts on made-for-mobile content, he smiles at me and starts tugging at his beard, knowing he’s in for an engaging discussion. What follows is a short summary of our exchange of ideas, drawings on flip-charts, and a few cups of coffee.

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We are in a period of great experimentation. As people engage with content on mobile in different ways from other screens, creatives and marketers are playing with digital platforms to decode the golden rules of engagement. One question I get more and more often is: what are the best practices for content creation on mobile? The inconvenient truth at this stage is that nobody knows. Most of the progress done so far has been about going from unconscious arrogance to conscious ignorance. The quest for real answers is starting now.

Let’s take a step back. Obviously, a massive shift is happening silently. In the last month alone, at Google we announced several important mobile-centric innovations for YouTube. June 22nd: 360 degrees videos are now available on TrueView ads (WSJ article here). July 22nd: the YouTube app will start showing vertical videos in full screen (article here). And just a few days ago at VidCon, Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO, announced a mobile redesign of the entire platform (article here) and clearly said that mobile is YouTube’s top priority: “We’re focused on top three priorities: mobile, mobile, and mobile”.

But what does this all mean for marketers? Here come the experiments I was talking about. For example, the Art, Copy & Code team at Google recently started Unskippable Labs, an initiative aiming at finding best practices for how video advertising should evolve for mobile. The first experiment from Unskippable Labs with BBDO NY, OMD and the brand Mountain Dew uncovered some interesting findings. While the industry is still quite far away from decoding proven best practices for mobile, all this experimentation is pointing at some initial learnings which sometimes contradict what we thought we knew… So here you have 2 lies and 2 truths about made-for-mobile content.

Lie #1: Mobile is all about short-form

People on mobile generally have many distractions around them, they keep their thumb right on the skip icon, and therefore they don’t have patience to engage with storytelling. Respectively true, true, and false. Many brands have been producing long-form video ads, and in many cases they have seen higher engagement on mobile than on desktop. As an example, look at the different versions of the Mountain Dew ad used by the Unskippable Labs team. The first version is the standard 30s ad, and the third one is a 1m 33s ‘pure fun’ version (both below).

Looking at performance metrics for the different cuts, the view-through-rate on mobile (% of viewers who watch the ad for at least 30s) was 26% higher for the ‘pure fun’ version than for the standard 30s ad. Even more interestingly, mobile users exposed to the ‘pure fun’ version also watched it for longer, with an average of 1m 9s. The key take-away: mobile is not necessarily about being quicker; long-form ads can work very well.

Lie #2: Make the best of the first few seconds by showing your brand

While not completely a lie, this is more a misleading simplification. Many advertisers have been obsessed by ensuring strong branding in their video ads. In fact, ensuring brand presence in the first five seconds has almost become religion, in order to drive brand metrics also among ‘skippers’. While this might be logical, it’s less black and white than it might seem. As shown in the Mountain Dew case study, long form ads with more subtle (even barely visible) elements of branding can have the same impact on brand awareness than ads of standard 30s length with much more prominent branding. In short, the emerging evidence is that jamming the brand early in the ad, even before viewers have a chance to skip, might be the easiest but not the most effective solution to drive brand metrics.

Truth #1: Give viewers what they are looking for

So why does the ‘pure fun’ version work better in the Mountain Dew experiment? Certainly, humor drives an immediate emotional response, and in turn higher viewer engagement, but there’s more to that. Comedy is one of the most watched content categories on YouTube, and the strength of the platform with young audiences makes humor particularly effective as an engagement tool. Basically, fun is what YouTube viewers are looking for. The same could be said for video tutorials, music, gaming, etc, so understanding what your audience wants to watch on YouTube will provide an entire toolkit to engage better. On mobile, some of these tools are particularly powerful: the interactive and social usage patterns of mobile devices also drive content choices. Fun content is highly shareable, and gaming is one of the main user activities on mobile, so these two types of content are particularly effective. Below is a recent example from Benefits Cosmetics Australia of how humor can be used in an effective way.

Truth #2: Be personal, be real

If with TV, brands have to earn the right to enter people’s living rooms, with mobile they have to earn the right to enter the most personal device people have. On mobile, brands can send very personal messages to people, which might instead be perceived as awkward or inappropriate on a bigger, less personal screen. It’s a bit like gaining the ability to whisper into someone’s ear. This is why inspiring content, often related to human truths or sensitive issues (e.g. personal tragedies, discrimination, etc) often drive higher engagement on mobile than they do on bigger screens. An good example of such content is the video ad below from NutriGrain (which is, by the way, an 11m 22s long story, with branding elements only at the top and tail of the video)

In your experience, what kind of content are mobile users better engaging with? Or what do you believe is fundamentally wrong about video ads on mobile? Do leave your comments, and watch this space for more on this topic.

5 Seconds To Be Unskippable

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How do you make people watch your ad when they have an option to skip? Probably one of the most important ingredients is: convince them in the first 5 seconds. Generally, when users see an ad, they have their thumb right on the bottom-right corner of the video, ready to tap right where the “skip” button appears. They only have to wait for 5 seconds, and that’s all you have to convince them to stay with you.

In this blog post, I share 4 examples of TV ads which were optimized for skippable formats on digital. Advertisers who spend most of their budget on TV, can adopt any of these tactics as a first step to optimize their creatives for digital.

Back to the basics: understand the creative canvas (do skip if you are already familiar with the TrueView ad format)

The first step for advertisers in digital (and their creative agencies) is to understand the creative canvas and then play with it. Here we are talking about the most common format of skippable ads, i.e. “TrueView” ads on YouTube. TrueView ads work in a very simple way: users can skip the ad after the first 5 seconds. Advertisers pay a CPV (cost per view) only is the user doesn’t skip the ad or if s/he skips after 30 seconds. It’s a win-win ad format: users are not forced to watch an ad if they are not interested; advertisers only pay for truly engaged users (i.e. better media efficiency) and can also collect valuable data on who is interested and who isn’t.

Now that the creative canvas is clear, let’s play with it. How do you maximize effectiveness using this format?

#1: Ask them not to skip

It can be as simple as asking viewers not to skip. Remember that many users on YouTube are looking for entertainment, so use humor while you persuade them to stay with you beyond the first 5 seconds.

Here is a good example: it is the movie trailer for “This is The End”, with James Franco and Seth Rogen. The movie trailer is the same, but the YouTube cuts have additional footage at the beginning of the ad. When James and Seth ask you not to skip, that’s pretty convincing.

1st YouTube cut

2nd YouTube cut

#2: Give the punch-line away

The punch-line always comes at the very end of a joke. That’s not how it works on YouTube. Recutting an ad to place the ending right at the beginning can generate intrigue and convince the users to watch the entire ad to understand the full story. In this example from Lakerol, the exact same TVC footage has been recut, and the story has been reversed.

TVC

YouTube cut

#3: Rejig the story

This is similar to the previous 2 techniques blended together, except that some additional footage is required for the YouTube versions of the ad. My favorite example of this tactic comes from Snickers. Watch the TVC first, and then the 2 YouTube cuts. What do you notice? In the first YouTube version, the story has been tweaked to make viewers curious in the first 5 seconds, and the actor is engaging directly with viewers by looking straight into the camera and asking them not to skip. The second YouTube version is similar, but the main actor is a wrestler now, and threatens the viewers not to skip the ad!

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YouTube version #1

YouTube version #2

#4: Share your message in 5 seconds

5 Seconds could be long enough to say what you have to say (I just did it). I love this example from Horlicks in India: a 5 seconds intro was added at the beginning of the TVC, and it’s enough to drive brand awareness, mental availability for the product (it’s a 5 seconds product shot!) and also convey the main feature of their instant chocolate powder. Brilliant!

In summary: it doesn’t take an entirely different approach for video ads to be much more effective on YouTube. As a first step, just invest some more time when shooting and editing your ad, and play with the creative canvas to convince viewers not to skip.

5 Hilarious Video Ads that Work Magic for Brands

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Ever heard of gelotology? Make a guess before checking the meaning on this wikipedia page. Entertaining internet users with branded video is about a lot more than just convincing them not to skip your ad in exchange for a good laugh. Researchers in this field (gelotologists… Yes, good trivia for your next cocktail party) have found that when we laugh, changes occur in our brain and many parts of our body, which create a ‘feel good’ sensation and, most importantly, strengthen social connections. Basically, laughing builds affinity. So if your brand can make people laugh… boom! People will feel good with your brand, feel the emotional connection, affinity… you name it.

This works if your brand is the humorous storyteller, not just another spectator (or, even worse, an intruder). A logo at the end of a hilarious video might work to build awareness, just as you might remember the guy delivering pizzas during a great party. Affinity is a different thing.

Here are 5 examples of video ads that just nailed this concept. These brands not only appear in the ads, they are at the center of it, telling a story that resonates and gives people a good laugh. They are humorous storytellers. Enjoy!

#1 Geico ‘Unskippable’

This ad makes fun of all things traditional, including traditional advertising itself. An improbable family dinner (young kids with no smartphones at the table?), a meaningless ending line on the savings from a new insurance company, and a sterile still image with a gigantic company logo, just as in the TV ads of a decade ago. And just when your finger is ready to tap on the skip icon, the improbable happens…

#2 Toyota X-Wave Weather Challenge

Annoyed by inaccurate weather forecast? In this playful video ad, a Toyota Aygo has been rigged to pay back three wether forecasteres in their own inaccurate currency. While the Aygo becomes an ally for the viewers to take a due revenge, they will certainly remember the standout feature of the canvas sunroof!

#3 Nike Inner Thoughts

This ad is between funny and embarassing, as it unveils many taboo thoughts which people have while working out. As the ad rolls, it feels as if the brand knows something about yourself that you didn’t believe anyone would know, and you almost can’t resist begging the ad to stop speaking your mind out loud!

#4 Ford Mustang Speed Dating

This ad launched on Valentine’s Day brings together blind dating and common biases about women at the wheel. While pranks in the name of marketing are becoming a bit repetitive, Ford certainly has a right to play in this space and show how any blonde girl can ‘drive stick’ like a pro!

#5 Toyota Mysterious Stories

Yes, more Toyota, and this is actually an app + video campaign. I love this one because it converts a smartphone’s screen into a window onto the most mysterious part of a Toyota. And all the while, reminds us that the car is so reliable that we never really have to look in there…

5 Tips to get started on Made-for-Web video

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Special thanks to my colleague and friend Erwin Baumgartner for contributing to this article.

Made-for-web video ads are becoming widespread. Many brands are finally coming around on the value of video content crafted specifically for the web canvas, and investing an additional hour shooting an ad to create a web version is gradually becoming the norm. Briefs are increasingly being written with the internet audience in mind, and more brands are becoming accustomed to asking their creative agencies “what’s the web version?” when a new idea is presented to them. I find this awesome. It’s another step towards an internet where brands produce content that users want to watch, and everyone wins.

Yet, the term itself “made-for-web video” is quite ambiguous. Many marketers use it simply as a synonym of long form content (as opposed to the traditional 30 sec TVC), and this is the ugly part of the story. If you only remove the constraint of duration from video content, you are still operating within very tight boundaries. If a video ad is terrible, I’d rather swallow it in 30 sec than extending it to any length.

So here are 5 important aspects about made-for-web video content which marketers (and their agencies) should think about in order to really maximize the opportunity.

1. Cross-screen (and mobile-first)

Digest this first: you have no way to know in advance on which device you will meet your target users on a given day. We hear about multi-screening so much that some marketers seem to believe that people are in front of multiple screens all the time, and this is terribly misleading. Consider this: on the first day of a video campaign, the overlap between your desktop viewers and your mobile viewers is almost negligible (obviously it will increase on any subsequent day and taper off after a couple of weeks). The takeaway is: made-for-web content should be optimized to different screen experiences, because content will hit different users on different screens.

Among all screens, mobile should be the first you optimize for, for 2 reasons. First, most of the views (in many, soon most countries) come from mobile. Second, mobile is the canvas offering the most freedom (smartphones can see through cameras, get context via GPS and gyroscopes, etc). At Google we usually say: “If you solve for mobile, you can solve for any screen” (doing the opposite is much harder).

2. Liquid

Besides not knowing in advance on which device you will meet your target audience, you also don’t know when and where it will happen. On TV, you know when your ad is running, so there’s little margin for error. On the web, it’s anytime, anywhere. Targeting micro-moments is the new paradigm of digital marketing, as Sridhar Ramaswamy (Google SVP of Ads) explained in his recent op-ed on WSJ. So think of your content as ‘snackable’, easy to access across web properties, easy to consume, and fit for a wide range of consumer touchpoints.

3. Platform native

While liquid content travels across web properties (e.g. video platform), it is also true that each of these properties is specific in the way users engage and how media works. For example, advertisers are likely to upload their video ads on both YouTube and Facebook (and/or a few other video platforms). However, the best content on, say, YouTube, is content built specifically for YouTube. Consider the latest series of Geico ads (here is an example), all built with the clear intent of being ‘unskippable’ on YouTube. Or the latest video tutorial on “how to let yourself go” (link here), created in a collaboration between Snickers and the YouTube star Jessica Harlow. Obviously these videos will work pretty well on other platforms too (they are ‘liquid’), but they are built for and perform the best on YouTube.

More on this point: different video platforms attract different audiences (e.g. different demos, preferences, etc) and in different touchpoints. Knowing which audience you want to address primarily will tell you where to start creating content. More on this topic in my previous blog post (link here).

4. Participative

Advertising has learned much from film-making. So much, that storytelling has become a mantra, especially since duration of video ads on the web is not a constraint. However, a more meaningful shift in my opinion is from storytelling to ‘story-asking’. Story-asking is about inviting users to build stories together with the narrator. Often, these stories come in the form of themes or interconnected experiences, such as in the case of GoPro (the ‘ask’ from the brand is “capture + share your world”) or Coca-Cola’s “Ahh” campaign. At a more basic level, story-asking is about telling a story that will resonate with users to the point that they will participate with sharing, commenting, etc.

5. The right duration

Finally, I’ll go back to the point of duration. Made for web video ads are often long-form, but are often short-form as well (e.g. ‘bumper ads’ are only a few seconds long, and marketers love them). Many times I’ve been asked what the ideal duration of a video ad is. I generally say: “however much you need to tell your story and persuade the viewer to take some action”. However, having no constraints of duration is no excuse to be prolix. Any presentation coach knows that it’s hard for a presenter to keep an audience’s attention for more than 20 minutes straight. Similarly, for video ads, it’s hard to keep a user’s attention for more than 2 or 3 minutes. Great movies of over 2 hours exist but most are between 90 and 120 min. Great books of over 500 pages exist but most are much shorter. Similarly, great video ads of 10 minutes or more certainly exist, but the sweet spot appears to be between 1 and 2 minutes.

There’s a catch here though… From a user perspective, there’s no such thing as a video ad. If you are serious about made-for-web content, the first barrier to tear down is the one between content and advertising. Eventually, as Kevin Spacey once noted, any differentiation will fall away.