Video Upfronts Marketplace: New video empires
"How cool was that?!" belted Google's Hamish Nicklin as he showcased some of the most memorable, funny, touching and downright weird videos from YouTube to an audience of advertisers and content producers. "You all loved that! I watched your faces!"
And quite right; upon watching videos of awe-inspiring wildlife, Charlie bit my finger, and Gangnam Style (there really is no escape), the packed room of 200 or so was laughing, cooing and undeniably enthralled as the very first Video Upfronts Marketplace got underway. And the point is, video content has never been more interesting, available and in demand. It's a hugely exciting landscape full of opportunities.
However, Nicklin was keen to demonstrate that YouTube is about much more than just amusing or home- made clips. It is innovation, consistency and collaboration. YouTube, he says, has become a professional and controlled broadcasting platform; a gateway for brands to advertise alongside and create their own original content.
The event, run by MediaTel, witnessed many more examples as a series of presentations and panel debates showcased the exciting and ever-growing world of online video, and how brands and advertisers should be utilising it during a time of rapid digital evolution.
And it's evolving fast, as Andrew Bradford, vice president of client consulting at Nielsen pointed out in his scene setter: demand for online video is outstripping supply. TV may still rule the roost, but online is growing massively and we're watching more content than ever before.
The rise and power of online video
Hot on Nicklin's heels was Philip DeBevoise, President and co-founder of Machinima - a unique YouTube channel focussed largely on gaming, which has an average of 202 million unique views, largely from males aged 13-35, each month worldwide.
Such is the sheer appetite and turnover of new content we were even treated with an exclusive: shots of new sci-fi pilots that Machinima and film producer legend Ridley Scott have teamed up to create. It's about as high profile as you get for content production, and neatly proves a point: online video has evolved. It has more money, it has unique new talent making and starring and it's created an ocean of new branding possibilities - much more targeted than traditional broadcast or film content.
Michael Bayler - who was chairing the event for the day - noted that through online video the entire concept of a fan-made channel, Machinima is on its way to becoming a "global empire."
Online content is generating unique audiences, Bayler noted, and this is why it works so well for marketers. Take the example of the "One Direction of YouTube," as introduced by Dominic Smales, managing director of Gleam digital.
Here, he was talking about the weird and wonderful world of vlogging - or video blogging - which has taken the online world, perhaps under the noses of many, by storm. And it would seem that amidst the beauty regimes and '50 facts about me' videos that can reach up to 250,000 views in just a few days, vlogging is not just a platform of entertainment, but also a great opportunity for brands and advertisers.
The average banner click-through rate is just 0.1%. When a popular vlogger - known to her 1 million plus subscribers as Zoella - did a Topshop haul and offered viewers the chance to win a £500 Topshop gift voucher if they clicked on the ad below, the click-through rate boomed to 40%. It's almost unheard of and you could hear it in the mutterings of the audience.
Why? Because the online audience is grown organically and because the vloggers are 'real people'. There is a deep, implicit trust that goes hand-in-hand with that and it's a goldmine for brands that use it properly.
Seizing the opportunity
Channel 5's digital media director James Tatam and vlogger Lily Melrose joined Nicklin and DeBevoise to take part in a panel debate that focused on life beyond the major broadcasters.
Tatam was quick to jump in by saying that the rise of online video is "very exciting, and the way that it's adding to the traditional viewing landscape is fascinating." He too, agreed that it's a great opportunity for advertisers to reach audiences.
With mobile being Channel 5's biggest platform for VOD, Tatam explained that it is vital that brands and advertisers get online video right across a number of platforms. Just 25% of the channel's VOD views come from PC - signalling a rapid decline of PC viewership.
DeBevoise, however, didn't see the issue facing advertisers as the screen grows smaller and more mobile.
"Video is video is video," he said. "Wherever it is, the brand should be there. It should not limit itself to any one platform."
Yet it surely is an issue: the content might be fine, but can you effectively advertise around it when you're using a mobile device? If the content is to lead you somewhere, will it be optimised for mobile? These are questions thrown up time and time again and seem to cause a headache for many advertisers.
Making online video advertising work
For advertisers, Martin Ash, account manager of media and digital and Millward Brown, outlined the complications that present themselves across the online video landscape, with frequency being a real challenge for brands.
To succeed, Ash said that the brand needs to be well integrated into the video and that content should typically be no longer than 30 seconds, which is something that Trevor Beattie recently proclaimed the death of - saying that ads should either be no longer than five seconds, or at least 60 seconds.
Alex Craven, director sales strategy at Videology, followed by saying that all screens are not equal in terms of performance delivery against a given metric, reach and cost. For brands and advertisers to make the most of online video, they need to converge media platforms, prove audiences and demonstrate ROI.
Matthew Breen, head of video at Havas media, also suggested that one of the biggest problems for agencies is how to measure whether video works - to which Ash said he'd be surprised if any of the clients that Videology works with actually knows why they're doing video.
"Certain brands just don't have enough to say about themselves to use video," shrugged Ash.
"Video allows brands to be individuals and explain themselves better, but some brands just aren't exciting enough," added Craven.
The industry is used to buying an audience, but online video has changed the game.
Ash and Craven both agreed that there is no case to prove that content delivers in the long run for brands and advertisers, however Breen disagreed and used Red Bull as an "extreme but brilliant example" of a successful brand that people understand, whether they're consumers of the product or not. "They live and breathe their brand," Breen said.
Yet, Ash said, Evian water lost a quarter of their sales despite a hugely popular (viral) campaign...
...So perhaps brands need to take a leaf (or wings) out of Red Bull's book if they want to really engage audiences and cement longevity of engagement. Or perhaps it's the vlogger that advertisers need to latch on to...whatever the answer, the morning sessions undoubtedly demonstrated the growing power of online video, and gave brands and advertisers some serious thinking points.