Video advertising is killing it
According to the Adap.TV + Digiday 2013 Q4 "State of the Video Industry Report," 86 percent of brands anticipate an increase in video ad spend in 2014. That's because people love watching video. The report goes on to say that:
- Sixty percent of buyers will be purchasing programmatically across all screens in 2014
- Seven out of 10 agencies are buying mobile video today
- CPMs have risen 7 percent YOY; inventory availability also has increased by more than 33 percent
The trick with video ads, like with viral ads, is to focus on great, shareable content first and then pay for it to be seen. I think of it as pushing a boat from a stream to a river to an ocean. Every video starts in the stream but wants to get to the ocean.
So you pay to push it as far down the stream as makes budgetary sense. If people like it, they'll share it for free -- and free costs nothing.
People think you're cool
The average guy or gal's perception of the ad industry is that it's a very cool place to be. And it is. People in advertising right now are living through and helping initiate an epic transformation in how products are discovered, bought, and sold. There's never been a time where ad folks have had greater opportunities to be more creative and have a greater impact on the world, across more mediums, whether you're an advertiser, an agency, a creative, in media planning, ad tech, or any other part of the industry.
OK, so you don't get to smoke cigarettes and drink martinis all day, but our new offices have a keg on tap, you can drink all the coffee you want, and marijuana's practically legal in Los Angeles, so maybe that'll become the face of the new Mad Man or Woman -- drunk, wired, and stoned.
How cool are you?
I was actually at Best Buy the other day getting my laptop fixed by the Geek Squad (awesome name and branding). The Geek asked what I do, and when I said I run an online ad agency, he was very interested.
Soon the whole store gathered around and listened, as I told tall tales of advertising lore. They dimmed the lights, gave me a microphone, and broadcast me on the video wall. I look particularly handsome on the Samsung models...just saying.
Ads don't have to be afraid to be ads; they just have to be good
In the words of Mitch Hedberg,"There's turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami. Someone needs to tell the turkey, 'Man, just be yourself.'"
I often get briefs that go something like this:
"We want to make a video ad that doesn't overtly sell our product. In fact, let's not even put the product in there anywhere or mention the brand, so people won't know who it's from and get scared and think it's an ad, but we need them to still know about the product, and we need to reflect our brand values and sell a lot of product."
If you've decided to make an ad, make an ad. It's still the most direct way to drive call to action and sales. The trick is to make ads entertaining, informative, or educational...and funny always works. Then they get shared.
Consumers are very savvy to the ways of advertisers, and they know when an ad's an ad, so stop trying to disguise it.
Social media ads are taking off
Just about every major social media channel out there now has multiple forms of advertising where you can pay to reach the platforms' audiences, with very specific targeting options.
With Facebook's organic reach numbers dropping down to as low as 12.6 percent in some cases, (according to an October 2013 Edgerank Checker study), paid promotion is a great way to go when organic content, sharing, creativity, and social chit chat still isn't enough to push your message and drive sales.
Facebook offers ad types that include promoted domain ads, page post links, page "likes," page post photos, page post videos, page post texts, mobile app downloads, desktop app downloads, events, and offers all designed to either boost traffic and leads, increase "likes" and engagement, increase downloads, or push people to a real-world event.
Targeting even gets as specific as advertising to "people who have returned from a trip exactly one week ago." Crazy, man.
In June, Twitter was apparently testing an upcoming "Buy Now" button in tweets by the shopping site Fancy. I love the directness of the call to action and the transparency of the advertising approach itself. There are no shenanigans, chicanery, or tomfoolery going on here. No "click-here-to-be-taken-somewhere-else-first" button. This is the "Buy Now" button. The tweets were soon taken down, but let's keep our fingers crossed that Twitter rolls this feature out for keeps.
Other top social media channels that offer advertising options include:
My preference is a combination of paid social media advertising and organic, or earned social media, with the idea that you pay for a certain amount of attention, but then the quality of your content reaches enough of the right people that they begin sharing on their own -- which is free!
Analytics and measurement are helping advertisers measure online advertising ROI
One of the big sticking points for advertisers jumping whole hog into online advertising is that social media and shareable content, like videos and blogging, are the return on investment.
Thanks to a number of great analytics companies like Moz, HubSpot, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite, combined with ad analytics provided by individual ad channels and Google Analytics, advertisers and agencies are beginning to connect the dots between actions, reactions, and results in terms of dollars spent versus dollars earned.
The Wild West days of online advertising are nearing an end, and CEOs, CFOs, and CMOs are looking for quantifiable results.
The trick to getting a return is to:
- Establish your projected ROI first, and work backwards to your online ad budget. How much do you want to make?
- Factor in elements like online ad spend and creative, and if applicable, digital strategy, social media, video, content, contests, and digital PR execution, and predict how much of the resulting traffic and leads will be organic (free) versus paid ($$).
- Look at how much No. 2 adds up to, and if it's less than No. 1, with the right strategy and execution, you'll get a return on investment. If No. 2 adds up to more than No. 1, you need to rethink one or the other before passing go.
Branded entertainment is fun and huge
With huge brands like Red Bull making branded entertainment, I'm seeing a return to the old Texaco Star Theatre days of "brought to you by" advertising, where the only reference to a brand or product is that its brought to you by that brand or product, or, in the case of Red Bull, its logo is plastered everywhere, but in a cool, consistent way.
Other than that, it's game on. When Texaco Star Theatre brought you "The Milton Berle Show," the audience had to endure a quick Texaco sketch and a jingle at the top, which they likely enjoyed and hummed to themselves all day while vacuuming the house in their finest clothes and high heels. But after that, they just gave you free shows for the price of accepting that there's a brand called Texaco and maybe you'll stop in for some of its gas the next time you're running out of gas.
I'm a huge fan of the "brought to you by" approach, especially with video, because it allows the content to be itself, separate from the brand. When you put too many constraints on creativity and demand that a product message follow through everything, you limit your creative options and run the risk of turning perfectly enjoyable and shareable videos into standard, boring TV ads.
TV is still going strong
Like it or not, TV ads work, and if you're in TV advertising or commercial production, you like it -- a lot. Even with stiff competition from Netflix, Hulu, devices like Apple TV and Google Chromecast, sites like Project Free TV, and the ability to DVR right through them, ads keep getting made and keep driving sales.
I don't know if it's that most people are still too dumb to know they don't have to watch ads, they actually enjoy them, or they're suffering from some sort of Stockholm Syndrome where they've become so attached to ads they know that the ads left the front door open and are taking a nap but they still can't find the courage or desire to walk out.
The smarter ads tie their offline efforts in with their online efforts via social media references, hashtags, and promotions that push viewers online so they can click the "Buy Now" button.
Where there is confusion, there is opportunity
The ad industry is going through a major shift in which advertisers are becoming very savvy about advertising. At the same time, ad agency professionals are being bombarded with a constant parade of new options, strategies, platforms, vehicles, terminology, and outlets.
Remember Gangnam Style? My agency's email rang off the hook with brands, businesses, and startups that wanted to do a Gangnam Style parody. Vine takes off...everyone wants a Vine video.
We still get calls daily from advertisers that want to make a video go viral, but aren't clear on their definition of, or expected results from, going viral. Yes, viral is a thing and no, you shouldn't be afraid of it. You just have to define expectations and set measurable goals, then create a campaign that will meet those goals. If viral means 100,000 targeted views in your small, B2B niche, and you hit the goal, then you went viral. The next questions would be, did those views result in exposure, awareness, increased traffic, and, most importantly, did you sell anything from those views?
So the opportunity is in demystifying the options, separating the shiny new things from the things that work, and realizing that advertising tactics that work for one brand, product, business, or startup don't always work for another. So you need to start from the beginning, establish goals, back into tactics and creative, and develop a unique approach for each campaign.
Side note: The visual of being "bombarded with a parade" makes me think of an entire Macy's Day Parade being dropped from a giant transport plane on some unsuspecting army somewhere in the world. No parachutes. Talk about the element of surprise.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.