How we consume media has changed drastically in a miniscule period of time. In under a decade, we have moved past a slave-like dependence on live programming, time-shifting past commercials, and relying -- more than ever -- on video-on-demand and "binge viewing" across multiple devices to watch what we want when we want. Undeniably, this has been advantageous to viewers. But it has all but crippled the viability of the television ad. There's no more "after these messages" as television viewers have become experts at evading commercials. And it's costing brands millions in lost revenue. So now what?
One lucrative answer can be found in licensing content -- a boon for both brands and content creators. This can be defined as amateur online content -- viral or not -- that brands and/or media companies have had a careful hand in creating or modifying. It is also identifiable in professional online content (again, viral or otherwise) that is blatantly branded. But for this model to succeed, a steady stream of user-generated content must exist. Also, someone either within an ad agency or brand manager or someone external who knows all of the content platforms must know how to match this onslaught of creativity with brands. In addition, a continued campaign must be forged to entertain consumers organically -- not blatantly. They have become too savvy, refusing to differentiate between televised entertainment and digital entertainment.
The television will never entirely go away
No one's ever hosted a great Super Bowl party that revolved around a 15-inch MacBook resting on the coffee table. But just as the personal electronic device has come to resemble a television, the television, with the advent of the "smart TV," is becoming indistinguishable from the computer, smart phone, and hand held device. As a result, the line between what has typically been categorized as broadcast content and digital content has irrevocably blurred. A recent post on The Atlantic Wire reported that Netflix's instant video service and YouTube accounted for 49.4 percent of all downloaded traffic in North America during peak evening hours -- what used to be referred to as prime time on television. YouTube's own analytics reports report more than one billion unique viewers a month. That accounts for millions of Americans being entertained by streaming media services on an ongoing basis, for whom traditional programing and marketing has been rendered obsolete. As viewers have adapted to new opportunities afforded by technology, brands must adapt its marketing strategies.
The single greatest marketing strategy at present is YouTube -- both for connecting brands directly to consumers and for monetizing consumers' original content. Not pre-rolls, banners, or in-video, etc. Consumers are programming their entertainment with autonomy, closing out the ads as quickly as they appear. YouTube provides unlimited content that ranges from amateurish to professionally commissioned, million dollar productions. One recommendation is to develop a team (internal or outsourced) that can catalogue that content, create and administer legally binding agreements with content creators, and foster relationships with the brands.
One important warning
As a billion dollar industry -- which less than 10 years ago was considered a "throw-in" during negotiations akin to a complimentary air freshener at a car wash -- digital media rights need to be protected. Consumers no longer draw a distinction between watching "Modern Family" live on ABC and watching it on their iPad. Gone is the differentiation between watching an hour's worth of fail videos on YouTube and watching an episode of "The Tonight Show" on television. It's become an imperative to successfully exploit all distribution streams. There's barely a program on television that doesn't possess some form of digital presence -- be it a YouTube channel, Facebook page, dedicated app, or streaming media player. It's essential that all digital rights be negotiated at an optimal rate to offset the loss of revenue from the flailing television industry.
The best part about all of this for brands is that with advanced analytics it's able to quantify the exact number of viewers that are watching its product. Those numbers tower over broadcast television metrics. We all know digital media is the new frontier of marketing, making licensed content more valuable than ever. Content has always been and will remain king. How you get that content and what you do with it continues to be fluid in the digital world.
Andrew Barrett is the director of marketing at ChiWay Entertainment. Co-author Andrew Dignan is the licensing coordinator at Jukin Video.
On Twitter? Follow Barrett at @chiwayent. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.