Videos are quickly becoming requisite for showcasing your brand, just like websites before them. Forget about those heavy, expensive video cameras used 20 years ago back when websites were the latest and greatest emerging marketing tool for reaching customers. Those cameras were a pain to lug around, you needed lots of tapes, and editing was pretty much impossible for a layperson. Fortunately, video production and marketing is cheaper, faster, and more powerful than ever today.
Think about the cost and difficulties involved with getting aerial footage for a commercial just 10 years ago, for example. At the very least, you’d need a helicopter, a pilot, a special helicopter camera and operator, and an incredible amount of time and money for a full day of filming. To put things in perspective, you can capture the same shot today in a single afternoon using a drone that fits in a backpack for a fraction of the cost.
New technology has also improved what happens after filming. The internet provides incredible new outlets for distribution that never existed before, making it more likely for people to encounter your brand online than through older forms of media like television. What’s more, after people click, technology allows you to track thousands of data points that will inform your next campaign.
Technology Takes Video Back to the Future
Remember the movie “Back to the Future Part II”? One scene in that film predicted the future of video advertising with eerie accuracy: Futuristic ads overwhelm Marty McFly as he wanders through the city square. A virtual shark advertising “Jaws 19” jumps out of a marquee and bites him. Then, a virtual screen pops up out of nowhere to advertise flying cars.
When the movie came out in 1989, this was sci-fi. Now, it's close to reality.
For advertisers selling an experience, virtual reality will be incredibly powerful. Movies shot in 3D are becoming commonplace, and VR headsets grow in popularity and capability every day. And the truth is, a 2D poster for a new Jaws movie isn't nearly as compelling as a VR shark attack, is it?
There’s plenty of space for marketers to pioneer when it comes to VR. According to a 2017 Channel report by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, only 8 percent of marketers use VR, and 7 percent use augmented reality. Moreover, Samantha Merlivat, an analyst at Forrester, says that scale is the only thing holding VR back at the moment, but that it is going to be a transformative tool for brands that are technologically prepared.
"Once it hits a certain scale," Merlivat says, "it will make things more interesting for everybody."
“Back to the Future Part II” also predicted 360-degree video. After Marty's shark attack, he turns around and sees yet another ad on a hovering hologram. The whole city square is a 360-degree experience. Modern advertisers are getting hip to the fact that viewers can look in more than one direction, presenting a huge realm of possibilities for marketers.
BMW was one of the first companies to truly harness the power of this technology. Its short video “Eyes on Gigi Hadid - BMW (360° Experience a Virtual Reality)” holds your attention while also giving direction. Many early attempts at 360-degree videos were relatively mindless, allowing the viewer look around aimlessly, hoping to find something cool. BMW's ad allows freedom while keeping viewers focused.
Here’s a breakdown of how BMW did it:
- Title — Everything is in the title: Keep your eyes on Gigi. Keeping your eyes on a supermodel in a red dress isn't much of a challenge, but the viewer still needs to stay engaged. If you don't keep clicking, Gigi wanders off the screen and you miss the action.
- Sound effects — Sound plays a huge role in holding attention in 360-degree videos. In case you fall asleep at the wheel, Gigi grabs your attention by saying, "Hey, over here!"
- Use of space — People don't spin around in circles as they walk down the street. Similarly, in 360-degree videos, just because people can look in all directions doesn't mean they will. BMW's video uses all available space while remaining focused and realistic.
As this fairly evolved and sophisticated example illustrates, filming a video in 360 degrees doesn't automatically make it interesting; the experience must be thoughtfully planned out.
Optimizing New Trends Using Old Standards
These new tools can be both exciting and overwhelming. New technology opens doors for advertisers to try all kinds of crazy ideas, but with those doors open to everyone now, there is a seemingly endless amount of competing content out there.
Here are some guiding principles to help you adjust to this completely new video marketing landscape:
- Look to the past — it reflects the future.
When I feel lost in the sea of new trends and ideas, I always look to the past. Before you try to reinvent the wheel, learn what has worked for advertisers of old. A good understanding of your industry's past will help you set up a good foundation for your advertising efforts.
Start small. Don't try to create the ultimate VR video experience if your brand doesn't even have a 2D commercial yet. Even older technology has a certain charm that can capture attention in today's marketplace. The Law Office of Barry E. Janay has seen tremendous success in the past six months, for instance, with this ad, which offers a new take on old-fashioned silent films.
- Focus on the present — it’s just getting started.
Video’s vast untapped potential in terms of affordability, distribution, and information tracking presents an opportunity for smaller brands to make a splash among the bigger fish. Hosting videos on Vimeo and YouTube is free, so you can gain the mainstream attention you deserve without spending your life's savings to test the waters.
Look at modern ads. They're everywhere, but they're also much shorter. For online ads, 30 seconds is an eternity, opening up even more possibilities for smaller brands. Short ads are cheaper. You can now create several commercials, air all of them online around the clock, and fine-tune your brand’s marketing efforts with the data you gather on their performance.
Geico does this very effectively. Its commercials play on every platform, consistently, and they're all really short and unique.
- Think beyond the future.
Audiences grow numb to even the best ad campaigns. Novelty captures attention. That’s why you'll never see the same ad run during two consecutive Super Bowls. Each year, brands hire the best and spend the most to create ads to make a big impact. And the next year, they do it all over again.
Advertisers can never rest on past accomplishments or simply rely on what is working today. Retaining an audience’s attention requires staying one step ahead of them with exciting new developments like 360-degree video, VR, and all other emerging technology.
As psychologist and author Fitzhugh Dodson said, "Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail without a destination."
Don’t embark on this journey without a clear itinerary. If you set sail with a destination in mind, you’ll find an ocean of possibilities in video marketing. Decide what your brand’s goals are, and then dive into all of the wondrous new technological options for getting there via video.
Daniel Marlow, founder and chief creative officer at Lemonlight Media, has helped brands produce more than 4,000 videos in the past three years. His portfolio includes work from Hyatt, Fila, Wayfair, T.J. Maxx, and countless others. Prior to Lemonlight, Daniel won Best Documentary at the Eureka Springs Film Festival.