The digital advertising industry is picking up steam, and one reason is the growth of video advertising, according to a new research report from PQ Media. Anyone who works with video advertising can attest to this growth. Video ads are delivering more benefits because:
The formats and placement channels are expanding. Look at how TikTok has exploded in popularity. It didn’t even exist five years ago.
In the age of TikTok and YouTube, consumers love video as a content format.
At True Interactive, we’re definitely seeing the results of video’s popularity. Recently, one of our clients experienced a challenge: its share of branded search was dropping. The client, a photo curating and sharing company, naturally wanted to improve. So, we launched a video-based awareness campaign that spanned display, YouTube, Google Display Network, connected TV, Yahoo Online Video, Facebook, and Yahoo Display. Our focus: mobile and connected TV. We also ensured that YouTube ads could target connected TV screens.
Our ads consisted of continuous promotions with six-to-seven offers consisting of aggressive pricing and deep discounts across multiple products. We ran:
10 different 15-second videos specific to a product (trimmed from a master 30-second video).
Four 30-second videos.
The ads also focused on mobile users in order to drive downloads of the client’s app.
As a result, our client enjoyed significant improvements in both awareness and also revenue – showing how powerful video can be as a direct-response format in addition to brand awareness:
Meanwhile, the client’s search share increased noticeably for three consecutive months. Mobile and TV screens typically accounted for 65 percent-to-70-percent of video views/Impressions.
So, why did this campaign deliver results? A few reasons stand out:
We began with a large audience (women aged 25-54) with the purpose of hitting as many eyes as possible. That’s because the brand’s low levels of search volume told us that it lacked brand awareness more broadly. Targeting an audience would have been premature.
Incorporating mobile video to drive downloads of the client’s app was well timed with the popularity of in-app usage.
Our approach allowed us to keep CPMs down. The more targeted you are, the more expensive the ad becomes; your CPMs increase when you narrow your audience.
We recommend that businesses take a closer look at how you are using video advertising. How much are you investing into video ads? If you’re not deploying video ads, what’s holding you back? If it’s a lack of in-house creative and media expertise, then a partner can help you.
Contact True Interactive
We deliver results for clients across all ad formats, including video and mobile. To learn how we can help you, contact us.
Just when you thought you had a handle on content streaming (Netflix: check, Disney+: check), a new player has emerged with the potential to shake things up all over again. Backed by a boatload of cash and the imprimatur of Hollywood royalty like Steven Spielberg, Quibi is poised to carve a unique niche in a crowded field. Read on to learn more.
What Is Quibi?
Quibi is a new premium streaming service that imposes a cap on programming time: the name Quibi, in fact, is shorthand for “quick bites” of video. Quibi aims to showcase stories of 10 minutes or less; content is meant to be viewed specifically on one’s mobile phone. The platform, founded by chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, has installed tech vet Meg Whitman as the CEO, and investors include studios like Walt Disney Co. and WarnerMedia.
What Kind of Content Will Be on Quibi?
Given the unique mobile phone focus, Quibi will be generating all new content. As Whitman tells Marketplace, “We will be the first streaming service that launches without a library.” As Whitman sees it, starting from ground zero means an opportunity to create something truly fresh: “We have . . . invested significantly in content. This is all about finding the great stories, attaching the great actors and actresses to it and getting them excited about doing something entirely new.”
Quibi expects to deliver 175 shows and 8,500 episodes in its first year. The content promises to be a diverse mix, from long-form narratives to reality programming, documentaries, food shows, and daily news programs. Given Quibi’s format, the long-form narratives will be delivered in bite-sized chunks, serial fashion (think Dickens and the serial way he delivered novels like Pickwick Papers). Whitman is quick to stress that short format doesn’t mean inferior quality. “Nothing’s lesser about the movies [we’re developing] other than the chapterized way we deliver them,” Whitman says.
Content can be downloaded, so users won’t need an active Internet connection to view programming. And quality of the viewing experience is a prime mandate. As Whitman told Marketplace, “[P]eople are watching a lot of videos on their mobile phone today, but it’s an uneven experience. Sometimes, if you’re holding the phone in portrait, it’s a little postage-stamp size, then you turn it horizontally, it’s got big black lines. Some content is only available in portrait, some is only available in landscape . . . we have to be able to have seamless portrait-to-landscape rotation with full-screen video.” To that end, the company is employing what Whitman calls “compression technology,” and reportedly working with Google to ensure flawless video streams. Whitman also notes, “[W]e shot, obviously, to the aspect ratio of the phone.”
How Is Quibi Different from YouTube and Other Platforms?
As noted, story lengths on Quibi are capped at 10 minutes. And Quibi content has specifically been created for viewing on a mobile phone.
There is a distinction between what Quibi promises and the content made for mobile phones on free platforms like, say, TikTok. Services like TikTok offer user-generated content. By contrast, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke are collaborating with Quibi to create programs designed specifically for viewing via Quibi, sometimes even at certain times: “Spielberg’s After Dark” series will only appear on the service at night, for example. An untitled show devoted to zombies is reportedly being discussed with Guillermo del Toro. User experience will also be informed by how customers hold their phones: changing from vertical to horizon orientation will change what the viewer sees.
Who Is the Target Audience for Quibi?
The target audience is Millennials—ages 18 to 44. The idea is that the platform will especially appeal to consumers on the go: someone waiting in line at the bank, say, or taking a quick bus ride during which 10 minutes of content might be the perfect diversion.
When Does Quibi Launch?
The platform is due to launch in the United States on April 6, 2020, but as Whitman notes, “you don’t have to wait till then to get involved.” On Quibi.com, you can learn about new shows, the technology, and any milestones before launch date. Whitman adds, “We’ll let you know on April 6 when you can download the app from either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.”
What Advertising Opportunities Exist on Quibi?
There will indeed be opportunities for advertisers, as users will be invited to choose between Quibi with or without ads. The service will launch, for viewers in the United States, at $4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 a month without. Whitman shares with Marketplace, “We think that most [consumers] will pick the ad-supported version because it’s a very light ad load. It’s only 2.5 minutes per hour of watching, which is much less than prime time TV, which is 17.5 minutes of advertising for every hour that you watch.” Ads will appear before a Quibi show begins and last six, 10, or 15 seconds. They will be unskippable. Advertisers already onboard include Discover, General Mills, Taco Bell, Walmart, and PepsiCo.
Quibi programming will also come with ratings to help advertisers determine whether a show is geared to mature audiences. At the WSJ Tech Live conference in October 2019, Whitman said, “[Marketers] can feel safe that their brand shows up next to content that they’re OK with.”
And because Quibi programming is structured around serialized chapters, the platform is looking into an alternative where advertisers could serialize their ads, too.
What Kind of Reception Has Quibi Received?
It’s a mixed one. Naysayers insist the endeavor is a gamble, and that the subscription fee will discourage consumers used to video content that can be viewed for free on platforms like YouTube. Katzenberg, however, is confident. “I think we are doing something that is now such a well established consumer habit,” he told NewsDio. “There are 2.5 billion people walking with these televisions in their pocket. They are already watching a billion hours of content every day. I just know that it will work.”
Quibi has tried to get out in front of its critics by building visibility through some (presumably expensive) ads during the 2020 Super Bowls and Oscars.
For context: in 2016, YouTube rolled out bumper ads. These consist of quick advertisements (six seconds) that are shown before a person’s selected video. A viewer must watch them before the video begins. By contrast, an in-stream video ad is the sponsored video that plays before your video selection on YouTube (and across the entire Google Display Network). You can skip an in-stream video ad after five seconds have elapsed.
According to YouTube, More than 90 percent of viewers say they have discovered new brands or products on YouTube. And as we’ve discussed on our blog, these ad formats give businesses the ability to target audiences and measure results. Not only can you target customer segments, but you can see how many of them interacted with your site, subscribed to your YouTube channel, made a purchase, or watched another of your YouTube videos (other than the ad you just showed them). Advertisers can can also see how much of the video ad an audience has watched. Doing so allows advertisers to determine if a video ad is too long, how much of the video a person watches before deciding to skip it, or see what percentage of viewers are tuned in for the entire video ad. All of these results can be determined the very next day.
But not every business has the resources and budget to crank out bumper ads. So at Google’s Marketing Live event, YouTube announced Bumper Machine, which generates six-second videos from longer video assets. Per YouTube,
Bumper Machine relies on machine learning models that are trained to identify interesting, well-structured moments in a longer video, like those that contain product or brand information, human faces, motion or contrast. It organizes these moments and brings them together to generate several different six-second ad variations for you to pick from, all in a matter of minutes. Before saving your new bumper ads, you can adjust them with simple edits.
Here is an example of how GrubHub took a 13-second ad and used Bumper Machine to create the 6-second version:
That’s right: Bumper Machine can configure your own bumper ad by figuring out what elements of a longer ad will work best in the bumper ad format – without human intervention. During a Q&A with viewers watching the Marketing Live event, YouTube product managers Ali Miller and Nick Rose answered some immediate questions:
Does Bumper Machine replace video editors and creatives?
No. One great way to use it is to gain inspiration for what you actually want to finally build as your bumper ad. You can take a look at what six seconds can do with a video and then build a customizable version of the video with all the expertise and creativity that professionals bring. But if you lack a budget and resources, it’s a way to get started with bumpers right away without spending on video production.
What was the insight behind Bumper Machine?
The six-second slot has taken hold as a way to create a compelling narrative. Bumper machine does the heavy work to help you create a six-second narrative
Is a six-second ad enough?
A six-second ad is an effective for telling a quick story. If you can fit in a single message, a joke, or an example of how a product is used, then a six-second bumper is a great way to get a message across. Also, it’s advisable to work with existing formats together to get the best results, such as skippable 30-second ads and True View to increase effectiveness, reach, awareness, and ROI.
With Bumper Machine, how does machine learning examine contextual relevance to determine a coherent message?
YouTube uses machine learning to identify the elements of the ad that will tell a story inside six seconds in the most engaging way — such as close-ups of someone’s face or a brand message. Then YouTube puts the content together to create a cohesive message.
What You Should Do
At True Interactive, we’ve been urging advertisers to adopt a video ad strategy for some time. Think of Bumper Machine as the video equivalent of your own Alexa skill, or an easy-to-use tool that enables an effective way of storytelling. Machine learning makes the formatting of the asset easier – but you still need human judgment to ensure that your ad captures the essence of your brand and is consistent with how you’re telling your story on other ad touch points (which I call creative parity, or consistency).
As with Google’s AI-fueled ad products, I suggest you view it as a tool to help, not as a substitute for actively managing your creative. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We have extensive experience with online advertising and are ready to help.
The resurgence of the Momo Challenge on YouTube – a viral hoax that reportedly encourages self-harm – caused YouTube to demonetize all videos about Momo.
Events of recent days are not the first time YouTube has found itself in the news over the posting of inappropriate content. Two years ago, I blogged about how YouTube’s lax reviewing standards and an easy monetization process resulted in mainstream ads appearing alongside disgusting content such as videos created by extremist groups. Although YouTube has vowed repeatedly to devote more resources to policing its content, obviously the platform is not completely safe.
Of all the firestorms engulfing social media platforms lately, I can’t think of anything that approaches a level of severity than the exploitation of children. But can YouTube stamp out the problem through the measures it has announced?
Meanwhile, as my colleague Kurt Anagnostopoulos noted in a blog post, social media is a messy place for brands to live. No matter what steps YouTube takes, the site will never be free of inappropriate content. I suspect most businesses will tolerate occasional flare-ups so long as they are dealt with swiftly. It’s the pattern of abusive content that causes businesses to pull their ads. For YouTube, gaining and keeping trust will come down to how well the platform stops the flare-ups before a pattern emerges.
For those of you who kept your New Year’s Resolutions: congratulations. Now get ready to break them on February 4, when everyone gathers in front of that big screen to stuff their faces and watch grown men run around and crash into each other during Super Bowl LII. Of course, the unofficial national holiday also includes a huge chunk of the population who could care less about the action on the field (“Who is this Tom Brady? Oh, you mean Giselle Bundchen’s husband?”) and gather in front of the TV to overindulge in wings, nachos, and sweets for the commercials.
Last year, about this time, I wrote a blog post about investing in the power of YouTube advertising, Noting that the cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad was $5 million, I asserted that YouTube could be seen as a replacement for TV advertising. One year later, Super Bowl ads are holding firm at $5 million. Meanwhile, over the last year, YouTube has gotten a lot of flak (rightfully so!) about placement of video ads and banner ads over inappropriate, un-safe, and in some cases downright disturbing content.
Clearly, YouTube has taken some hits.
On January 16, Google announced that the YouTube Partnership Program (YPP) would be updated to address its credibility problem. YPP now requires a channel to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within the last 12 months to be eligible to show ads before or during videos. These new rules will apply to everyone, including existing channels, starting February 20, 2018.
By contrast, under the old rules, having only 10,000 views could make a channel eligible for YPP. That’s it. A total view number as the only real eligibility factor is kind of crazy considering bots could hit that number in a matter of minutes.
The new rules were inevitable after a large number of advertisers threatened to pull out, and, in some cases (I’m speaking from experience) pulled out and STAYED pulled out. Moving forward, YouTube will begin to “closely monitor signals like community strikes, spam and other abuse flags,” which will also help keep those videos/partners who show ads more “brand safe.”
At True Interactive, we are results driven and like to see hard numbers. So here is a hard number: the creators who remain part of the YPP after the new guidelines go into effect make up more than 95 percent of YouTube’s reach for advertisers.
Also note that Google Preferred, which aggregates YouTube’s top 5 percent of content into easy-to-buy packages, will now be manually vetted. In other words, there is an actual person watching these uploaded videos before an ad can be shown. In a blog post, Neal Mohan (chief product officer) and Robert Kyncl (chief business officer) wrote that “99 percent of those affected by the new guidelines were making less than $100 per year in the last year, with 90 percent earning less than $2.50 in the last month.”
Looking back over 2017, you would think that YouTube didn’t do very well. Wrong. The number of channels making over six figures in 2017 were up over 40 percent year-over-year. Even with all of the bad press and advertisers pulling out of showing YouTube video ads, the number of channels making $100K+ last year was up 40 percent! That number alone is proof that TV advertising is starting to go the way of the dodo. Consumers are cutting the cord, and it’s time to get ahead of the competition. Elon Musk said, “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” We are past consumers possibly cutting the cord and are well into the probability of it happening now.
A few years ago, right when I was starting out, I built keywords and wrote ad copy for a big agency. During this time, I learned about “brand protection negatives,” or the phrases that the agency’s client did not want the brand associated with — hence the “brand protection” name. That list of negative keywords was outrageous and would make many people blush. Whenever I need a good laugh, I took a look at this list and wondered about the person who had to sit down and think of these completely inappropriate, NSFW phrases.
I thought about those brand protection negatives earlier this year when Google found itself in hot water as businesses discovered that their advertisements were appearing alongside inappropriate content in the Google Display Network, most notably on YouTube. Big brands such as Starbucks and Walmart pulled their advertising. Reportedly the boycott has cooled off. But the problem of ads appearing alongside inappropriate content on YouTube is not going away. The risk remains real: YouTube is vulnerable.
For context, let’s look at a few revealing statistics:
YouTube reaches over 1 billion users (1/3 of all people on the internet)
YouTube can be navigated in more than 76 different languages (95 percent of the internet population)
There are 300 hours of video uploaded every minute.
The staggering 300 hours of video uploaded every minute results in lot of content flooding YouTube (432,000 hours per day or 157,680,000 hours per year). When one of these videos is uploaded to YouTube, it is put through an editorial process that labels it as G, PG, Teen, or Mature as well as a variety of other groupings (Police/Crime, Acts of Warfare or Violence, Social Issues, Religion, etc.). But it can take some time for Google’s reviewers to complete that process.
Google Has a Problem
The sheer volume of videos that posted on YouTube is reason alone why Google’s problems are far from over. Google reviewers can’t keep up with the number of hours of videos uploaded. As a result, the review process is, to a degree, automated — which results in videos being mislabeled or missing a label. In addition, reviewing and approving a video also makes it possible for the video to qualify for monetization (via the YouTube Partner Program), meaning that the video may accept advertising. Currently, YouTube requires a YouTuber to have 10,000 lifetime views to monetize their YouTube channel. Now, that may seem like a lot of views, but it’s a lifetime view count, which means I can create 10 videos that each get 1,000 views, 20 videos that get 500 views apiece, 50 videos that get 200 views apiece, and so on. Once that 10,000-view count is hit, all channel videos begin to be monetized.
The lax reviewing standards coupled with a fairly easy monetization process can lead to some unfortunate situations, as the following example shows. In March, James Dean of The Times tweeted a troubling image:
In this example, an Oracle image ad was placed over a video for an extremist group. Obviously, as part of the brand safety process I mentioned at the beginning, Oracle would want this type of video excluded. But why did this video specifically qualify as part of the monetization process? The answer: tough to say. In some instances, videos are uploaded and disapproved because of a single word in the video title (e.g. “dead” or “death”) but in other cases, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, a video may have a racial slur in the title or description and still get approved. What’s ironic — and probably should have been expected — is that once these stories began to pop up back in March, YouTube went to the extreme and began demonetizing large amounts of content without any warning — and in some cases prematurely.
A Flawed Process
Clearly, if YouTube is going to monetize a video, they need to be more vigilant as to where those dollars originate. Essentially, in the example from James Dean, YouTube made money off a video that supports terrorism. How did that video get monetized? How did the reviewers not catch that? When there are so many hours of video and so much money involved, not to mention YouTube’s belief in free speech, it’s easy to understand why videos such as these slip through the cracks.
Google Goes to Extremes
YouTube went to the extreme when it came to demonetizing videos. For example, consider the case of Real Women, Real Stories, created by Matan Uziel. The goal of his channel is to give women the opportunity to give voice to their stories of survival from trauma; ranging from physical abuse to sex trafficking. This channel is a noble endeavor of survival and resolve, if ever there was one. Uziel uses the funds from ads on the channel to direct and produce future videos. But, one day, out of nowhere, all funds ceased because his videos got caught up in the demonetization process that YouTube began. His videos don’t support hate speech (just the opposite in fact). But nonetheless, the content addressed a subject that Google didn’t want on YouTube. Uziel has seen ad revenue slowly come back as the YouTube algorithm “learns where they should show ads, and where they should not” says Jamie Byrne, a director of enterprise at YouTube.
The examples I have cited represent just two instances out of thousands, maybe even millions that occur daily. We have given YouTube (and Display networks in general) the benefit of the doubt over the years because “it’s a new product,” “it’s not a science,” or “it’s difficult to monitor.” But, if Google is rolling out a product that can track brick-and-mortar purchases at your nearest Wendy’s back to your double-bacon cheeseburger search, then Google needs to find a consistent and responsible way to protect brands from advertising on videos that push violence, hate speech, or any other topic that goes against a company’s corporate belief.
But, we need to remember that YouTube would have to hire more than 75,000 employees to watch video for 40 hours a week to manually review every minute of every video uploaded. That scenario is unrealistic. So, advertisers, as well as consumers, need to be aware that Google’s ad problem will never go away.
Digital video is hotter than ever for brands. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau Video Ad Spending Study, advertisers are spending on average more than $9 million annually on digital video advertising (a 67-percent increase from two years ago), and video represents more than 50 percent of their digital/mobile ad spending.
The IAB report is based on a survey of brands and agencies across a wide spectrum of industries ranging from automotive to telecom. Most of the respondents plan to invest more into both digital and mobile video over the next 12 months. Many will fund their investments into video by reallocating their television budgets, and most respondents believe that original digital video content reaches an audience that TV cannot reach. They also prefer video because of the quality of the environment and overall effectiveness of reaching an audience.
These findings don’t surprise me. My own client experiences suggest that advertisers are also drawn to the measurability and audience segmentation possible with digital video compared to TV advertising. As I wrote on the True Interactive blog, not only can you target customer segments with online video, but you can see how many of them interacted with your site, subscribed to your YouTube channel, made a purchase, or watched another of your YouTube videos (other than the ad you just showed them). Not only can advertisers see the different interactions of an audience, but they can also see how much of the video ad that they watched.
To maximize the value of online video, I suggest that advertisers:
Develop an interactive video strategy tied to your branding goals and aligned with the behavior of your customers. Map out your customers’ journeys throughout the digital world and figure out how interactive video will best move your customers from the awareness to consideration to purchase and retention. In the healthcare profession, for instance, medical providers use interactive video to educate potential patients on topics such as wellness care, which raises awareness for providers when customers are researching topics such as proper dieting or exercising.
Understand the nuances of using video — both paid and organic — across different platforms. “Video” can mean many things to different brands, ranging from a bumper ad on YouTube to a Facebook Livestream. According to a recently released report from think tank L2, video formats provide different advantages depending on what platform you use. Instagram content provides higher levels of engagement compared to other platforms, Facebook provides incredible reach, and YouTube is better for longer-form video content that lends itself to episodic storytelling.
In addition, it’s important to stay on top of this fast-changing format. The different platforms are constantly introducing new features as they attempt to gain an advantage on each other, and advertisers that stay in the know will seize a first-mover advantage. On the True Interactive blog, we regularly discuss how to succeed with video (as shown by this example about livestreaming). Other useful resources include the blogs from platforms such as YouTube and third-party content from institutes such as the IAB. How are you capitalizing on interactive video?