YouTube: The Streaming Ad Giant

YouTube: The Streaming Ad Giant

YouTube

Who knew? YouTube is an advertising giant in the streaming industry. And YouTube is becoming increasingly vital as more people stay at home and stream content in light of recent news events.

According to App Annie, in 2019, YouTube made a whopping $15 billion on ads alone. The news comes courtesy of Alphabet (the parent company of Google): for the first time since Google acquired YouTube in 2006, Alphabet has released YouTube’s ad revenue. And the figures are staggering, accounting for almost 10 percent of Google’s overall $161 billion revenue in 2019.

Why This Matters

The news is important because it underlines YouTube’s dominance in an increasingly crowded arena. As App Annie points out, on Android phones, about 70 percent of time spent on the top five video streaming apps worldwide was on YouTube. The platform, a pioneer in the world of video streaming, continues to hold its own. That’s telling. As Forbes notes, “In a market where new streaming video services seem to spring up overnight, YouTube isn’t losing viewers or ad money.”

Also notable: while many of the top apps are Chinese brands, enjoying strong support in China, YouTube isn’t active in the Chinese market—and yet it is still number one in rankings measuring time spent on the top streaming platforms. By a significant margin.

How YouTube Does It

So how is YouTube achieving this cash cow status?

  • For one, YouTube delivers an audience, and you need an audience to attract advertisers. As Lifewire points out, YouTube is one of the most popular sites in the world. It’s arguably the favorite video-sharing and viewing site on the web today, offering a range of long- and short-form free content. And as Lifewire notes, “Youtube.com is the second most popular website in both the global market and in the U.S for 2020, even though a huge portion of YouTube views are from outside the U.S.”
  • But YouTube also does something else: it continuously offers advertisers attractive products. As we’ve blogged in the past, YouTube’s Masthead ad format for TV allows brands to connect with consumers the instant users access the YouTube app on their televisions. The Masthead format is a response to the fact that while consumers aren’t watching as much linear TV, they are still using their televisions as a tool for experiencing streaming platforms like YouTube. In other words, YouTube understands viewing trends, and is staying nimble in its bid to connect with advertisers in an informed way.

What Can Be Learned from YouTube’s Success?

We can draw two conclusions from YouTube’s enduring popularity:

  • First, streaming platforms, especially Netflix, cannot help but notice how well an ad-supported format on YouTube has been working. Netflix—and other competing platforms—certainly must be feeling more pressure to create advertising products. And that’s good news for brands. (I blogged about Netflix’s potential adoption of advertising in this post, “Why Netflix Might Embrace Advertising.”)
  • Second, YouTube’s growth likely bodes well for apps like Quibi (another destination for streaming video that relies on ads). Quibi is endeavoring to carve a niche in a crowded field; YouTube shows them what’s possible, and arguably creates an environment ripe for inspiration.

Clearly, streaming platforms offer an attractive opportunity to advertisers. Note also that in light of recent events, it is expected that more people will turn to streaming platforms such as YouTube. Per a blog post from PMG, “Popular media platforms such as YouTube and Tik Tok will also likely see a monumental boost as kids and teens spend more time online and at home” during temporary school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. YouTube, with its combination of innovation and reliability, is proving to be a model for succeeding with ad-supported shorter-form streaming. In its quiet bid for dominance, YouTube has become a leader.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about YouTube, and the opportunities that exist for advertisers in the streaming community? Contact us.

Quibi, the Newest Disruptor: Advertiser Q&A

Quibi, the Newest Disruptor: Advertiser Q&A

Advertising Video

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.

Not all watchers have been impressed, as this Verge article discusses.

There’s no denying Quibi has attracted some heavyweights to create content. Will consumers be willing to pay for that content? Only time will tell.

Contact True Interactive

Curious about Quibi and the opportunities this new platform affords? Contact us.

How the Streaming Wars Benefit Brands

How the Streaming Wars Benefit Brands

Advertising

How will the streaming wars affect the way businesses market themselves in 2020?

This question looms large. A growing number of streaming services, including Apple TV+ and Disney+, now compete with already established players Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix. More services, including one coming from AT&T, are on the way. All of them cater to a younger audience that is notoriously indifferent to ads, which helps explain why most – but not all — streaming services remain ad-free. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for businesses to market themselves through streaming services.

Ad-Supported Tiers

So far, Hulu remains the only major streaming company that offers an ad-supported tier, which costs $5.99 a month. (To watch content ad-free on Hulu, viewers need to shell out $11.99 per month.) Hulu tightly controls ad formats to prevent them from being too intrusive, keeping commercial breaks short. In addition, Hulu is said to be experimenting with different types of ads, such as banner ads that appear when viewers pause their content – making Hulu resemble YouTube as a content-watching option. An ad-supported tier apparently works for Hulu. A recent New York Times article reported that the $5.99 tier is Hulu’s most lucrative one:

Even though it charges $6, the service generates more than $15 in revenue per subscriber each month, because of the high-cost advertising sold against those customers, according to two people familiar with the business.

Advertising grew by 45-percent for Hulu in 2018.

In addition, pressure is mounting for Netflix to provide an ad-supported tier, which Netflix does not offer at the moment. But Netflix might cave in because of rising content creation costs and increased competition. A recent stock downgrade by a prominent financial analyst ratcheted up the pressure.

I believe that Netflix will eventually provide advertising (more about that here). For now, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you’re the type of brand that understands how to capitalize on YouTube ad formats (such as YouTube Masthead), consider the ad tools that Hulu is developing. For instance, Hulu offers “binge watch ads,” which, as the name implies, target people who like to watch multiple programs in one sitting. As reported in TechCrunch,

These “binge watch ads” utilize machine learning techniques to predict when a viewer has begun to binge watch a show, then serves up contextually relevant ads that acknowledge a binge is underway. This culminates when the viewer reaches the third episode, at which point they’re informed the next episode is ad-free or presents a personalized offer from the brand partner.

Expect Hulu to provide more creative ways for brands to attract eyeballs.

Watch Hulu closely. The company’s development of an ad tier may point a way forward for Netflix and other competitors.

Co-Branding

Businesses can brand themselves in other ways beyond traditional advertising, such as having their products placed on shows. Here again, Hulu provides an example of how to do it. According to The New York Times, Hulu has a team dedicated to working with businesses to have their products appear on Hulu programming, with the number of paid arrangements increasing 200 percent from 2018 to 2019.

But Netflix is also cozying up to brands (although it is not monetizing those arrangements as aggressively as Hulu has done). For the Netflix hit show Stranger Things, Netflix has struck 75 co-branding deals, which typically provide Netflix exposure and licensing fees (although they are not product placements, per se). Recently, Netflix and sandwich chain Subway made it possible for Subway to offer a Green Eggs and Ham Sub, an homage to a new Netflix series “Green Eggs and Ham,” which is based on the Dr. Seuss book. The sandwich, in effect, acted as an advertising play for both Netflix and Subway. The awareness included strong digital branding, examples being promotions on Subway’s Instagram and Twitter.

Many other examples abound. For instance, clothing company Diesel paid a licensing fee to Netflix in order to manufacture outfits inspired by the popular Netflix show, La Casa de Papel. Diesel capitalized on the power of digital to run online ads that connected the brand to the show:

 

The Netflix-Diesel relationship is a win-win, generating licensing revenue for Netflix and culturally relevant branding for Diesel.

Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, is no stranger to co-brands. The service, like Hulu, courts product placement opportunities. For example, snack brand Too Yumm! Recently struck a deal with Amazon Prime Video to have its products integrated into a sports drama thriller Inside Edge 2. Amazon recently struck a deal to have Cheerios placed in episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as well.

As these examples show, the growth of streaming services does not mean the demise of advertising and branding – far from it. In fact, as the Diesel and Subway examples demonstrate, streaming services create online advertising and organic branding through platforms ranging from Instagram to YouTube. In addition, a new survey from the Trade Desk and YouGov indicates that consumers of streaming services are open to advertising in exchange for lower prices.

In 2020, expect streaming services to generate more advertising and marketing opportunities as businesses look for creative ways to court audiences online.

Contact True Interactive

To make online advertising work for you, contact True Interactive. We’re an independent agency that optimizes branded interactions to drive traffic and increase sales.

 

8 Digital Advertising Predictions for 2020

8 Digital Advertising Predictions for 2020

Advertising

Google takes control of advertising. More businesses feel the heat over consumer privacy. Voice search gets smarter. These are among the trends influencing digital advertising in 2020, according to True Interactive. Here’s a sample of what’s on our minds:

1 Google Takes Control of Advertising

Google is taking away manual control of Google Advertising with the removal of the average position metric and by continuing to implement automated bidding tools and metrics such as top impression share that make measuring search ranking less transparent. As a result, CPCs are going up.

Going forward, Google will continue to push automated bidding strategies. Google’s rationale is that its algorithms are smarter, making it possible for Google to adjust bids per auction. But smarter bids are not necessarily less costly ones in the short term, and there is still much trepidation by marketers in handing total control over to Google, who stand stands to profit from an increase in CPCs and overall spend. Bottom line: as Google continues to make manual bidding more challenging, advertisers will be forced to buy into automated bidding with less transparency.  Expect CPCs to increase at least in the short term as businesses hand more control over to Google.

— Beth Bauch, senior manager

2 The CCPA Throws Down the Hammer on Big Tech

By July 2020, we will see the first major lawsuit against one of the big technology firms – likely Facebook or Google – over a violation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA, which goes into effect January 1, is evolving. Businesses are still figuring out its vagaries and requirements. Google and Facebook are in interesting and vulnerable position because they touch so much audience data for businesses, increasing their risk level. And we know Facebook’s track record for privacy violations, don’t we? Watch for it: a major lawsuit will happen that forces businesses to come to terms with the CCPA.

— Tim Colucci, vice president

3 Netflix Adopts Advertising

Netflix will need to adopt some form of advertising. Netflix has achieved phenomenal growth, to be sure. But the entertainment company also faces unprecedented threats with Disney+ and, eventually, Apple+ once Apple figures out a long-term strategy that works. (Apple has a lot of cash and time to get Apple+ right. Just wait.)

In addition, the cost of creating content is putting Netflix in an interesting bind: when Netflix has a hit show, it has to spend more money to accommodate audience demand, creating even more costs. On top of all that, for the first time in a long time, Netflix has reported drops in membership levels.

Netflix will likely introduce a less-expensive ad-based model, but the company will also do something it has avoided pursuing: product placements in shows like Stranger Things, which popularized brands such as Kellogg’s Eggos without earning Netflix a dime in return. Those days will come to an end as Netflix responds to pressure from investors to cover its costs and respond to the threat of Disney.

— Héctor Ariza, manager

4 Voice Search Gets Smarter and More Useful

I’ve written often about the rise of voice search, and I continue to see more people using their voices to find things with their smart speakers, phones, and in-car devices. But what’s changing is that people are getting more comfortable buying things, not just searching for things, with their voices. That’s happening because as we get accustomed to the ease of using our voices to manage our lives, we are gradually becoming more comfortable accomplishing more complex tasks. In addition, thanks to improvements in artificial intelligence, voice-enabled devices are getting smarter and more capable of managing purchases and product orders. Frankly, the market got flooded with smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home before AI was adequately advanced to make a voice-activated speaker as smart as we’d like them to be. Those days are rapidly drawing to a close.

— Taylor Murphy, manager

5 Google Monetizes Maps and Google My Business

We recently blogged about the fact that half of searches on Google stay on Google properties such as Google Maps, YouTube, and a business’s Google My Business (GMB) listing. In other words, half of searches are not resulting in clicks on a business’s website. In addition, Google My Business is the most important local search signal according to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors. These data points mean that businesses need to invest more time and energy maximizing the value of their presence on Google. Google knows this reality and is getting more aggressive about offering advertising products for businesses on these sites. Earlier in 2019, Bloomberg discussed how Google is evolving Google Maps with more advertising tools. Especially as more cars integrate mapping technology, Google is going to place even more advertising emphasis here. I also expect Google to provide more advertising options for businesses to promote themselves on their GMB listings. I also would not be surprised If Google introduces a premium version of GMB in which businesses will enjoy more features for a cost.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

6 Cause Marketing Faces a Reckoning

Cause marketing has been around for years. Businesses have learned they can create stronger emotional ties with customers and job seekers by associating themselves with a topical issue such as sustainability. In 2019, businesses were falling all over themselves to promote a position on sustainability as the topic reached all-time levels of public awareness. But there’s just one hitch: we’re seeing a glut of cause marketing campaigns, and they’re not necessarily connecting with consumers. I was reading a recent report from DoSomething Strategic that discusses how businesses have struggled to make their cause marketing connect with young people. Gen Z definitely wants to associate with purpose-driven companies. But businesses still have a lot of work to do in order to convince them that they’re aligned with Gen Z values. Businesses are going to become more careful about how they do cause marketing. I believe we’ll see fewer online ads and a more thoughtful use of content marketing, PR, social media, and native advertising in which a business can spend more time having a longer-term discussion about issues it cares about. Businesses will humanize these conversations by sharing their position through the voices of their people.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

7 Agile Advertising Takes Hold

We all know about real-time marketing, in which a brand uses social media to turn a news event into a marketing opportunity. Agile advertising occurs when a business acts on a recent event and creates a connected marketing experience that endures well beyond a single tweet, Facebook post, or other digital impression. We saw Bud Light exercise agile advertising during the World Series when it capitalized on the fact that a fan in the stands stopped a home run ball with his chest while holding two Bud Lights in his hands. Bud Light created a series of marketing moments including creating a branded T shirt depicting the fan stopping the home run ball. Bud Light paid the fan to attend another World Series game sporting the Bud Light attire. We also saw agile advertising in action when Aviation Gin created a slick ad online that gently made light of the controversial Pelton cycling ad. I see more businesses adopting this practice because the digital production tools have evolved to the point where talented storytellers can quickly conceive of an idea and get it into market with an ad that taps into current events and endures for days and weeks.

— Max Petungaro, associate

8 Hispanic Marketing Hits Its Stride

In the United States, 69 counties are majority Hispanic, doubling from 34 in 2010. Hispanics have increased their economic power, reflecting a growingly diverse U.S. population. In 2020, Hispanics will possess $1.7 trillion in buying power. The United States continues to reflect Hispanic tastes in all aspects of our culture (including and beyond the Hispanic community, ranging from movies to popular music). We’re going to see businesses apply research and targeting to do more effective, sophisticated Hispanic marketing that recognizes the diversity and tastes that reside among Hispanics. Brands are already capitalizing on this growing market. (For more insight about marketing to Hispanics, check out our blog post.) And tech companies such as Google are responding to a more multicultural world in general by making their platforms more open to people who speak languages other than English, an example being how the Google Assistant voice software can interpret 44 languages on smart phones. These types of developments will help bridge the world between businesses and Hispanics in 2020.

— Amanda Cortese, associate

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash

Why Advertisers Embrace Nostalgia Marketing

Why Advertisers Embrace Nostalgia Marketing

Advertising

In Rob Sheffield’s autobiographical memoir, Love Is a Mix Tape, Sheffield observes, “I get sentimental over the music of the ‘90s. Deplorable, really. But I love it all. As far as I’m concerned the ‘90s was the best era for music ever, even the stuff that I loathed at the time, even the stuff that gave me stomach cramps.” Sheffield is talking about nostalgia. Smart marketers know how to tap that vein. Research shows us that nostalgia gives our lives, whether we are 20 or 80, a sensation of comfort, continuity, and meaning. What businesses wouldn’t want to evoke those feelings in a customer? Hence the rise of nostalgia marketing, which uses past themes or products to evoke a specific, positive emotion in customers. Nostalgia marketing isn’t new, exactly — when you see the word “throwback” in relation to a brand, that’s nostalgia marketing at work — but in recent weeks, shows such as Netflix’s Stranger Things have underlined just how powerful nostalgia marketing can be.

Why Nostalgia Works

The irony of nostalgia marketing is, of course, that the past helps make a business more relevant to current interests. Look a little deeper, though, and it’s not hard to see the allure. Research shows that nostalgia can act as an antidote to boredom, loneliness, and anxiety. It can literally make people feel warmer on cold days. And from the perspective of the advertiser, it’s a gold mine in that it can reach multiple generations equally effectively. Nostalgia marketing appeals to the college student stressed by exams who finds refuge in references to beloved cartoons from their childhood. It also attracts the overworked middle-aged manager, who gets a boost from that can of New Coke. And therein lies the power of nostalgia marketing: it’s not limited to a certain age bracket.

In The Upside Down . . . and Beyond

Stranger Things, the Netflix series that is equal parts sci fi exploration of the parallel universe of The Upside Down and‘80s homage, provides a great example of nostalgia marketing. Look no further than the copious New Coke references in the show’s Season 3, which takes place in 1985, the same year New Coke made its short-lived (79-day!) debut. Sure, New Coke may have been a debacle at the time, but fast-forward to 2019, when the beverage giant has the opportunity to turn an embarrassment into a win. By making New Coke (briefly) available again — Coke spent six months poring over records to make sure the New Coke design and recipe were properly recreated — and generating advertising tie-ins to the show, Coke is hoping it can play on nostalgia to court older consumers who remember the advent of New Coke in the first place (whether they liked it or not). But it’s not just an older generation that’s being targeted: younger Netflix viewers from the millennial and Gen Z generations love the show, and because they don’t have any strong negative associations with New Coke, they represent a rich new demographic.

Pepsi has also been known to rewind the clock. In 2013, PepsiCo took advantage of the social phenomenon #ThrowbackThursday to generate some buzz about product, posting images of its “throwback” Pepsi sodas, which were made with “real sugar” as opposed to the high-fructose corn syrup soda manufacturers switched to back in the 1980s in response to tariffs.

Other brands, such as Wendy’s, have used classic photos for Throwback Thursday posts; Wendy’s underlined the nostalgia by pointing out how the fast-food chain debuted the first modern-day pick-up window.

Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and arguably the most prestigious, has also embraced nostalgia in a bid to generate more revenue. As reported in Digiday, the tournament, as part of a six-week campaign, “created an immersive, theatrical recreation of the 1980 final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Billed as a virtual time capsule of sorts, the recreation of the match was backed by archive footage from the real one on the tournament’s social media channels.”

Doing Nostalgia Marketing the Right Way

Like any marketing strategy, nostalgia marketing comes with a few ground rules. To achieve the best results, you want to do it right, namely:

  • Know your audience. Are they going to understand or appreciate the throwback?
  • Leverage all the tools you can, ranging from social to online advertising.
  • Know the nostalgia “hot spots.” Create content that targets your audience’s elementary and high school years, generally ages six to 16. And don’t forget “parental nostalgia,” the nostalgia many parents feel for their children’s childhoods.
  • Try to draw on content creators who actually lived in the time or place your brand is recalling. Someone who participated in the experience in the first place is much more likely to invest the marketing with emotion and meaning.
  • Take advantage of brand history if your company has been around awhile. Nostalgia strategies can be built around reminding customers of the positive experiences they’ve had with a product over the years.
  • Pay attention to the details and get the callback right.

Bottom line: authenticity is key.

Contact True Interactive

True Interactive knows how to plan and implement digital advertising of all kinds, including throwback themes. Contact us to build your business with online advertising.

Why Netflix Might Embrace Advertising

Why Netflix Might Embrace Advertising

Advertising

Netflix and its boosters are celebrating the company’s first ever Best Picture Oscar nomination for Roma – but the company is also catching fire from investors. Although its fourth-quarter 2018 financial results beat Wall Street estimates for earnings per share, revenue fell below projections.

Netflix also faces other formidable challenges, such as increased competition from streaming services (e.g., Amazon and Hulu), the entrance of new services such as Disney+, and the enormous cost of spending on original content. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Netflix has raised prices. But in recent months, Netflix has also been testing ads between episodes, and its customers have not been happy about this development. The company said that trailer tests were just a way to surface new programs to loyal viewers, claiming it will help members “discover stories they will enjoy faster.”

With pressure coming from multiple sides, how can Netflix increase revenue and expand its subscriber base without losing its customers?

Competition from Hulu

We’ve seen at least one streaming service employ advertising: Hulu. When Hulu first launched in 2007, all content was completely free and supported by advertisements. In 2010, the company launched its first subscription option while maintaining the original ad-supported tier. Then in late 2016, the brand migrated towards a subscription model. Today Hulu offers ad-supported and ad-free pricing tiers.

The ad-supported tier has served Hulu well by increasing brand awareness and expanding its subscriber base. Granted, Netflix does not need to boost brand recognition. However, Netflix (and Amazon, for that matter) could benefit from this strategy if it wants to enter into new markets, which should be a priority for Netflix given the financial turmoil the brand has been recently experiencing.

Providing an ad-supported service plan might sound like a step backwards to Netflix stockholders. If Hulu moved away from it, why would Netflix bother?

  1. Original Content

The creation of original content is perhaps the most dramatic change in the way streaming services operate. Whereas audiences used to turn to streaming services to watch, say Finding Nemo, people now use these services for original movies and shows, a reality that was underscored by Netflix’s Roma being nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

With Disney’s new movie streaming platform launching later this year, it is clear that movie streaming companies no longer want to simply be a content warehouse, storing thousands of movies and TV shows made by third parties. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon want to lure potential customers into becoming subscribers through their exclusive movies and shows. This means that streaming platforms have the bargaining power, as they all have some unique value nobody will find elsewhere.

The quality content matters. Unique content attracts more paying subscribers, which gives Netflix a bigger platform for potential advertising. With 139 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix could easily increase that number by introducing an ad-supported tier. Doing so would also help relieve some of the financial pressure caused by the expensive production costs of original content – around $12 billion in 2018 alone, and expected to grow by 25 percent  to a whopping $15 billion mark in 2019.

  1. Google/Facebook Duopoly

It’s no secret that a large number of companies today are directing a good portion of their ad spend to Google and Facebook/Instagram (and, increasingly, Amazon). Other channels simply cannot match the performance, scale, and targeting capabilities of these tech giants. The growth of these platforms also reflects the strength of the digital advertising industry and suggests that there is room for more businesses to launch advertising based on their built-in audiences. As noted, Netflix has a growing audience with 139 million subscribers – and Netflix aspires to grow more especially outside the United States.

3 Targeting Capabilities

Knowledge is power. Think about all the behavioral data and Netflix has on its subscribers. Netflix can offer advertisers advanced interest targeting based on their activity on each platform. By using algorithms and machine learning, Netflix can predict which type of content a specific user may want to consume next. This data could also be used to serve users ads that are relevant, and for marketers, effective. In addition, with the help of pixels, Netflix would be able to collect data outside its environment just like Google and Facebook do, thus providing advertisers with more insights on the consumer behavior outside the streaming services and the customer journey.

It’s too soon yet to know if Netflix will launch an ad-supported tier. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does in the near future, as companies built on the “ad-free” premise are now acknowledging their advertising potential and evaluating the cost-benefit relationship of introducing ads to their platforms, just like Whatsapp. Is advertising revenue too tempting for Netflix?

To maximize the value of your online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.