The Digital Age Wasn’t the End of TV Advertising, But the Beginning of “Video Everything”

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Twenty years ago, as the larger implications of the internet age became apparent, it was pretty common in the industry to hear about “the end of TV ads”. Websites and email were pretty amazing things…so much so it was easy for many industry fortune-tellers to foresee that we would all get what we need from the “interwebs” and there would be no longer be a need for TV commercials any longer. At the time, and for quite a few years later, watching video online was a torturous experience and most of it was limited to very short clips.

Broadband and new technologies that used available bandwidth more efficiently revolutionized the consumption of online video to the point that we now watch television through the internet (the “Smart” TV) in addition to using our computers and phones like TVs.

In other words, there are no longer any limits to what can be done with video online.

The TV Empire Strikes Back

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It can be said that there are two schools to the use of video online. There was the initial naivety of the young internet world thinking that it meant a new world of “direct communications with consumers” that would lead to “the end of advertising as we know it!”. This scared a lot of mass media folks for a while, but once bandwidth and compression technology caught up with the standard TV-watching experience, the “Empire” was all-in with online video too.

One of my biggest pet peeves of the TV state-of-mind that wants to replicate online is the forced viewing of content – commercial ads or otherwise. Auto-play videos while reading an article (or worse, an auto-play video while watching another video!) are bad enough, but sites like ESPN (owned by ABC) often subject visitors to a 30 second commercial to see a 22 second highlight from a sports event.

Fortunately, the world of content consumption evolved rapidly and there are essentially no limits to what is now possible in video and the distribution of it.

Broad Appeal for Video From Every Corner

According to Statista, there will be over 236 million people who regularly watch videos online by 2020, with 50% of all US online users watching video every day. A breakdown by category shows that entertainment tends to rule the rankings of why people watch video.

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In other words, there are no longer any barriers to using video as a core element of your content strategy. Bandwidth, streaming and viewing technology and acceptance are all there, at any age and almost any demographic.

And guess who loves it more than anyone? The generation that grew up without knowing the pre-internet world, for whom seeing anything you want on any device within reach is completely normal – Millennials.  I almost wonder if we need to refer to them as the “Star Trek Generation”, as the futuristic world it once portrayed where crew members had everything they needed at their fingertips on a tablet or by a voice like we now have through a smart-speaker.

Video Drives Online Purchasing – Especially for Millenials

A survey of 4,500 adults in the US, UK and Australia in 2018 demonstrated the impact of video on purchase decisions. The respondents indicated that video was the most memorable form of content in regards to the influence on their purchase decision as Branded Content video performed better across multiple KPIs relative to display, email and text ads.

Millennials, those who are 18-34 yrs old, showed a spike in response to video in nearly every category. The chart below from Marketwatch shows the relative strength of video with this group compared to other age groups where performance was already very high.

Millennials desire to engage and eventually purchase runs much higher than the rest of the sample (see below). This should indicate to Brands looking for more online sales or engagement that every content program you have should include a video component, and perhaps be the leading component.

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What’s Your Strategy?

The takeaway here is that video should not be seen as something you do as a “one-off” project for a specific promotion or “campaign”. If anything, this data shows that it needs to be an integral part of your every-day communications, with a large portion of your content designed to be video friendly to give prospects and customers something to engage within the way they are telling us they prefer to engage.  What does that mean in concrete terms?

  • Product videos – do you have a complete portfolio that shows how your products work, or highlight their features?
  • Demonstration videos – is there a way to show how your product/service works, and what the results are for other users?
  • Training videos – do you make it easy for buyers to come back and get support with video training or troubleshooting?
  • Insider videos – does your company share anything from the inside of who your people are, how things are made or get done? How do you show your Brand as more than just a collection of products?

The point is, look over how your visitors engage online and you’ll most likely see some gaps that could improve engagement with more video. If you look at your website in terms of an organized library of video content intended to share your Brand and everything you do and bring to the world rather than a brochure advertising product, you’ll be better placed to take advantage of the near-universal acceptance video now has with all ages. 

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