Watching video content, whether on TV or online, has never been more popular, and with the widespread uptake of smartphones and tablets, consumers have an even wider array of devices with which to access such clips.
However, this presents brands with a greater challenge in terms of the length and nature of that content and how appropriate it is to different viewing occasions and changing consumer behaviour. Marketing, in association with Google, brought together a group of senior marketers from various sectors to discuss the changing role of video in a digital era dominated by 'on-demand' consumers.
What are the big trends you're noticing for your business and consumer changes?
Asad Rehman, director, global media, foods, Unilever: Wherever/whenever is the mantra; consumers don't want to be governed by schedules any more, unless it's football or The X Factor final. They want to be involved, talk to each other and give feedback.
Dan Cobley, managing director, UK and Ireland, Google: We're seeing all the different device options proliferating right now. There was a 26% increase in the search queries in a 24-hour period on Christmas Day (2011), and that was with only one tablet option. This year the video consumption on tablets will sky-rocket. Couple that with 4G, and people's behaviour on in-home wi-fi and out-of-home on mobile networks won't differ greatly from each other.
Marc Zander, innovation and brand director, Mars: On one level things are changing massively and on another level they're not changing at all. Go back 10 years, it was the 'death of TV'; well, more people are watching TV than ever before and we're all from companies that have built really strong brands through great storytelling, and that doesn't change.
Paul Trueman, head of marketing, MasterCard: Consumer behaviour doesn't change but the way they gain access might: 25% of people are now using two screens, they're watching TV and using it for social conversations, 50% of young people. When you look at exactly what they're doing, only about 10% is related to advertising or what's on air. So all they're doing is chatting, and consumer behaviour hasn't fundamentally changed.
James Mercer, marketing director, KFC: We still invest heavily in TV advertising; it does the job of driving reach and messaging really quickly and fosters engagement. But what's really exciting is we are a retail business that doesn't have an at-home ordering function, so we've used a combination of TV and outdoor to help drive impulse-buying, because we're an impulse brand. Now people are accessing content perhaps closer to a meal occasion, there is more opportunity to be more responsive to fitting into a time of day when it is more relevant.
Robert Lowe, marketing director, BBC Worldwide: As marketers, we need to understand how technology is feeding that change. Whether consumers are watching the TV on their own or a tablet on their own, you need to be advertising in an appropriate way. DVD is a declining market and self-purchase is in far deeper decline than gifted.
Alex Sandover, head of digital and online retail, Twinings: When we started doing direct business with the consumer, our agencies told us that our consumer isn't 'digital'; one of our biggest growth segments is 45- to 55-year-old women and they are actively engaging with us.
James Cashmore, director, media and entertainment, Google UK: We all now have several devices to access so many different ways of watching video. People are viewing differently and connectivity is very important: 4G, wi-fi. I think there's a point about emotion and how you watch that video whether it's a group viewing, round the fire with the TV in the corner, or just you and a device, watching quietly. The thing that will never go away is (the importance of) content.
Greg Nugent, former brand, marketing and culture director, LOCOG: I've never bought in to this permanent state of crisis, or that everything's changed; it's just a form of evolution. Some of the technological shifts are really profound and incredible but all we have to do is try to navigate around it. For that reason we used a lot of traditional techniques in the way we marketed (London 2012); we spent all our time listening, we didn't do anything that glamorous, we just did the basics. Almost every product we built was a reaction to a weakness we felt existed in the offer. We didn't have enough tickets to sell, so we created other ways for people to be involved, such as the torch relay.
RL: The use of Twitter was quite good; they had the medal winners so you just had to follow on Twitter and all the videos of the medals came up.
GN: I remember people saying to us we needed more trees in the park, for shade, because more people will have tablets and you need shade to use them. I was amazed at second screening; they were watching the action but also following other things.
What are the big challenges and opportunities for your brands?
MZ: It's about picking the best ways. We did a Snickers campaign and used Twitter to amplify that and got 26m people, including celebrities. Twitter wouldn't be central to everything we do. One of the challenges for us is to make sure some of our marketers don't get over-excited by the new sparkly stuff that not only doesn't reach that many people, but also takes a hell of a lot of time. People say 'we'll do it' because it's a cheap option, but it can be a really expensive option.
AS: One of the biggest barriers for us is we have small budgets, we can't afford to produce slick, broadcastable-quality video so we're producing short, micro content around particular subjects, which we are using social media for.
Jon Lambert, group marketing director, Nestle: We've built our brands on TV advertising and if you look forward to the future, I see a point where everything is on-demand and (consumers) will skip the ads. The challenge we face is finding the right creative in place of that. As an industry we're slow to react; we're still in this 30-second TVC creative market.
DC: I'm sure most of you are familiar with the skippable ad format on YouTube, where we give people the option to skip the ad. Maybe those that do so are people who are not in the target market. So you don't really care. Nonetheless, many choose to watch the ads, and when they have the option to skip or watch, they are far more engaged in the watching and you get 70% brand uplift from people who can skip ads as opposed to people who are forced to watch.
JL: I'm sure people's attention span is diminishing rapidly because of the way we're being fed content, so 30 seconds is a long time to watch an ad, but creativity-wise we're focused on something 30 seconds long.
Karl Gregory, managing director, Match.com: We produced a tonne of videos, we put stuff up on YouTube about how to date and so on, and got very low consumption. We had a great 30-second TV ad, a couple singing to each other, very entertaining: it got 2m views. We created an ad campaign which was a full 360, we hired an award-winning producer travelling the UK asking couples what the secret of a lasting relationship was. We were cutting it live, turning it into ads, putting it on TV, and putting the broader content on the web on YouTube and we are getting some traction, but nowhere near that 2m views I got for my 30-second spot.
MZ: I think the thing to remember is, don't chase the exception. There are very few examples among the millions and millions (of pieces of content) that are chucked out every day. You can encourage your teams to be really creative, but within a framework; otherwise you can start chasing all sorts of rubbish.
DC: A guy was asked how to create a viral video, and he said create a video every month for a year and you might be lucky and get a viral video. So you have to remember that you have to create continuous high-quality content.
PT: Nothing has really changed for marketers. Yes, you have more data points, but the fundamentals of how you do things are the same, just applied via digital. The difference is, in the old days you'd advertise a 30-second spot on TV and there'd be a call to action to buy this product and consumers don't want to give you that time now. For your brand to remain relevant to them, you have to be in the right space at the right time, doing the right thing.
GN: The problem for most marketers is they're trained to look at where the creativity is coming from and they should be doing more to work the data. A lot of brands aren't thinking through how they collect the data. I've seen a lot of agencies freak out when you say you're looking for a CRM content campaign rather than an ad campaign. So some of the most interesting content is from smaller, more nimble agencies.
Any final tips?
JC: It's the power of hitting the audience where they're watching, and at the right time.
RL: Online video is really important for serving the fans of your brands and products, because they are actively seeking out the information. You're not trying to sell to them; you're trying to keep the relationship going.
AR: We produce a lot of video and it's not necessarily about producing it on the same scale as TV ads. Shoot absolutely everything, because you'll use it somewhere. One of our competitors, Gillette, did a great thing with Roger Federer behind the scenes, where he hit a can off the head of the camera man; that video probably did more business than the ad.
DC: Tear up your creative brief; most organisations have a piece of paper that was written 10 years ago and the only way you can answer the questions is to create a 30-second TV ad. Tear it up, you need an engagement brief, not a creative brief.
JM: Don't make matching luggage; don't create something that's just a cut-down version of a 30-second TV commercial if it's not going to engage with that particular target audience. Take a lot of calculated risks; don't bet big on the really important parts of your business but if you make enough small bets, one of them will become a big one.
KG: You need to put money behind a test budget. We invest between 5% and 10% of our marketing budget every month on tests. So by encouraging that, my team is focused: get the 90% right, we know that, from the test budget, a percentage is going to go wrong, but another percentage will go right and immediately become part of our fundamentals.
MZ: Test and learn. A lot of people test but they don't learn, so set the metrics so you can really learn. If it's not driving your brand or growing sales, then you have it wrong.
AROUND THE TABLE
Asad Rehman director, global media, foods, Unilever
Robert Lowe marketing director, BBC Worldwide
James Cashmore director, media and entertainment, Google UK
Alex Sandover head of digital and online retail, Twinings
Marc Zander innovation and brand director, Mars
Jane Bainbridge writer, Marketing
Karl Gregory managing director, Match.com
James Mercer marketing director, KFC
Jon Lambert group marketing director, Nestle
Dan Cobley managing director, UK and Ireland, Google
Paul Trueman head of marketing, MasterCard
Greg Nugent former brand, marketing and culture director, LOCOG
Philip Smith head of content solutions, Marketing/Campaign (chair)