“Viral videos are on their way out.
You’re the Chia Pet of 2007.”
That’s from an e-mail sent last night from my sister, who produces for a major television network on the west coast.
There seems to be a great skepticism about amateur video’s endurance when the competitive Huns from Hollywood and Madison-Avenue Mongolians are storming the castle. Can will Ferrell make better videos than Nalts? Surely. Is there a proliferation of horrible consumer-generated ads? Indisputably. But we’re overlooking something here.
Here’s a Q&A I did with Xlntads Acting CEO Neil Perry for iMediaConnection. The title was “Agencies Can You Cope with Candid Camera.” Interestingly I’ve had several discussions with media in the past week about this “viral creators vs agencies” issue.
Those deep in the entrainment and marketing industries don’t want to believe that amateur online-video content is worthy of attention or has legs. Reporters (see this piece by Bob Garfield of AdAge as an example) seem to have deep doubts about the sustainability of amateur video creation to drive brands. I say “bolderdash” (what does that mean anyway?).
Please consider these questions:
- How long has it taken large agencies to understand paid search? A decade?
- Will the need for video content increase or decrease as new media evolves/
- As audiences fragment into social media and niche websites, what do you project as the production cost of building relevant content to not 3-4 segments but dozens? Can you afford $250K productions or would it be easier to leverage the knowledge and “permissions” of people in those social networks?
- On the entertainment side, does the entertainment machine (auditions, talent representatives, SAG, studios, production houses, etc.) ensure that the best talent rises to the forefront? Or is conceivable that there’s amazing talent lurking that doesn’t have interest in quitting their day job and moving to Hollywood? Does the democratization of online video (coupled with the low barriers to entry) mean we’ll have better entertainers in the next decade?
Think about what American Idol did to find hidden gems that would never have hit our ear drums. Is it possible that a major 2009 film star is, today, entertaining 50 subscribers with his webcam in Ohio, where he has no resources or knowledge to find an agent much less know whose ass to kiss to get a bit role on a sitcom that’s 2 weeks from cancellation?
So you can see that the window for amateur-created content is certainly not closing in the next 5-10 years. And I’ll argue (and this I have to credit to Garfield) that the “brass ring” will go to the niche agency that figures out how to harness the power of good video creators and help brands reach the long-tail.
Long term, Hollywood will find ways to get mine for amateur entertainment gold. And Eventually ad agencies will figure out not just how to repurpose broadcast ads into 30-second pre-rolls but how to create engaging video content that gets passed around (this is currently a rare skillset for large marketing agencies). But there’s more to this than that, and there are also two things the agencies lack. First, they don’t live in the viral video space full-time so they don’t know the rules of social networking. Second, unlike the LonelyGirl15 and HappySlips they don’t have embedded audiences. As online video grows, we’ll see prime video creators with regular audiences that rival television shows.
You can also read this Q&A on Politics & YouTube in Review.