I was happy to hear Threadless founder and former CEO Jake Nickell on public radio’s “Markeplace” tonight, and how he was “crowdsourcing” in Threadless’ decade of business… even before there was a name for it. “Last year we paid over $1.5 million out to artists,” he told interviewer Kai Ryssdal. Designers upload their creations, and the community votes for the best… which are produced and sold with artists getting a $2K cash prize, $500K in a gift certificate, and royalties.
Then I compared it to today’s news. Philadelphia-based Poptent (www.poptent.net), which crowdsources video production for large and mid-sized brands, has given out $1 million in cash payments. That’s certainly a first for online video, and considering in no doubt went to a small sub-segment of the 20,000 Poptent videographers, it’s a pretty good sign for the online-video creator community. The million-dollar man was hit by Sean Cunningham, a NY-based freelance videographer who received $10,000 for creating this video as part of GE’s “Tag Your Green” ecomagination campaign. Disclaimer: I worked with Poptent when it was Xlntads, and also participated in the GE campaign as a YouTube creator.
It’s a wonderfully inspired “amateur” creation that could easily fit as a broadcast television ad. Community comments on the video are positive, even if some might have been from competitors. Cunningham has been a member of Poptent since October 2008 and participated in previous Poptent assignments for Becks Beer, eHealth, and Snickers. All four of the crowdsourced GE videos can be viewed here.
What’s even more encouraging? The assignment came not directly but via a major agency’s digital arm (OMD). That tells me the market is finally understanding that while agencies won’t soon lose their seat at the creative and strategy table, there are lots of Cunninghams with bright ideas. Even if it took six versions (see screen shot).
Advertisers on YouTube now have an option where they only pay when a viewer engages with the pre-roll ad. It’s a bold way to get digital marketers to move confidently into the medium since, like Google Paid Search, it’s more accountable. Here’s the YouTube blog post about this new format called “True View.”
Since most content is too short for the new option (similar to Hulu’s format, viewers get to pick a long preroll or several short ad interruptions), the more interesting of these two new offerings is the “instream” 5 & 15/30 format. You watch 5 seconds, and then you decide if you’ll continue watching the rest of the ad (15/30 seconds). That means creators/publishers will make no revenue on those who abandon. But the format will no doubt demand a higher premium (per click) for those who choose to engage.
This also means advertisers should do a better job of giving the consumer a REASON to continue. The first 5 seconds should certainly mention the brand (free exposure like the “reminder” effect of unclicked paid-search ads). But most advertisers who want deeper engagement or direct response will want to use those first 5 seconds to PITCH THE AD.
For instance, “find out why this kitten is crying” would compel me to finish the ad. Or “be one of the first to own what’s in this box” is a nice teaser. Eventually when the format is less novel, the “calls to continue” will need to be better.
…given how different this is from what most consumers are used to, it may be a bit too early to gauge how well these ads are actually working — users may be skeptical of hitting the skip button at all because they’ve never seen it before.
It should be obvious that this is an additive option not a replacement of your traditional 15-30 second preroll. If it was my choice, I’d move to it quickly a) to learn, and b) to see if there’s a better ROI on them, c) to take advantage of the novelty factor. Then again, I’m biased. I’m making money from these. So frankly, I hope you buy whatever’s most expensive. But I hope you also get an ROI on it.
Stop. Do not read another word before pausing for 15 seconds. Really.
Okay. How’d that feel? Chances are you ignored the advice, and perhaps it compelled you to defiantly plunge ahead with more interest. After all, the headline promised 4 generations, and that usually begs the question “what were the first three?”
But I made you wait. What if I forced you to wait?
Would you click the headline next time? I suppose it depends on how saucy it was. Maybe “New Video Compression Technology” would have instantly given your brain a pro/con dance. But “Fat lady falls down stairs and onto YouTube” might be the “spoon full of sugar” that made the interruption “medicine go down.”
My point is this: the third generation of online-video is preroll ads. Let’s get past this, shall we? They’re usually void of entertainment, unavoidable and will continue to proliferate and erode the medium — if unchecked. And according to my media friends, they’re hot. They’ve made me far more selective about what content I view on YouTube… it better be worth it. And this morning, in a move that might surprise you, I asked YouTube to turn them on my Nalts channel.
Think About.com in the mid-1990s, when it fell from a coveted curator of credible content to a cesspool of ads masquerading as content, and ads masquerading as more obnoxious ads.
But let’s back up and look at the first three generations of online-video advertising in simple terms:
First Generation: Lurker. Nickel CPM ads surrounded videos, and didn’t even subsidize the bandwidth. YouTube was a voluntary non-profit, and companies like Revver and Metacafe compelled creators with ad-sharing. Unfortunately the advertising industry saw online video with the same disdain it viewed the web in 2000. Oh- that’s the Wild, Wild West. We can’t put our brand next to that nonsense. In fact people aren’t even using the medium. You want reach? Look no further than the original tube.
Second Generation: Overlay ads. The healthy compromise of ads like YouTube’s “InVideo” model was what saved the medium. The ads had critics, but as an advertiser I felt like my brand got enough attention. As a viewer I felt like I could tolerate it. Ad a creator I felt like I enjoyed the higher revenue. But then the illness started with our children. They began reflexively closing the boxes, almost like you hit “skip” on the flash/splash screen on the publisher’s website. So click-through and presumably all the other polite terms for “no immediate action” (awareness, recall, attitude, purchase intent, favorability) dropped too.
Third Generation: Pre-Roll Bouncers. You won’t have to look hard to know my POV on these little bastards we call pre-roll ads.They’re annoying, intrusive and deceptive (you often mistake them for the video you thought you’d be watching). And I just asked YouTube to turn them on my content. Why? They’re profitable. Why? They work… for now.
Fourth Generation: In the Show. Before I explain what I hope will be the fourth generation, let me guess what you’re thinking… that these surround, overlay and pre-roll ads are here to stay. You’re right. The lurker, flasher and bouncer will be around as long as media buyers are held accountable to buying space like purchasing agents buying #2 pencils and copier paper. As long as reach, “frequency and single-minded impression” is chanted like monks by students of advertising 101.
Now think like a receiver of advertisements. The Coke room on American Idol. The weather brought to you by Smuckers. They’re gentler on the stomach and more effective than the leading medication. Advertisers need to get within the show. It’s not easy to scale, it’s hard to do an “insertion order,” and it may not be the “path of least resistance” to getting your brand’s aided recall up by 50%. But it’s polite, there’s an implied endorsement, and it’s impossible to ignore. The brand is hero not the Soup Nazi. Most of Beyond Viral addresses this model of advertising, however my “lurker, flasher, bouncer” model is conspicuously absent in the book. It came to me in a dream last night. Shut up. Most of my dreams are better than your acid trips. This one just happened to be about advertising.
The burden of proof, I’d contend, is not on “in the show” to prove it’s scalable and drives purchase intent (although it certainly can’t be without accountability). Rather the burden of proof is on the less Darwinian evolved models to prove they’re a better bang for the buck.
Samsung CEO Geesung Choi called Consumer Union, the non-profit product-testing organization behind Consumer Reports magazine, “not honorable.” Choi on Monday cited the October 2010 issue of the magazine, which gave Samsung low scores on high-definition and standard-definition video camcorders.
“American magazine making JVC and Sony best-buy awards is insult to my family and character,” said Choi at a press meeting yesterday. “Consumer Deport (sic) will caused me great suffering and humiliation,” the CEO shouted at a press meeting that is already being satired on such online-video sites as Revver and YouTube. AP News reporter David Scheyd asked Choi to identify if Consumer Reports has any conflicts of interest or missinformation, but Choi declined to speak about the unfavorable ratings of the Samsung HMX-H204 and SMX-C24.
“We people of Samsung find better reviews by cooperative publishers like Very Eager Product magazine,” said Choi. The publication, according to Washington Post writer Richard Winters, is edited by Choi’s niece, Xiuxiu Ch’eng. Ch’eng’s previous review magazines were the subject of a CNN “Bogus Review” article. “When you see merchandise or merchant ratings, or prices that look too good to be true, be cautious,” said Heather Dougherty, analyst with Nielsen/NetRatings. Very Eager Product’s September 2010 issue gave Samsung’s digital-camera line “5 eager stars” and reports Samsung’s recent camcorders are “strong to please and suiting whole family needs for easy utilization and bright leadership in electronic consumer portfolio.”
Consumer Union President Jim Guest e-mailed a statement claiming he is “not concerned about Samsung’s allegations.” “It’s quite common for a manufacturer to dispute the credibility of our publication when we review them unfavorably,” wrote Guest. “We do our best to maintain objective reviews using consistant processes, and surveys of millions of consumers regarding their experiences with products and services.” Guest found himself facing similar attacks just months ago when the magazine’s poor review of the iPhone prompted Steve Jobs to call the magazine: “Lying liars who lie.”
Consumer Reports October 2010 issue “capable camcorders” awarded CR Best Buys to JVC’s A5 and Sony’s A10, crediting such attributes as image quality, excellent battery life and autofocus. The article indicated that manufacturers have discontinued DVD and MiniDV tape models.
Samsung is opting to depart from the evolving industry-standard of flash media. Choi said Samsung’s 2011 video cameras will “pursue new waters of storage and finer horizons for image holding,” citing the Samsung CMX2’s Iomega Zip Drive camera available in February 2010. He cited Samsung’s ongoing commitment to “make better society and humans.”
Sony USA CEO, Sir Howard Stringer, released a statement on Monday indicating that Consumer Reports maintains Sony’s respect. “We appreciate hard working Americans, and nothing says American like Consumer Reports.” Stringer asked that WillVideoForFood not use Stringer’s “Sir” title in reporting. JVC declined specific comment, but spokesperson Alice Preis acknowledged that the company was “f’ing stoked” about the magazine’s positive ratings on 5 of its JVC models.
Technorati reported in August that Samsung is overhauling its business model to remain competitive and innovative, and is diversifying its business. Samsung’s public list of affiliated companies, however, has no listing of what Technorati is calling Samsung’s new “Very Suspicious Supermarket” chain in the Bronx, NYC.
I’m a big fan of Rhett and Link, the singing duo on YouTube who make sponsored videos that are so damned entertaining they hurt. It’s like watching MGM’s latest videos… I am both thrilled for them and ready to hang up my hat.
I’ve blogged about them dozens of times, featured them in my book, and recently noticed that their views for sponsored videos rivals their views of “normal” videos on YouTube. Could you have guessed years ago that a fairly unknown duo doing mostly musical commercials would garner a regular following that exceeds many non-sponsored performers?
So how do these two turn promotions into candy coated, juicy filled delights? There are many correct answers, but I believe there’s one best answer.
It’s not their talent, creativity, music, comedy or filmmaking skills. It’s because they have earned the right to convince a client to give them creative freedom. I’ve NEVER seen a Rhett & Link advertainment musical that wouldn’t delight me as a client. Damn this blog post sounds like a friggin’ advertisement for them, and I’ll admit I consider them friends (or at least I’ve got a fellow creator… with a fan crush). But I’m not on commission.
This new pillow spot brings visual intrigue surpassed by few videos since “Mentos and Coke,” and combines it with a song that’s great on its own. 300K plus views just one day after launch, and nearly 10% of the viewers “liked” the video. These little hicks are modern day Mad Men who don’t have to buy their way to eyeballs, and they make it look effortless like an olympic gymnast. Want to know the real pisser? They’re laid back and cool. Combine these guys with MysteryGuitarMan and you’ve got a never-ending gobstopper of viral video fun… without a lick of pretension.
Some gents enjoy their fine wine. Others a cigar or brandy. But this girl wants to savor the sweet symphony of music, creativity, amateur videography and blissful promotion. The Awl writes about the best songs written for commercials, and I propose that blog post redirect to Rhett and Link.com.
What’s even more magical about this SleepBetter.org campaign is that it’s like entering Disney World. You just keep getting sucked deeper into the experience. My kids discovered it, and ran to my office insisting I search “2 guys, 600 pillows.” We watched it several times, and then gazed upon the “behind the scenes,” which was brilliantly placed back at SleepBetter.org. I was spellbound as I was reminded that a few of my 20 plus pillows are perhaps older than some of my children. And I will absolutely 100% purchase a pillow from SleepBetter.org, and this company — nameless to me 30 minutes ago — has now the reflected glory of this North Carolina duo. I’m beginning to wonder if Rhett and Link could sing a song that would make me want to eat dog food cooked from 7 owls. And frankly I think they could.
“Dad can we buy the song on iTunes?” said daughter Katie from the other room. Did she really need to ask? Now my kids are discussing the lyrics… Julie McKnight.
When I saw a YouTube house ad for “how to upload a video,” I had written a scathing blog review (in my head at least) before the video even loaded. Then I was in for a surprise.
It was funny, edgy, self depricating, and informative. I’m unable to criticize it. It basically taught people how to upload without insulting their intelligence: an almost impossible creative assignment given the simplicity of the upload task. More importantly, the video armed itself for the inevitable scathing comments (“hey dipshit, if they can’t figure out how to upload, you can probably assume they’ve got no useful video to share”), by having some fun with the concept.
Might I suggest the creators of this raise their hand for a round of applause? Comment below. Go ahead- we’re proud of you and would like to give you a gold sticker.
Now we’ll need a book to accompany this. “Idiot’s Guide for Upoading YouTube Videos” (a companion guide for how to refresh a browser screen, or double click a mouse).
Just when you thought pre-rolls were dead, both Hulu and YouTube are embracing them in recent weeks. Hulu has officially rolled out an “Ad Selector,” where viewers can choose among several ads from a single sponsor. And YouTube, whose parent Google once chastised online-video pre-rolls for causing 75% abandonment rates, is now quietly experimenting with mandatory (unstoppable) 15-second pre-rolls before professional and amateur content.
Some brief background: When I spoke to Coke marketing executives about YouTube last year, I had the dubious role of following Hulu CEO Jason Kilar. He teased Coke marketers with an emerging ad offering that’s now officially called the “Ad Selector.” He showed how Coke could provide Hulu viewers a variety of options, where the individual could chose to watch one of several Coke commercials before enjoying a free show. I was thrilled at the model because a) it gives marketers insights, b) it provides consumers with choice, and c) the mere selection exposes the viewer to several brands.
VivaKi’s research examined 29 different ad models over 16 months, and had participation from such brandsas Allstate, Applebee’s, Capital One and Nestle Purina PetCare. Overall, VivaKi officials said the group invested 230,000 hours of research, surveying over 25 million consumers.
Guess what? The Ad Selector delivered click-through rates that averaged 106 percent higher than pre-roll ads. Plus, online ad-recall scores were 290 percent higher than pre-rolls.
In case the good folks at Hulu decide to “reconfidentialize” that PDF, here is a brief overview: The Ad Selector is an ad unit that allows the user to control their entire ad experience during video playback. At the beginning of their content play the user will be presented with 2 or 3 category options. Once a selection has been made, the user will be presented with video advertisements in the category of their choice. For example an automotive company could offer the user a selection of SUV, Truck or Coupe advertisements. If the user selects “SUV” the remaining breaks will playback commercials from the sponsor related to just to their area of interest (SUVs).
Yey for Jason and Hulu! Jason’s talk at Coke excited me because he revealed his primary goal was to provide online-video viewers with a positive experience, and wanted to ensure that advertisements did not interfere. Here’s another happyhulu moment: last night I discovered that neither iTunes nor Hulu had yet posted that night’s episode of Fringe (which I missed while flying to Chicago). Instead, I decided to catch Tuesday’s episode of “The Office,” and instinctively went to iTunes first. It was $2.99 (yipes) and iTunes wouldn’t let me watch it on my laptop (seems I’ve exceeded the 5-device rule). So I was pleased to find it free on Hulu, and welcomed the few short interstitial ads.
Do you see a skip option on this 15-second preroll on this recent Smosh video pictured below? I don’t.
Just this week I spoke with a fellow YouTube Partner who agrees with my cautious view of these: unless they command significant revenue and are proven to not cause audience drop-off, we’d prefer to turn these off. That said, neither of us has been invited to participate in this program (our options are limited to InVideo ads or adjacent banners).
The bottom line? I’m a marketer and we need our advertising to work. I’m also a YouTube Partner and welcome models that command higher revenue for YouTube and myself. But I’m a viewer too, and I like control. Even my kids have learned to instinctively close InVideo ads (the ones that appear over the bottom 1/4 of a video), so I’m concerned about their sustainability.
My prediction is that YouTube will follow Hulu’s lead and soon give YouTube viewers a choice of ads. I would also expect that mandatory pre-rolls, if they do endure, will only work a) before highly valued video content, b) with longer formats (like 22-minute shows), and c) in very short form with 15 seconds being the maximum for 2-3 minute videos.
I’ve got it! I’ve got it. YouTube and other online-video sites take notice. Free advice, peeps… to solve the ultimate online-video ad dilemma: pleasing advertisers without pissing off viewers.
Problem: We hate pre-rolls. Google says they work, but 75% of viewers drop like bodies on Fringe. We think we’re watching the wrong video, and most online-video content isn’t worth some 30-second ad. It may work for advertisers, but it’s far from user centric… It’s not a fair ratio. It’d be like being forced to watch 8 minutes of ads before your 22 minute television show (which you may or may not even like). Stats show that
Partial Solution: A smart first-step by YouTube. A split second of the video’s thumbnail shows up BEFORE the preroll. I noticed this for the first time while trying to figure out if CharlesTrippy is engaged or not. And whether ShayCarl is really moving. Anyone know? For those of you who don’t know them, you should know this. By doing daily vlogs they’ve captured a wild audience, and are constantly on top of the most-popular, best-rated YouTube videos. Trippy asked me if I’d consider the daily vlog, but honestly it’s so hard if you work full-time and my life isn’t as interesting as his. But I digress. I sense the 11 advertisers dropping off.
BETTER Solution: New format! a) Give us creators 10 seconds before the pre-roll hits (shall we call it a “Nalts mid-roll,” like my gut?). b) Then hit the 15-second ad. c) THEN on with the show. Viewers won’t adore it, but it will work better. Let me beta it on new videos, and I’ll cut my first 10 seconds with the knowledge that an ad may hit before second 11.
Why It Will Work: We creators now have 10 seconds to convince our audience that it’s worth waiting another 15 seconds for the rest of the “show.” The dropoff rate will be reduced dramatically. The advertiser is “in” the show, not blocking viewers.
Naturally this is not completely user centric. To be kind to viewers you turn off ads. But let’s keep it real here. As long as it’s free, it’s going to have ads. We viewers and we video creators generally don’t like ads. But if they’re effective, we marketers will subsidize the viewer’s experience (so we viewers don’t have to pay for content: so 1990). And we creators like making money. And we viewers don’t want to pay to see stuff. See?
The Online Ad Catch 22
Of course it’s like radar detectors and radars. As soon as the radar detectors get smart, the cops make better radars. Likewise, we get numb to ads, and many shut the InVideos reflexively (I watch my kids do this without realizing it). We stopped noticing the video ad on the top right of YouTube years ago, so now we have dancing ads all over 75 percent of the “above the fold.” It’s a bit much, and not very Googlesque. But the site’s trying to make a profit. Maybe now with Tim Armstrong gone it will change. 😉
So, YouTube… Think about what fails:
Remember when iFilm used to be hot? Like Metacafe, they had pre-rolls but not for the first video you watched. Maybe one in 3 or 4. Once they’re on every damned video, we stop visiting the site completely. I won’t watch a trailer on Yahoo Video EVER because I was once interrupted by an ad to watch the movie advertisement. On the flip side, people liked Revver. But the post-roll ads were not often viewed.
And remember what is kind to the viewer and advertiser:
Hulu sometimes offers a choice of three ads. You can also choose to watch a movie trailer and watch an entire show without interruption. Or watch 30-seconds spread throughout. That’s good. Obviously we have to consider the ratio of ads to content, and hopefully the first video we watch is sans ad. Maybe prerolls (or mid-rolls) can show up later in one’s session, before longer and more valuable content.
Old adage is “think global, and act local” when it comes to marketing. But what if the Internet screws that up? What if a KFC ad that might be perfectly appropriate in Australia is offensive to Americans? Check Google analytics, Twitter search and “How Sociable” if you want proof of the damage.
Even if you’re not putting your local commercials on the Intertube, you may want to think about how it might strike customers in other countries. Not as bad as accidentally naming your brand a word that means “shark penis” in Japan, but close.