YouTube’s New Year’s Resolutions

Hi. I'm YouTube. I'm a little drunk, but here are my New Year's Resolutions. Dude I love you.

Hi. I’m YouTube. I’ve never spoken before, so forgive me if I sound like a computer. I having been designed by engineers not ‘creative people’ with sub-par GPAs. I wasn’t made by the sales and marketing people who, in college, cheated off those who programmed me. Sorry- that came out wrong. That takes me to my New Year’s Resolutions, and I’m a little buzzed right now. So I’m going to write this down and so I remembering it tomorrow.

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job in 2010, but I’m not perfect. No machine, much less you humans, is. I’ve got some things to improve in 2011. So now let me getting started.

In 2011 I'm going to be nice to agency people despite their GPAs
  1. I’m going to stop being a dick to agencies. I didn’t realize that online video, unlike paid search, isn’t exactly a self-serve checkout lane at the grocery store. You’re going to totally think this is funny, but I thought you agency people were just idiots spending my customer’s money. Seriously. I realize now you idiots actually add some value. Or at least you’re influencing where brands spend money online, despite your small brains and Madison Avenue bullshit. I know Yahoo and AOL’s media sales representatives are totally more hot than my human selling people, but I hope you’ll give us a second chance. We got off on the wrong foot. Let’s be friends and drink martinis or sangrias or whatever you do to mask the putrid scent of failed dreams or quell your pent-up artistic aspirations. Cheers!
  2. Baby New Year looks like a love child from Swiss Miss and Chucky. Who's with me?

    I’m going to stop acting like a stoned teenager. Don’t get me wrong, I like those teenagers. I’m not a perv or anything… it’s just that they binge on my video like Alcoholic’s Anonymous noobs suck down cigarettes! I know I made an indelible first impression with most of you. Probably when you hear my name (hey, YouTube!) you generally think of either some ripped SNL skit, or Pandas crapping on skateboard toilets. In my defense, when Google bought me, I tried to just give people the crap they wanted. And oh you humans like your crap. This shizzle worked for search. But then, like “black hat” search-engine optimization trolls, some real crappy video got top billing. And it kinda got stuck in what my Master calls an “infinite loop.” It got stuck in an infinite loop. An infinite loop. Anyway, I didn’t really adjust well for broader audiences. I now realize there are people who will watch online video that agree this dude is a douche, and frankly I can’t sell even diet ads around his vids anyway. S0 I’m working on that. But, dude, I’m not going to become some girly Vimeo artistic local theater or anything. I’m also going to leave the booby videos to the peeps in Tel Aviv. Seriously if you know of any real online-video sites that are doing it right, please let me know. I’ll copy them, acquire them, or destroy them… whatever it takes to be a man.

  3. I don't know what love feels like, but check out this Asian robot. Is she hawt?

    I’m going to be more humane. My programmers are teaching me to be like humans. While they haven’t compiled the code for what you evolved apes call “love” and “empathy,” Master has taught me ways to simulate the job of a broadcast programmer without the Marhals suits and Scotch. In 2009 and even some of 2010, a few dozen “wanna-be stars” totally troll-hacked me into thinking their videos were good. I’m onto them. I am beginning to develop predictable logic about this thing you call “non-suck-ass” video. I’m going to start pimping videos that are “good like.” On my road to being and overtaking humans, please forgive me for occasionally making some stupid video popular or burying something half decent.

  4. I realize I need to be more than a search-engine. Over the past few years I was trying to kiss Google’s ass (it’s my Master). So I was all OCD about video search, while also trying to “thin the Hurl herd” of original YouTube doob heads. Now I realize that this online-video space is uncomfortably different from paid search. People may stick around and watch crap, and I can make a few bucks jamming pre-rolls down their throats and charge really low CPMs and make money. I owe it to you to be more than a map. I need to be the the navigation system, destination and “thing that wouldn’t leave.” If you have unbastardized free time I’ve failed you. I know half of my views are for music videos, but I want to be more than a free jute box to you.
  5. I’m going to stop jamming bottom-feeder pre-rolls at people. During that last point I realized I probably shouldn’t serve crappy CPM pre-rolls, but go for fewer and more relevant ads. Then I can charge a lot more. My Master told me that one day I too may create a bidding war over my advertising space, so it commands its actual worth. Then, with patience, I can start bidding careless media buyers against each other, and charge a super premium. Oh shit, I forgot about my first resolution. Forget that last point. Anyway my Master doesn’t pay a lot of attention to me because I’m kinda like the Coke machine at the casino, but one day I’m going to be His favorite. You’ll see.
  6. I made him. I can destroy him.

    I’m going to democratize content. I’ve totally played favorites lately with a few asswipe amateurs. I’ve made a few people temporary millionaires who will be bussing tables and driving Geek Squad vans again soon. A dozen or so people make $100K plus a year. This year I’m going to try to spread the wealth better, and see if I can cultivate better relationships with people who don’t just rally fan bases but actually have something watchable. I’m not talking about those shitty subtitled foreign films or anything, but I’m going to let a few brains on stage. I’ll start with Alf reruns.

  7. I’m going to stop being a dick to networks and producers. I realize I’ve not helped you promote and sell your own ads, and I’m totally going to change all of that this totally completely this year pinky promise. It’s a top priority even though it was like the 7th thing that came to mind. But let’s face it. Who needs whom more? Or as you advertising people say, “who needs who more?”
  8. I’m going to exercise and start eating well. I’m totally kidding about that. Just busting your balls. I’m going to get fatter and lazier because I’m practically a monopoly. I can apologize for being me, but I’m not going to mean it.
  9. android droid cartoon darth vader vador head
    All distribution channels will be almost as equal as my Master

    I’m really going to work on distribution BFFs. You’ve got to admit I’m a happening Hip Hop bar. But like Starbucks jamming Via into grocery stores, you’ll find me wherever you go. Let’s face it, most people have been coming to me to watch videos, but I’m really, really, really trying to be a platform not some lame-ass portal like AOL or Yahoo or Bling or whatever. I know I’ve been saying that, like, every year. But this year’s going to be different. But can you blame me for not getting my nips all hard over the 127 people using TiVos and AppleTVs? And I don’t even hear iTunes and iPads claiming “do no evil,” much living up to it. Anyway, this year I totally promise — if you’ve got, like, more than maybe a thousand people viewing videos on your stupid little phone, web-video box or elevator kiosk… I’ll pay attention to you. You can have the goods, and I don’t just mean the old “suck on my API or embed.” But let’s make a deal here. Don’t pull any flash cock-blockers or start shouting monopoly crap (because we’ll kick you in your net neutralities). If you’re really nice I’ll even allow you dumbass telephone companies to shit out some pre-rolls via me, and I’ll share a tiny bit of money with you. I mean nobody’s going to buy them, but I’ll try. My Master’s Droid is first in line of course. But our dance floor is huge, so the VIP entrance is the front door. Let’s party! Who else thinks Mark Cuban is a douche bag? YEAH!

  10. Lastly, the viewer comes first. I’m totally going to do right by the viewer and that’s why I saved it for my big finish. Master has taught me my priorities. After bold land-grabbing innovation, vigilant legal, and revenue building, the customer always comes first.
youtube nerd
Lastly, viewers come first

Can Google Sell Online Video Ads?

There’s been a lively debate recently among online-video enthusiasts about Google/YouTube’s capacity to sell display advertising. Sales people need different skill sets selling paid-search (automated, measurable, bid-based) versus display advertising (which is less measurable and more like selling television or print). To understand the distinction, see Google’s video; this is something we’ve been exploring at WillVideoForFood since Google bought YouTube in 2007. While Google has deep relationships with top companies and industries, it has only recently put emphasis behind non-search advertising.

YouTube’s display team (a few dozen) is rather small, and most YouTube ads are sold via Google Adwords not the dedicated team. While the display team sometimes lands some comprehensive ad buys with advertising agencies and brands, most monetization on YouTube is marginalized. The CPMs (cost per thousand) are so disappointing to some creators and online-video studios that some (from Next New Network and Revision3 to TheStation) have begun to sell their own inventory, or partner with ad networks that can attract better monetization for their views. Increasingly YouTube has provided creators and intermediaries tools to sell their inventory directly.

That said, there was some encouraging news from Jonathon Rosenberg, Google’s SVP for product management. According to this eWeek piece titled “Google YouTube, Android Drive $3.5B in Ads.”

Google’s display ad business… operating at an annualized run-rate of $2.5 billion. That’s counting YouTube ads, and all non-text ads running on Google’s network and DoubleClick networks, Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s senior vice president of product management, said on the Q3 earnings call. “You guys always ask me (referring to analysts)… where’s your next multi-billion dollar business after search,” Rosenberg said. “There’s your answer.”

The BiPolar Agency

Corporate work can be slow and boring, so agencies are refreshingly energetic by contrast. Fast… sometimes too fast but that’s better than sitting still, right?

I just read an interesting piece about the “creative exodus” in adland. It actually contradicted my past 3 days, where I realized that three online-video enthusiasts had moved into three companies (an agency, a mobile company and an agency). Until recently they were brands by themselves… publishers, consultants, studios, etc.

Did they see something I’m missing? Each said they received “an offer I couldn’t refuse,” but also probably gave away some level of freedom and diversity… hopefully none will be the “online video monkey” as the “online monkeys” of the early 2000. Those guys had P&L responsibility for a web shop of specialists who would have rather work at a digital agency. And they held in the same regard that an account executive holds the traffic coordinator… whatshername.

So this article by Matthew Creamer was well timed, and I found this part most fascinating:

“I recently had separate chats with two ad guys in their 20s who have good strategic jobs that keep them close to the work at growing digitally-focused shops with full client lists and strong case studies. These are smart, ambitious thinkers with the right understanding of where the business needs to go. Each has already flirted with the idea of taking important roles at big agencies and the future will probably be relatively kind to them, but instead of focusing on that, they echo the same complaints associated with these senior folks: the limits of client-service models, difficulty to find the time or buy-in for innovation. Neither can really imagine long careers in this or any other client-service business — not when there are Facebooks to be built. Platform and product-development is where it’s at in their minds, the kind of work that allows you to make money while asleep. And advertising will pay the bills until the right idea — and the right deal with the right backer — comes along.”

Interesting. Not sure I’d hold my breath for the next facebook, but who isn’t intrigued with the idea of scaling something that’s big… that’s an annuity stream. Something that requires time and effort, but eventually can be a source of recurring monthly revenue. Oh I’m not talking Amway. I’m talking about “4-hour workweek” (a book well worth reading with a grain of salt).

I’ve made it my mission to never get too comfortable on the client or agency side. Climbing a ladder in a corporation has always struck me as fun as working at the post office (would you like extra stamps with that? how about a PO box? how about tracking and some frenchfries).

For those of you facing corporate versus agency gigs I can tell you that they vary greatly… the agencies are especially bi-polar. On one hand you’re surrounded by a bunch of creative and intelligent people, so it’s energetic, dynamic and keeps you growing. On the other hand, you’re the client’s bitch, you’ll work long unpredictable hours, and deal with managers that may not know how to (or want) to manage.

To demonstrate the bi-polar moment, let me share my “high” and “low.”

Low: As a recent college graduate, I took an unpaid internship at Earle Palmer Brown (he’s one dude), who I guess got bought by Arnold and doesn’t exist anymore. It was depressing as hell and I worked in “traffic” (the idiot who moves shit from one department to another). At happy hours after work, people would encourage me to pursue another impression… and indeed it would be years before I took anything resembling an agency role. Parenthetically I had no business working on creative, but it didn’t stop me from making storyboards and videos for the Arby’s account that had just been secured. The creative director, a big ass Australian named John Doig, would dash past me like I was a homeless guy asking for change.

High: Working with Frontier Media Group, bought by Ikon, which was bought by Qwest. We were creating digital marketing, and educating product directors that really didn’t know how to market. So I’d immerse myself on a topic (Seth Godin’s latest book) and proclaim myself an expert. I had the MBA in marketing and a passion for digital so people would generally write big checks. That was so much fun I dreamed about it last night… only in the dream it wasn’t an agency it was CIA. Covert Ops. And I had a kickass boat that doubled as a plane. Didn’t know how to slow it down, so I just focused on turning at the right moments. I somehow avoided crashing it, and finally learned to maneuver it pretty well.

Except I never did figure out how to slow it down.

Why Agencies Are Killing Social Media & What You Can Do About It

Rapport-building anecdote to engage you: Around 1999, I worked as an account manager at a website-development company called Frontier Media Group. It was a company that specialized in production of online-properties and kiosks. My biggest client (which became the company’s second largest) began treating us like its “Internet Agency of Record,” and that took us far beyond project work. It was a vote of trust, and suddenly we were being asked to evaluate media buys and pilots. “What should the ratio of my Internet budget be in terms of web build versus online advertising?” they’d ask. I rushed back to the shop and pleaded my agency’s senior leadership to develop online media-buying services to handle display advertising and paid search… they resisted for more than a year, finally compelled less by duty and more by the incremental revenue it could snatch. “Hmmmm. A chance to snatch five percent of digital spending that was increasingly going online.” They hired a media guy whose job it was to battle offline media agencies who, of course, saw this internet-advertising fad as a horrific waste of money (which only coincidentally cannibalized their billings, but I digress).

we put the no in innovation

Now, a decade later, social media is facing a similar fate. As a marketer and independent consultant I see great opportunities that brands may not realize for years. As a former Internet agency guy, I understand why. It’s simply not yet profitable for an agency to engage in social media. Some account managers recommend social media, either because they know it’s in the brand’s best interest or they want to show they’re innovative. If the marketer appreciates the value, they’ll be heroes to the brand… even if they’re likely to be perceived as “going native” on their own agency. Why? Most savvy internet agencies haven’t figured out how to capitalize on emerging forms of social media, and urge clients to do things in their self interest. agency martini

Interactive agencies — and their big ol’ parental full-service agencies, to which I shall refer as Big Agency — are typically made up of account teams, production people, planners, media buyers and creative. They shout “teamwork and synergy” when they pitch, and they despise each other secretly. Each of these silos has its hands full managing such mundane tasks as updating a website or doing insertion orders for a fat & juicy digital media spend. These tasks are profitable. The account team, often the only one who may directly benefit from a social-media pilot because they’ll look progressive to their client, have precious few resources to actually manage even a simple social-media campaign. Who at the agency has done a video contest, a YouTube promotion, a Facebook or Twitter campaign? Who can help substantiate much less manage something new? Oh- there’s someone who did it… but he’s busy with new-business pitch.

Siloes

Meanwhile, Big Agency has very little incentive to partner with firms that specialize in social media (instead deferring to a full utilization of all agency personal before considering “outsourcing”). That’s consulting or agency-management 101… keep people “off the beach” even if their skills aren’t a good fit this particular decade. The specialist firms are, therefore, unable to get a seat at the table. “We don’t need them for that,” says the Big Agency chief creative officer or senior media buying executive. “We can do that ourselves!”

The result is that the “social media” campaigns are often a failure. And so, it seems, the medium is too. But to paraphrase British Author G.K. Chesterton (and Bruce Grant, who paraphrased him in his own way):

Social media has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.

Examples:

  • Bloated destinations on Facebook or Twitter that lack any relevant consumer engagement.
  • Little appreciation for “earned” engagements (not paid) because media buyers aren’t media engagers. They’re buyers.
  • Dismissive reactions to leveraging popular social-media “stars” because the agency sees that as a creative threat. The turtleneck-wearing, cigarette-holding creative director is insulted by letting their brand near an amateur YouTube star even if that chump has a bigger and more vibrant audience than will any professionally produced ad.

If an Internet firm or Big Agency can’t profit from social media (and sees it as a risk), how hard will they push it? Does an account guy want to take a risk for his client, only to be slapped around by 5 departments at his own employer? Will that Big Agency junior social-media advocate with skill and experience ever have an opportunity to help the agency, much less a client, tap the medium?

Meanwhile, the PR firms (who are instinctively appreciative of “earned” media that is so valuable in social media) are often not invited to contribute. These guys can’t spell HTML and didn’t have a Twitter account until it was all over the Wall Street Journal and NBC. If they do employ a social-media expert, the poor sap has the same fate that “web monkeys” held in PR and traditional agencies in 1999. They lack access to the clients, are not participating at a strategic level, and don’t even play nice in the agency sandbox.

This is a sad post, so let’s cheer it up and make it actionable. What can Big Agency (and even the nimbler ones) do to avoid these legitimate traps?

7-Steps-Cover

  1. 101 course for every department. Just like everyone at a traditional agency should have a basic understanding of the Internet, so too should they appreciate new forms of media. Not everyone needs to “tweet,” but they should be able to describe a successful case study related to each major media form (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, and whatever else comes along). They may discover that “social media” can help their department instead of threaten its existence.
  2. Senior champion required. Every agency needs a senior advocate for these innovative new solutions that might otherwise die. His or her job should be to champion these and determine how the agency handles them. Should the media department handle social media, or does it fit better in the strategic, research, or planning group? I’ll give you a hint- this decision is the most vital.
  3. Take small innovation team off billable clock. Someone or a small group should be relieved of billable-hour pressure to identify emerging models — some that may not yet have a profit model, but can help a client’s business. This person or team should share best practices, and know what firms, vendors, consultants solve various problems. In some cases, they can simply educate account teams and connect them with these experts. But if it’s a first-attempt at what may be a high-maintenance project, this team might “run point” to manage the initiative from setting goals to collecting metrics. In many cases, it should educate account teams (and not just those pitching a new assignment), hand the project over, and return to collect the performance… ensuring it’s not redundant to other departments. Some of this work may have already been done on billable time, but if it’s buried in an account team it’s not going to help the new pitch or other client.
  4. Mutual profitability. Niche social-media players (startups and specialty firms) and the large agencies need to figure out how to partner in a mutually beneficial way, and that takes more than driving great results for a client. The “vendor” and the agency both need to have a clear role and profitability. For instance, if Buzzmetrics is better than the agency’s homegrown “web monitoring” solution, than outsource and mark it up (by adding value on the output). If some weird Twitter guru freelance consulting can offer some guidance, give them a seat early and define their boundaries. The freak’s input may help optimize a program, kill it justifiably, or save it from becoming an embarrassing headline.
  5. Pick wisely. Social-media startups (and especially consultants) are sometimes brilliant solo players, but don’t know how to do the jazz ensemble. Others have decided to pursue a niche passion, and have no interest in doing things outside that realm. If Big Agency senses a specialist firm or company wants to be a full-service agency, then one can understand why Big Agency wants them far from their clients.
  6. Make a black & white list. In emerging forms of advertising, there will be winners and losers related to both the medium and the people that executed a program. An agency needs to keep tabs on vendors and programs that succeed and fail. That means tracking both the performance of the medium (YouTube) AND the partner (an online-video specialist) that managed the assignment. A success is probably indicative that both are solid. But a failure could mean one or the other, and knowing the right answer will be important to determine if another attempt is made.
  7. Timing is everything. On one hand, few want to be the first to pilot something new, where it’s hard to predict outcomes much less scope time it will take. When an agency has trouble and a simple project gets bloated, it either needs to reevaluate how it did it… or determine that it’s a cost-prohibitive tactic because of the manpower it consumes. On the other hand, by the time it’s 100% clear that a social-media tactic will work, it’s probably an antiquated one. There’s an old African proverb: “if you wait for the whole beast to appear before throwing the spear, you’re already too late”).

Now I invite you, dear agency and brand readers, to provide your own thoughts (anonymously if you choose, as WordPress can’t track your ISP). You’re so very quiet on this blog that I sometimes worry you’re not reading. Please share! Otherwise I’m only writing for the fun regular commenters I call the WVFF back row.”

Online-Video Ad Spend: Optimistic But Still “Sculpting Fog”

Don’t get depressed about the economy folks. Even wrecklessly stupid brands are squeezing old-media spending in favor of paid search, targeted interactive advertising, and … yes… even online video.

Marketing and advertising spend on online video has a good future. Even though it’s a small sliver of online spending and difficult to measure (slicing fog), Uncle Nalts has some ideas for the industry that can help. I’ve even numbered them below, but let’s look at the problem first.

Today’s eMarketer reports that LiveRail (LiveRail is a video ad server, so take this with a grain of salt) estimates 2010 at $1.4 billion, up from a 2008 spend of about $619 million. eMarketer is a bit more conservative (and recently downgraded its forecast), but may not be counting special programs… for instance, it’s hard to measure sponsorships that are unique to a creator or a website. Nonetheless, most agree that online-video represents just 2% of online spending, which is asburdly low. It reminds me of how slow media buyers were to capitalize on paid search in the early 2000s. I need to say that again. It reminds me of how slow media buyers were to capitalize on paid search in the early 2000s.

Daisy Whitney wrote a nice article summarizing the issues with measuring the online-video advertising. Uncle Nalts spoke to Whitney, but she had tossed her phone in the bathtub before he got his points across… Whitney reports that IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau – see its blog) likes its methodolgy for capturing spending.  IAB measures “digital video commercials” or “TV-like advertisements” that appear before, during or after a variety of content, but not brand integration. “We believe we are capturing the biggest part of a growing market,” said David Doty, senior VP, thought leadership and marketing, at IAB.

Clients for whom Nalts has done promotional videos, or consultingI couldn’t disagree more. By IAB’s definition, I make zero income on online-video advertising. That’s because my YouTube Partner revenue is based on “InVideo” ads that presumably don’t meet IAB’s definition. And certainly the low income CPM-based “display creative” around my videos is not captured in that spend. But as grateful as I am about YouTube sharing advertising revenue, I make far more money through custom videos (aka sponsored videos).

What are sponsored videos? See this page for examples of entertaining videos that have subtle brand messages. My fellow creators do more subtle “product placement” for money, but I haven’t messed with that yet because I fear backlash if I’m not transparent. And I don’t want someone thinking I’m getting paid by Coke if I take a swig in a video. Even though I totally would if my friend Mike at Coke Interactive would throw be a friggin’ bone.

So what do we need to spur further uptake in online-video advertising?

  1. Measure it more precisely to help brands understand how to allocate their spend, and increase online-video advertising from 2% to something closer to 10%.
  2. Conduct more studies that show video advertising works — even if it’s surrounding (gasp) amateur or consumer-generated content.
  3. Encourage experimental marketers who are not only open to new channels, but pressure agencies to identify creative options so they’re not lost in the clutter.
  4. Reward agencies for exploring new vehicles to reach target consumers when they’re engaged in their experience (and not brain dead on the couch). The inventory is there, folks, but we’re not going to solve the problem by hiring stupid CPM media buyers that are recently graduated, hungover and trying to find a new boyfriend.

Who’s Going to Change Online-Video Advertising?

imedia connections graphicI’ve often debated with myself who’s responsible for radical changes in online-video consumption and advertising. Creators? Marketers? Agencies? Media properties?

I attended a recent iMedia Connection event, and found out an unlikely decision maker that advertisers and marketers agree will be the real driver of change. Um… you. See the chart below. You as the online-video consumer will decide.

Now I don’t think we can expect online-video creators to identify new ways they’d like to be interupted with ads, but this does serve an important point. If you hadn’t decided you wanted to share and view videos on YouTube, there wouldn’t be much of an online-video ad model.

So what’s next, viewer? Tell the marketers and the agencies. They’re watching and waiting.

What Should a Viral Video Cost a Marketer? (Killer Post)

“The price of a thing is the worth it will bring.”

I love that quote, but the reality is that “viral” video pricing has been less about worth and more about cost plus.

If anyone should know the “fair market price” of a viral video it should be I — or me (depending on which one is grammatically correct, and I really don’t want to know, because I don’t plan on framing a sentence that way again).

After all, I interact daily with brand marketers, big and digital agencies, and video creators. Yet prices range irrationally, and the market is in desperate need of guidance. This post is a long one because this is a complex and important issue to brands and creators. I really should clean this up, and adapt this for one of the advertising and marketing trade magazines.

Nalts Discloses Fees
Let me disclose my own fee structure and hope others will do the same. I initially was happy with $1,000 per video (for Mentos and some of my early work), but soon discovered my hourly rate computed to less than minimal wage. And I was juggling more work than I could handle with a day job. I also didn’t want to junk my YouTube channel with excessive sponsored videos, which alienating my subscribers (especially since many resent YouTube’s InVid ads, which produce far less income for me than sponsored videos).

Now I’m pricing between $3,000 and $10,000, but there are a few reasons I can price this way:

  • I have a decent track record, and fortunately more demand than time.
  • I have a steady audience on YouTube so most of my videos will get at least 20-40,000 views.
  • I have a marketing background, and provide strategy and a creative brief before diving into the video.
  • I try to produce several videos so a brand can amortize the cost (and generally I get some efficiencies out of a series).
  • I have gobs of debt (hey, just keeping it real here).

How Marketers & Creators Find Each Other
There are, of course, plenty of video creators who can perhaps do better videos for less money. I have developed a network of specialists that can, for example, do a great score, logo or animation very inexpensively. But I haven’t yet discovered a good “business exchange” site where advertisers and creators can find each other (viral video could use its own eBay, Craig’s List or Match.com). I’ve thought about starting one, but it is labor intensive and not something that automates well without significant volume. And I don’t feel like being the “viral video” middleman or talent scout.

Xlntads (with whom I consult occasionally) is approaching that model because hundreds of creators have registered and sometimes partner via the site (a director and a musician team up for an ad). A brand can generate a variety of videos via Xlntads without hunting down and dealing with individual creators (not to mention multiple contract negotiations). I like that as a marketer, and as a creator I’m happy to work for a smaller fee if I can avoid some of the incredibly time-consuming and frustrating “business development and qualifying” hassle.

Going from Prospect eMail to Payment
My visibility means most of my clients find me, so I’m fortunately not cold calling (yuck). But there’s a huge cost associated with qualifying something and having multiple phone calls and documents, and some of these go nowhere. I probably ignore valid opportunities because I miss an e-mail, or it reminds me of a previous discussion in which I invested time and energy understanding the brand, building a creative brief, proposing video concepts… then the agency or brand inexplicably “went dark.”

More importantly, many video creators have no interest or experience in selling their work, and simply want to create something for a modest profit. Historically, I don’t charge until I make a video, and yet much of my value occurs earlier and I’ve been giving that away naively.

Project or Retainer Video Consulting
As of this post, I’m moving to a flat-fee model where I charge $250 an hour (or a discounted day rate) to: understand the brand’s goals, conduct some informal research of their “space” in online video, build or adapt a creative brief, and present a series of video concepts. This initial fee will help me qualify clients and provide better service initially (as opposed to scrambling together a few weak concepts 10 minutes before a conference call). Then I’ll scope and price videos separately. This seems fair, since much of my value is in the initial phase, and the fee justifies my time and makes me a partner instead of a video production guy desperately pitching a few Nalts videos in hopes that I haven’t wasted my time. If I’m not right for the client’s production (or if I’m swamped) I can refer it to other creators.

As a marketer, I’d maybe prefer to pay upon completed video, but I am accustomed to paying for my agency’s time by the hour (and usually at a rate that far exceeds $250 when you burden it with overhead).

In 2008 (recession or not) companies and agencies will need marketing/video expertise, but can’t justify a full-time employee until this space matures. Do you remember what smart agencies and clients did when paid-search was emerging as a discipline? Rather than hire a firm with overhead or pay a full-time employee, they tapped specialists who were compensated for their objectivity, expertise and time. My career goal is to move from corporate marketing to online-video consulting retainers for a few companies and/or agencies. But don’t tell my boss yet. 🙂

Various Creators. Various Fees.

There are a number of video creators that do work for hire.

  • Some are simple and some are complex teams with expensive budgets.
  • Many are brilliantly creative but couldn’t market their way out of a paper bag. Others are sound marketing strategists that suggest creative concepts that make you cringe inside (I need to start documenting some of these because they’re so unfunny they’re funny again).
  • I’ve known brands that have spent $250,000 on a series of 4 short viral videos (not kidding), and I’ve known brands that have done almost the same thing on a shoestring $5K budget.

As a marketer, I tell people to keep their costs down since there’s no guarantee the video will pop. As a creator, of course, I want to profit from my work and want the same for other amateurs.

If you make online videos, please feel free to pimp yourself below- as long as you provide some information about your pricing.

“Fixed” versus “Variable” Payments
Should a marketer pay for a video, or pay the creator based on its viralicity? I have a strong opinion here, but I need to first explain why I cringe at “per view” payments. A view isn’t a view. Views can be manipulated in various ways – I don’t know how the “viewer robots” work (and don’t really care) but I assume they replicate a view by refreshing a video in intervals using various IP addresses. Most sites are developing safeguards against this, and counting only true views as those that last more than, say, 30 seconds. I’ve notice my view count darts to 200 and then stops for a while before it reflects that actual views. Presumably someone is validating the view count before it’s reflected accurately.

  • Any video site can fudge the view counter and it would be hard for a marketer or creator to know otherwise (candidly I suspect some of the second-tier sites are manipulating view counts to make the site look popular for visitors and advertisers).
  • “Auto roll” is another way to manipulate views. My YouTube profile page has a feature where the video plays automatically on the unwitting viewer, which gives me the ability to get any video thousands of views pretty quickly.
  • Even a real view isn’t always the same as a real view. Why do we pay different CPMs to media properties? Because some are worth more than others. If I do a video highlighting a U.S. hotel chain, it’s going to be worth much more to my sponsor to have that viewed on a travel blog or golfer website than on Break.com by a 14-year-old kid in Russia. It will be years before we can target views by demographics, so we assume some degree of waste.

As a video creator I’d prefer to be paid for my time and creativity, and not be gambling on the video’s popularity to find out if I’ve made $4 an hour or $7. As a marketer I don’t want to inadvertently reward the creator to junk and manipulate views. And even if I “capped” the view incentive, it’s a pain on my budget system to hold a reserve. Try explaining to the folks in finance why you’ve set aside $20,000 in case your video gets popular.

Pay for Seeding
Finally, there are two distinct costs associated with videos. First is the “creative” cost, like producing an advertisement. Second is the “promotion” cost of getting it viewed. While that can involve direct media fees (paying a site to feature a video), this is typically a retainer-based service that involves a person or agency seeding the video and reporting on views. Generally this is a temporary retainer since most of the views will take place in the first 30 days (I’m over simplifying this, but I wouldn’t hire an agency to report on my viral video for six months if each bi-weekly report was changing by .2%). After a few months, you move on. There are a few creators that have mastered this art, and a few agencies that are claiming it but have no idea about how to do it well.

This, like public relations, is a difficult thing to sell. But rest assured that “earned” media (locating a relevant blogger and asking them to post your video) is more targeted and effective than paying to flight crappy preroll ads. My recent Mac Spoof went well past 200K, and we’ll never know that’s attributed to the timliness and humor of the video itself, or the few e-mails I sent to Mac blogs (which took about 5 minutes).

There’s an art and science to video seeding, and it’s often done inappropriately. But it’s a vital step, and I believe this will spawn a cottage industry that eventually gets consumed by big agencies, interactive shops or PR firms.

A lot of information here, and I look forward to reading the comments. I hope this spawns some discussion about this important topic. We’ll set up a forum for it too.