Google Eats Its Own Dogfood: 7 Ways Its Using Video

Okay let’s just get this out. I’m a big Google fan, user, and customer. I’m also making non-trivial income from Google’s YouTube Partner program (through ad sharing on my Nalts videos seen 200 million gazillian times). So I really hesitate commending the company in a post headline. It looks I’m friggin’ shilling incognito and I hate that crap (see my parody on f’ing buzz marketing).

Instead I prefer to prank, complain and criticize the company to ensure my “checks and balances” are in place. It can border on “biting the hand that feeds you,” but I’ll call it tough love. You don’t own me, bitch (sorry I’ve got an authority issue).

Today’s post, however, is to observe that Google’s brain seems to be developing a frontal lobe (the rather useless part of the brain where insanity and marketing occurs). I’ll be damned if Google isn’t using video (even the YouTube player to keep Salar “Little Superstar” Kamangar happy) in increasingly effective ways. (The marketer rubs little puppy’s tummy and says good boy, as he naively thinks he’s more evolved than a wonderfully blissful animal).

Parenthetically I literally laugh outloud every time I refer to the head of YouTube as “Little Superstar” because I’m aware it appears so completely inappropriate and racist. But I’ll trust you WVFF loyalts will know that if I really felt that way I’d suppress it incredibly well. I stereotype into only two segments: people who make me happy and people who suck away my will to live. Anyway Salar isn’t even Indian he’s Persian or Iraq, and frankly I don’t know the difference or care. I just needed something to use to “downsize” him, since my ego is threatened by him having the coolest job in the world. It was the same thing with Chad, but Chad was a much easier victim since he generally looked stoned.

I wonder if Chad and Samar ever went to Dubai together and ate sushi off of woman’s stomaches.

Okay back to the news. Google using YouTube shouldn’t surprise us at first glance, but put aside Google’s products and branding (it’s hard to do), and ask yourself a question. Do you see Google as a great marketing organization? Or put more succinctly, how well does it tap the advertising medium that feeds it? Right your reaction because I’m coming back to read ’em.

Google historically has done almost no advertising for itself. It kept quiet, muted PR, and rarely showed evidence of advertising/marketing competencies from an external view. Sure, you might credit YouTube took out a Superbowl ad years ago (side note: good luck finding it on YouTube). But I’m convinced that was not for viewers, but simply to sneak access to “Superbowl Buyer’s Man/Boy Club” to pitch well-funded brands on the merits of diverting TV dollars to web.

But now I’m seeing real signs of life. Google print ads with direct-response offers? A discount on Google ads and to encourage app purchases? Really? It’s like watching my son Grant suddenly blossuming academically and reading voraciously. I know I had nothing to do with it, but I’m proud of the double G’s. Sidenote 2: Did I ever tell you I had a clubhouse in my house that I named Google in the late 1970s? Note to self: get time machine, go to 1995 and squat domain name for your childhood clubhouse.

So now the engineering anthill is using video to engage customers and promote? How charming! Let’s review recent and cumulative examples.

1) Branded Entertainment: Today we see a “Google Doodle” (typically an illustration of the logo marking an event) taking video form. The typically clean/sparse homepage features not a small custom image, but an embedded player with a nicely done Charlie Chaplin homage.

2) Satire/Entertainment: On April Fool’s Day Google pulled its annual prank by rolling out advanced “Gmail Motion” via video. The new solution featured a typical Google product director’s awkward monotone, complemented by a model (Steve Buscemi) demonstrating how physical movements (thumbs up, waves) can be interpreted it into text. One might expect a collective drone if he/she concedes that it was a clever prank, but I liked it. Why? It wasn’t too far fetched, it was executed fairly well, and I interpreted it as a subtle diss on Apple and its self aggrandizing swipes, pinches, and three finger whatevers.

Steve Buscemi in the Gmail Motion prank video

3) Product Launch: Google is increasingly using video to promote and teach out new products (see “advanced gmail” video). Sure Google has been criticized for a somewhat dated approach to product marketing (and some “areas for improvement” in its design/test/launch). But the sheer number of new innovations have me increasing my daily time-share significantly, and I want a Google GPS, Android simulator on my iPhone, and a Google-search brain implant for “just in time” information.

4) Humor: I’m not kidding. You have to look hard, but there’s humor lurking in the hallways. It’s probably like a secret society afraid to draw attention to itself among fellow engineers. But there’s the humanized personification of Google auto-complete (Hiring Autocompleters) that was funnier than its view count would suggest. (Last minute update- I was searching for more examples before hitting post and I remembered I was part of “Demo Slam” to promote additional tools/solutions to a broader audience… now you’re going to think this whole post was motivated by that, and you can kiss my ass because I nearly forgot I did it.

5) Public Relations: Remember all the drama about privacy invasion resulting from Google Earth (buttcrack) and Google Street View pictures? This video that shows “behind the scenes” of Google’s streetview camera vehicle. It replaces the images in my head of a creepy zit-faced MIT intern driving a black van, snapping photos, and wearing no pants.

6) Education & Community: Google uses videos to support community, health education, public service and economic summit Davos whatever… but that’s so damned boring I don’t feel like writing about it.

7) There is No Seven. I just don’t like posts with six items. Actually seven is “reader’s choice.” What’d I miss?

Yahoo Begs Marketers to Put TV Commercials Online. I Puke But Understand.

(Half the fun of this post is the hyperlinked videos to punctuate the copy).

Below is an ad from a trade magazine, where Yahoo let’s advertisers know their television ads can move online. My immediate reaction (after I puked and rinsed my vomit) was that Yahoo is basically teaching advertisers and brands to annoy its users. Not a good long-term strategy.

Hey, marketer. Hey, marketer. Hey, marketer. Send us your TV spots and money. Hey, marketer.

Then again, Yahoo has long shown it knows its REAL audience is not the silly fools who visit the site, but those that give it money. Yahoo has partnered with larger content providers, fetched large integrated advertising dollars like Fagin’s army of orphans, and countered You “animal farts” Tube with promises of advertising-safe content not user-generated content.

So Yahoo goes after the path of least resistance. It’s not an entirely reckless move. If you’re an online property and see the vast majority of marketing dollars going into television… why not be “an online television set”? It’s easier for marketers to understand, and for lazy media buyers to spend without a lot of work.

No seriously. Prerolls make me obsessed with brands.

Consider the mind of the marketer:

  • My VP keeps asking me to shift dollars to online. I don’t want to hassle with a dumb ass branded Facebook page.
  • Wait- I don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars customizing my content for the medium?
  • I can just have my “Agency of Record” account lead tell his production people to send the Yahoo people a compressed version of our :30 and :60 spots?
  • Then I shift some of my budget allocation? Sign me up. Yey prerolls!

Meanwhile, the consumer is silently skipping or indulging the ads with despise (even the dumbest online site won’t measure or share data on how prerolls have negative impact on brand sentiment). The hapless user/viewer is forced to watch television ads before and during the content they want. Suddenly they start drifting away from Yahoo, and looking for less obnoxious ways to get content and entertainment.

It’s a smart, strategic way to spur a shift of media dollars, even if it comes at the expense of Yahoo’s other target audience (the users and viewers).

Will it work? It might bring some fast revenue, but its sustainability requires a) the non-ad content being so incredible that Yahoo viewers tolerating this, and b) if Yahoo can use this approach as a buyer “hook,” then quickly adapts the ad content to make it engaging (something the ad promises, but is not as easy as repurposing television spots).

A more sustainable approach would be to partner with firms that can create “branded entertainment” (whatever that means to you), or set up rich media entertainment with non-intrusive but inviting ads (the Seven Echo model). But really… does Yahoo have the time or patience for that?

What Media Buyers Need to Know About Online Video

What perfect timing. I watched this “New Media Minute” by Daisy Whitney, and  was interrupted by a Product Director who’s seething over his clueless media buyers. My client, like me, is perplexed and annoyed by the inability of most media buyers to speak succinctly to brands about two simple things: whether the media spend is, simply, “on strategy” and “on budget.”

The details are noise, and we just want to be convinced the media-buying firm is not completely clueless. Like maybe they’re buying based on efficient and high-impact opportunities and not to payback for the dinner AOL bought. I mentioned that some media buyers are the people from high school that could have chosen careers selling cars or mortgages, and generally had C averages (but to be fair, they dressed well and always knew how to tap the keg). He recounted his friend who “was probably 400 in a class of 399” and is now quite wealthy in the media space.

I really shouldn’t poop on media buyers until I walk a mile in their Manolos.

On a particularly good hair day, Daisy Whitney tells us Pepsi's putting its Superbowl coinage into creating its own BudTv.

But imagine how frustrating it is — to a marketer and video creator — to read eMarketer reports that online-video is projected to grow at a bullish 30-40% annually…. but knowing that it’s all in the hands of career buyers of print and television who like driving f’ing awareness & attitudes and CPMs and anything else you can’t connect to sales.

People, video has the great potential of driving awareness, but also trial... dare I call it a “direct response” medium that “traditional media buyers” misunderstand, fear, loathe? Media buyers are to “direct response” and sales what belly dancers are to FIFO. And even the Wall Street Journal (a publication you’ve not heard of because it requires a subscription) says snail mail is still hot.

(Oh- you’re not a “traditional media buyer” if you are reading this article, unless someone sent it to you to chastise you).

I find Daisy’s characterization of marketers and advertisers hoping to “buy not rent” audiences a bit quaint, even if it may well be accurate. How many of us wake up each morning curious to know what entertainment P&G or Kraft has cooked up for us? Seriously? Pepsi is apparently bagging the Superbowl and launching some online thing that may or may not be fabulous. It’s “the next great thing” or BudTV.com all over again. We can’t be sure, but I suspect we won’t bookmark it. It reminds me of pharmaceutical brand managers in 1999 aspiring to have their website as the “home page” of every physician. Fat chance, but sometimes time is the best teacher.

I do like the theme of marketers shifting from interruption ads to the creation of engaging content and entertainment. Yey for that! But we impatient and ADHD-driven online-video carnivores are not likely to find it without some help from PR and ad spending.

Fortunately we’re seeing some new “video” ad networks (Daisy names Yume and Scanscount) that might help media buyers go beyond prerolls. I wonder if these companies are sophisticated enough to monitor their names in social media. First company to comment below wins a free pixel.

Read this TechCrunch piece by WatchMojo’s CEO for some tips for content creators looking to snatch some of the massive online-video spending (the writer leads a company that does branded entertainment, which is about as pervasive these days as ad networks). According to WatchMojo: “Unlike articles, you can’t fool audiences as easily with videos. It’s easier to get away with a slapdash article than with a slapdash video.”

Well that’s news to me. I’ve been fooling audiences a few hundred million times.

So here are some tips for the ambitious media buyer who, at least, wants to sound smart when speaking with a brand:

  1. Acknowledge that online-video is growing, and that budget should follow the audience.
  2. Don’t spend it all on pre-rolls. We hate them as much as you.
  3. Find people who have already assembled an organic audience, and sponsor them or buy product placement. Go direct to the big ones (NextNewNetwork, Revision3) or use Hitviews, PlaceVinePoptent or Zadby to broker deals with smaller guys. Did I miss any intermediary between popular web content and marketers? Don’t be afraid to raise your hand.
  4. Partner with content providers and online media players to create webisodes that are entertaining AND engaging (with an emphasis on the former, since the latter depends on it). You’ll need a “branded entertainment company,” but be sure they have an idea of how to get the crap seen not just make it fabulous.
  5. Buy the crap out of ad inventory that are driven by search (if they’re searching for your brand, you want to be there first).
  6. Customize your content because if I see another 30-second spot as a preroll I’m going to power puke.
  7. Use rich-media ads with compelling video content and an irresistible “call to play.”
  8. Buy every Nalts InVideo ad you can from YouTube regardless of the CPM. I heard his content attracts your target buyers, and that they’re 45% more likely to engage in your ad because his videos are so bad.

New Storytelling Dimensions: HBO Imagine Raises Bar for Seven Echo & New Advertainment Models

Online video and rich media create a new model for storytelling and advertising that immerses audiences.

Why is it that online video, while at least 3 years old, offers very little beyond traditional video that happens to be shorter and amateur driven? Certainly the lack of scripting gives us the sense we’re invited guests in the creator’s home, and we develop para social relationships because we can interact with them.

However very little, with the exception of “choose your own ending” has taken full advantage of the medium… until HBO Imagination.

Somebody call 911. Shawty's fire burnin' on the museum floor.
Somebody call 911. Shawty's fire burnin' on the museum floor.

While the site is slow, complex, and confusing, I give it 5 stars for pushing the medium to new levels. I’m at the beginning of my own journey, and I have a lot more to “unlock.” But I was impressed that I could watch an art heist from four different angles… trying desperately to be in the right place at the right time. If you’re inclined to wait for the slow startup time, please comment with what you thought was impressive (or not).

I’ve seen the criticism that it’s a one-trick pony; that I’m not likely to return. But that’s because it occurs on an island instead of embedded into places online where I spend time. Like YouTube (although it was a YouTube ad that finally took me there, after hearing about it several times).

As online-video gives storytellers new devices to allow the audience to explore various paths, the traditional online-advertising executions have some “catching up” to do. They need to explore storytelling and engagement like HBO Imagine, and not rely on typical “awareness to interest to conversion to purchase.”

Seven Echo

SevenEcho is one such company. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with founder and CEO David J. Russek through a mutual friend, and his vision is unsurpassed in helping entertainers and large advertisers weave mutually beneficial programs. The viewer can receive a customized ad based on product preference, and advertisers can embed their images in a show… then Seven Echo can swap them for another advertiser seamlessly. We meet at the home of Oscar Hammerstein and discuss our vision for this medium in the years ahead, and we both learn (although I learn more).

Ultimately, however, the distribution partners need to recognize the value to their audiences and sponsors. Many of these devices are not allowed on the #1 online-video sharing site, which is still relying on revenue from InVideo ads, banners, and homepage takeovers.

Imagine for a moment an entertainment experience customized to your region or story-telling preferences. Like a sexy blond as your hero? We’ll drop that in. Want happy endings only? Set that preference. Suddenly one story (albeit with lots of “branches”) is your personalized experience, and it’s ad supported because the ads are seamlessly integrated into the story.

This is the kind of initiative that should excite hungry entertainment companies and progressive advertising agencies with a desire to push the creative envelope and give their clients engaging rich-media experiences… instead of a traditional media insertion.