By Todd Lombardo
Can you predict the future?
Nah, me neither. Predicting the future is a tough task, even if it is more fun than looking back. The most interesting part of history is what’s to come, and even more interesting, how we adapt to it.
And there’s the rub. Predicting what’s going to happen is one thing, taking action is another.
It’s in our nature to resist change, especially when facing stubborn headwinds, so part of our job is to overcome. But digital video is transforming media for companies old and new, and any marketer or publisher will tell you, in this new world, there’s also a whole new set rules.
New rule #1: Embrace the world beyond YouTube.
You have to. Even though we all catch ourselves thinking, “if we create great video, audiences will come.” Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true?
Today, video distribution beyond YouTube is a required component of pretty much every video strategy. The new rules indicate it’s Facebook (8 billion daily video views) and Snapchat (6 billion), plus live streaming, short-form, subscription, over-the-top, mobile, messaging, virtual reality and…the next thing that hasn’t happened yet.
It’s so much more than just publishing on our own sites, YouTube annotations or SEO. There’s tremendous opportunity on other platforms, even when it means evolving formats, sharing monetization, forging tough negotiations, letting go of some control, and diving into the scary unknown.
Challenge yourself to evolve thinking on where video views matter, where potential audiences are aggregating by the millions. It’s potentially a smarter strategy than trying to get millions of views on your own. Just ask BuzzFeed, which gets more than half of all its video views via Facebook and Snapchat.
New rule #2: Social media is marketing.
Every time the classic marketing funnel comes up in conversation, the dialog diverges on where to put social. It goes at the top, near awareness! No it goes near the bottom by conversion. Right? Yes and yes. You know the truth: social belongs everywhere. The concept of a funnel is still valid, even if you can no longer draw a nice diagram.
But to lump all the tools at our disposal under the phrase “social” is also a mistake. Each have different strengths, and each can play a role in achieving goals. Take Twitter, for example. It’s great for news, excitement and lead generation. Instagram is fantastic for emotion and showcasing the creative side. Snapchat’s Discover is driving millions of millennial views for publishers. And on and on.
But there are words of caution, too: social media is not a task tacked onto the end of the marketing coordinator’s day. It’s strategic, it’s funded, it’s full time, it’s as well-thought-out as any other media strategy. And maybe it’s not every platform, because nobody can do it all.
New rule #3: TV is not dead.
No matter how many headlines we read about the death of TV, we aren’t buying it, and neither should you. Yes, linear TV subscribers are declining. But if you look at the bigger picture, it’s growth, growth, growth, with people watching video in all its forms on all devices.
Take over-the-top TV, led by Netflix with 69 million subscribers. We can now count 70 apps on Apple TV, and more are anticipated this year. Consider OTT as the next ecosystem that delivers on-demand, high definition, high quality, lean-back video viewing experiences, a place where former print publishers (like Condé Nast) and advertisers (like Red Bull) can now have a real TV channel.
The nature of TV watching and the opportunities that come with it are simply evolving — for viewers, advertisers and publishers.
New rule #4: Welcome ad blocking.
Advertisers and media companies have done a disservice to viewers since the beginning of advertising. Often, it’s been too many ads selling us things we don’t need. Is it any wonder that ad blocking has become more of a thing?
Yet advertising is not bad. In fact, it’s a necessary part of the media business, even in today’s world, where streaming subscriptions and micro-payments are fast becoming a viable option. Viewers often forget this. Without ads, there would be little to watch.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the way to make changes is to put the viewer experience first. Yes, publishers have to hit their numbers and advertisers need scale, but a negative experience for the very person you are trying to engage is not worth it. Only by accepting the causes of ad blocking (largely, us) will we solve the real problem. Advertisers must make better ads that tell stories, and publishers can’t overwhelm with pre-roll and mid-roll and overlays, pop-ups and pop-unders. It’s too much.
We are looking for a few daring publishers and advertisers to make substantive changes (read: fewer, better ads) to the ad viewing experience in 2016.
Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Coghlan
New rule #5: Millennials aren’t the only generation that matter.
We get it: millennials are huge. And marketers, as a fundamental part of brand strategy evolution, are always working to age down, so why not target millennials?
But hold up a second. There’s another generation that’s younger, more connected and very, very different from millennials. Some marketers are talking about them, but not enough. They are generation Z.
The oldest of generation Z were born between 1995 and 2000. They are more Latino, more African-American, more Asian. They aren’t just video savvy, they are video innate, meaning they largely don’t know a world before YouTube, streaming video, social media and smartphones. Facebook is for old people, but they’ll take Snapchat. Even biggest-YouTube-star-in-the-world PewDiePie might be too geriatric for them. And they are less optimistic and more pragmatic.
Now is the time for marketers and media companies to dig into generation Z to understand what they want. They are coming. Obsess only about millennials at your peril.
Be bold. Take risks. Embrace change! These are words to live by. Wishing you a wildly prosperous, video-rich 2016.
Todd Lombardo is the head of marketing at CakeWorks, a video consulting firm. He has held digital marketing leadership positions at advertising agencies, Fortune 500 media companies and Silicon Valley start-ups.