Don’t Interrupt My Video, Bro!
Creating Welcomed Video Content
This past weekend I upgraded my Hulu account from “limited commercials” to “no commercials.” The event that precipitated this move was a spontaneous binge-watching session with my wife. We rediscovered a television show we hadn’t seen in ages, so we decided to catch up on the latest season. After a couple of episodes, I was already getting tired of one ad that seemed to play every commercial break. After watching a few more episodes peppered with that same ad, I had had enough. I jumped online, upgraded my Hulu account, and minutes later was watching commercial-free.
I’m controlling my own user experience.
Although I watch a fair amount of content on Hulu and Netflix, I have satellite TV as well. Despite having the ability to zip through commercials on my DVR, I do actually take time to watch some of them (although this is usually an unpopular practice with guests). The point is that there are times when I do elect to watch a commercial because it’s either informative or entertaining, but it’s at my choosing. In the meantime, I’m weeding out the majority of commercials that have not managed to capture my attention (that is, while I fast-forward through them). In other words, I’m controlling my own user experience.
Ad Blocking Is Here
The Internet is currently littered with articles about the skyrocketing adoption of ad-blocking technology on both desktop and mobile devices. According to a 2015 report from PageFair and Adobe (PDF), the number of people using ad-blocking software grew 41 percent globally from 2014 to 2015. Many predict that this number may grow exponentially because of all the recent attention ad blocking has been receiving, due in part to Apple’s release of iOS 9. Apple’s latest mobile operating system enables developers to more easily launch ad-blocking apps. Shortly after its release, roughly 29 percent of iPhone users were already using ad-blocking apps, according to data published by GlobalWebIndex.
The number of people using ad-blocking software grew 41 percent globally from 2014 to 2015.
Articles about ad blocking range from heralding the virtues of an ad-free Internet experience to lamenting the demise of free content as we know it. Of course, similar predictions were made with the arrival of the DVR and again when streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV grew in popularity. Despite advances in technology that limit advertising during traditional television programming, TV shows still exist. That’s not to say that there haven’t been massive changes along the way, but again, those changes have been driven by viewers’ desire for a better user experience. I predict that in the same way, Internet content will survive the aftermath of the ad blocker.
It’s Not About Blocking. It’s About Interruptions
However, interruptions aren’t the only reason consumers are pushing back on advertising. There are other factors at play, such as privacy and security. According to a study by Pew Internet, Americans value the ability to control what kind of personal data can be collected and by whom. Not to suggest that advertisers can’t be trusted with consumer data, but sometimes our desire to improve the consumer buying experience has the opposite effect. Take for instance the practice of retargeting. Sure, having an occasional reminder about a product you viewed a week ago might be helpful. However, being followed website after website with an ad for an item you already purchased can be downright annoying.
“Stop interrupting what they’re interested in and become what they’re interested in.”
The Pew Internet study points to an underlying feeling of mistrust that consumers have for online advertisers (as well as a host of other tech and government entities, but that’s a whole other story). Reports like these and the current situation with ad blocking should be a reminder to brands that consumers do not value unwelcomed advertising. What is valued is when brands learn how consumers want to communicate and interact. This, in turn, provides the basis for brands to deliver meaningful and relevant content that engages rather than repulses the consumer.
At VidCon 2015, David Beebe, vice president of Global Creative and Content Marketing for Marriott International, didn’t mince words during his presentation. His message was clear about marketing to consumers: “Stop interrupting what they’re interested in and become what they’re interested in.” The global hotel chain has put action behind Beebe’s words by forming the Marriott Content Studio, which to date has released short films such as Two Bellman and French Kiss, both of which have garnered several million views on YouTube.
Creating Successful, Engaging Video Content
While some brands, such as Red Bull and GoPro, have a media-companylike presence on YouTube, most others take a more tempered approach to providing a steady stream of engaging video content. In July, Pixability published the results of an analysis it conducted targeting the top brands on YouTube. The analysis shows that subscribership for brands is up 47 percent from 2014 to 2015. Pixability concluded that “consumers don’t just watch videos; they’re actively committing to brands on YouTube, requesting to stay connected to the brand and be notified when new content is published.”
As marketers plan for 2016, consider the following for your branded video content strategy:
- Review your audiences’ tastes. Have they changed or evolved?
- Engage your community by producing genuinely helpful or entertaining content.
- Spotlight your brand’s authenticity and avoid heavy-handed selling techniques.
- Look for an invitation — don’t interrupt.
Despite the most recent attempt to kill online advertising, I strongly suspect it will survive in one form or another. But rather than try to preserve something that drives consumers away, let’s spend time improving their experience with our brands. Let’s become what they’re interested in.