Home Analysis Advertising What we learned at Future TV Advertising Forum, Part 2

What we learned at Future TV Advertising Forum, Part 2

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Jon Block chairing the ‘Freaky Friday’ panel with Google, TV4, OMD & Twitter

Two weeks ago we published our first seven takeaways from Future TV Advertising Forum 2015 (see separate story), focusing on addressable advertising and programmatic TV advertising. Here is our second instalment, looking at efforts by traditional media companies to reach youth demographics, and the increasingly ‘plural’ character of the video-based advertising market. Other takeaways from FTVA 15 were:

8. Traditional media companies are now ‘meeting’ youth audiences where they are, in the MCN video sub-culture.

The stampede by ‘traditional’ media companies to invest in MCN content, whether by building or buying, recognizes the reality that for some of the youth market this is the new television. Broadcast groups are aware of the opportunity to help brand clients reach younger millennials and Generation Z with brand messages. They are aware of the danger that marketing budget for reaching youth demographics will be spent with a new breed of YouTube-centric content producers and distributors if there is no ‘broadcaster’ solution.

David Benson, Director of Branding EMEA at Google, emphasized just how important the MCN (multichannel network) stars have become. He told the London conference (in early December) that six of the ten most influential people for teenagers in the UK are ‘YouTubers’ – that is stars who have made their connection with audiences through video content on YouTube. “It is important to recognize the passion these creators engender in their viewers. They have used the Internet and mobile to elevate themselves to superstar status.”

As we reported previously, it looks as though MCNs may start launching their own direct-to-consumer services, relegating YouTube to one of the mechanisms, rather than the only one, for bringing their content to market. Taking the stage after Facebook had outlined its own ambitions to become a video destination, Benson seemed to acknowledge the growing competition and noted that MCNs, producers and brands must ask how they operate across all the platforms available to them to be as effective as possible. “I believe YouTube will continue to provide a very good platform and lead the way in this space,” he declared. 

Maria Wiss, Business Development Manager at TV4 Group, the Bonnier-owned Scandinavian broadcaster, said her company’s investment in the MCN market (the company has its own MCN) “is about meeting the audience where they are”. She added: “We need the courage and confidence to continue to make great content, so this is a very natural step for us.” (You can read more about TV4’s ‘digital-first’ strategy to reach youth markets here).

Wiss admitted the current disconnect between traditional television and important parts of the youth market. “We need to do this [MCN investment] with a different ‘face’ to the TV4 brand because the audience we are trying to reach does not necessarily have a relationship with TV4 as a broadcaster, because they don’t watch TV anymore. So we are trying to do this under a different flag.”

Wiss is hoping that as part of an established and strong media company, but with the freedom to “go their own way”, her MCN talent network will enjoy the best of both worlds.  She emphasized the importance of the MCN business maintaining a start-up mentality within the bigger TV4 organisation. 

Dr Sebastian Weil, CEO at Studio71, the Berlin based MCN launched two years ago by broadcast giant ProSiebenSat.1 Media, suggested that MCNs are the broadcasters of the online video world. “If you look at the content value chain, there is not much difference between what MCNs do and what television stations do.” 

There are two important differences to these value-chains that Weil did highlight. The first, representing an opportunity for broadcasters, is the international nature of MCN distribution, which contrasts with the typically national or regional character of broadcasting. The second, presenting a challenge, is the way that distributors in the MCN world, most notably YouTube, are major advertising businesses [in traditional TV, platform operators have typically focused on aggregation and/or subscriptions rather than advertising opportunities – although some platform operators are growing their media sales operations now].

Weil characterizes Studio71 as a premium content network, meaning one that works with fewer but larger talent channels than the average MCN (he refers to the bulk of MCN companies, with longer-tail content, as ‘aggregator MCNs’). The company searches the market (Facebook as well as YouTube) for social influencers, develops and produces its own content, handles channel management, uses analytics skills to drive traffic to content, and works with global brands selling advertising against the MCN content.

“There is a huge global trend to link social influencers with large brands,” he pointed out. 

9. We are approaching the ‘cross-over’ phase when the youth video culture meets mainstream entertainment and marketing.

While there is a trend towards branded entertainment (where content is produced especially for brands to soft-sell themselves) in the MCN world, the primary means of monetizing content at Studio71 is pre-roll advertising and there is even mid-roll advertising. So there is no mystery to how video marketers can present their messages, in terms of format. 

It also became apparent at Future TV Advertising Forum 2015 that we are going to see some cultural cross-over now that the big broadcasters are in the MCN market, something that may also be welcomed by advertisers as giving them the ‘best of both worlds’. Perhaps surprisingly, Weil at Studio71 said there is room for linear programming formats targeting the MCN youth market. The company has proved the model with its ‘Last Man Standing’ show, where different MCN stars (who are also considered social influencers) battle each other in various gaming ‘disciplines’ during an eight-hour live marathon. 

“When we started, we asked ourselves whether live programming works on the Internet and it turns out that it works really well,” he told the conference.  

Studio71 is even promoting the idea of scheduled viewing, encouraging its young viewing community to effectively ‘tune-in’ for some live streaming. “You have to give the audience some guidance about when they should look at the channel, but this works very well for us,” Weil revealed. 

Wiss at TV4 Group highlighted a shift towards live and scheduled content within the MCN market. Her company is also encouraging a wider cultural cross-over between the MCN and traditional TV markets. “We are looking at opportunities to migrate content creators and talent between the two worlds. The world in which people create their content is becoming more seamless now.” She noted that some of the MCN talent TV4 Group is involved with start out with a television career in mind.

Studio71’s Weil predicted the break-out of new talent from their MCN roots to the wider market. Accepting that many over-40s may only have heard of the MCN megastars if they have teenage children, he declared: “They are really popular influencers and we see more and more of them moving to the big screen – both television and movie theatres – because they have become very popular in their target groups.”

[We reported recently how RTL Group, via its Groupe M6 subsidiary’s brand, Golden Moustache, has recently published an online feature film that is free to view via YouTube and an owned-website. Studio71 is also creating its first feature length movie called ‘Natural Born Pranksters’ in cooperation with Lionscape (which has acquired the distribution rights). This includes some of the most popular ‘prankster’ talent on the Internet, Weil revealed.]

10. We are entering a plural video marketing era where, if you are flexible enough about where you place messages, no audience is really out of reach.

No audiences are really out of reach of marketers using video. That was the good news, delivered by Jean-Paul Edwards, Strategy & Product Development Director at Manning Gottlieb OMD. “If there are people we cannot reach, it is a tiny number on the fringes of society – people who are ‘off the grid’,” he declared. 

But there is now a wide spectrum of consumers from those who are easy to reach via broadcast TV (where television remains the most efficient marketing tool) to those who hardly watch TV, he told the conference. “You need Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach them,” he added. “Then there is a growing chunk [of consumers] between these two and that is where we see the nuances in how you set your budgets and where to find efficiency.”

Benson at Google also emphasized the need to optimize reach with the budget mix that suits each marketer, deciding whether you include TV and what the right balance is between online and offline. This is the value-add that agencies deliver, he said, and he suggested you could even exploit what is effectively free inventory with messages that resonate in a few seconds but which will not count as a chargeable ‘view’ if a viewer skips or stops watching (depending on the viewability rules being used).

“We now have a plural ecosystem and that gives planners choice, and that is incredibly valuable to the market,” he argued.

YouTube has been an obvious beneficiary of ‘plurality’ but the choice for marketers who want to top-up their TV campaigns (or avoid TV altogether) is also expanding. Weil at Studio71 made it clear that marketers must use a range of platforms and formats. His company views YouTube as its main MCN distribution partner and he said this will probably remain the case, but it is good to have alternatives. “You have to decide which content to put on each platform,” he said.

Wiss (TV4 Group) identified what she believes is an important trend among MCN creatives and talent to move more freely between distribution platforms. “They are not necessarily tied to a certain platform; things must be more seamless than they have been,” she argued.

Facebook is waiting in the wings, hoping to become more of a video destination than a video marketing conduit. Ed Couchman, Head of Agency Relations at Facebook, confirmed the determination to engage consumers for longer when they watch a video, partly by providing suggestions for more videos before they return to their newsfeed. And he tried to convince the audience that three seconds of viewing without sound (which constitutes a view at Facebook, resulting in an advertiser being charged) is a creative opportunity.

He calls it a ‘three second audition’ with viewers – meaning what you show them in that time has to be good enough to ensure they keep watching. “As people move through their newsfeed you have to produce ‘thumb-stopping’ content,” he declared. “The content needs to be highly relevant.”

Couchman added: “You need to embrace the idea that most people watch their video with their sound off, and you have to communicate in a ‘sound-off’ world.” This means conveying your message in silence or encouraging consumers, through the video, to turn the sound on. Brands used to using ‘brand reveals’ at the end of a linear TV advertisement should also think about a brand reveal at the start.

Couchman claims that most of the value derived from a campaign creative, in terms of impact, comes from the first ten seconds of an advertisement. This is based on Facebook research. “We feel there is no direct correlation between the length of time viewed and the impact of a campaign,” he explained. “The majority of the value from an entire campaign is delivered in the first 3-10 seconds of a commercial.”

In this ‘plural’ marketing world, media planners must decide the credibility of these claims for themselves. There are plenty of competing claims to deal with, like the value of context. Benson argued that all content is created equal when it comes advertising around it. “‘Premium’ is in the eye of the beholder,” he suggested. “If you are advertising in content that people love, it works for them and performs better for advertisers.”

YouTube tested brand recall for advertising campaigns run within ‘broadcast’ content (defined as high cost per minute video), MCN content (with popular talent like Zoella) and user-generated content. “The differences in how the campaigns performed were statistically insignificant,” he said. “What I choose to watch is premium to me,” was the conclusion.

For Benson, the brand message must match the platform and you should not discriminate against short-form. The golden rule is to ensure your stories match the format and the audience. Do not spend two minutes telling a three second story or three seconds telling a two minute story.

David Wilding, Director of Planning at Twitter, reckons the key now is to have a big creative idea that works everywhere it is executed, across various formats from television to Vine (the micro-video sharing site). 

Speaking later, Simon Thomas, Global Director – Audiences Research at GroupM, confirmed that as far as GroupM is concerned, there is no such thing as TV, video and digital, just consumer touch-points. He is concerned with getting brand communication messages to consumers in the most effective way and with the best return on investment.

11. Fraud is criminal and needs to be squashed, but when it comes to ‘viewability’, as Facebook might say (in their relationship status options), “It’s complicated”.

Let’s get fraud out of the way first. As Jon Block, VP EMEA for Product & Platform at Videology rightly declared, it is just plain criminal. Real-time ‘bot-blocking’ may be one answer – and the other could be getting consumers to fill out surveys [e.g. an offline brand awareness survey] because online robots cannot do that! 

These very different approaches sum up the wider thinking on this subject: how to tackle fraud with technology (there is one school of thought that programmatic exposed the market to fraud and another that programmatic is the way to end it) and whether advertisers just need to move away from metrics that can be faked (like click-throughs) and concentrate instead on end-results (like sales-lift). 

One piece of advice handed out at Future TV Advertising Forum was to be less trusting – or perhaps less greedy. “If a deal seems too good to be true then it probably is.”

Tim Jones, Senior International Research & Insights Manager at AOL, who is also the Chairman for the IAB Europe Research Committee, said digital fraud has had a massively negative impact on digital advertising. “We spent a lot of time persuading people to come over to digital and now there is a trust barrier,” he complained.

Jones agrees that the problem is partly caused by the metrics the industry is using to judge success. Measuring brand impact would be one way to eliminate online ad fraud, he suggested. “We need to focus on business outcomes when it comes to metrics.” 

There was a definite sense that diminished trust in digital is playing into the hands of broadcasters and even Pay TV platforms (whose advanced advertising and data technologies enable increasingly data-driven, targeted and attributed media campaigns)

Traditional media companies (broadcasters and platform operators with media sales divisions) are also pleased with themselves when it comes to viewability standards, given that television is inherently in full view (unless you leave the room to make a cup of tea, of course!). One audience member, referring to both fraud and viewability issues, suggested that maybe people in the TV industry are not the dinosaurs they have been painted as, after all. “We just do things right!”.

Discussions about how to raise viewability standards for online video covered the need to avoid finger-pointing and promote collaboration, the need for regionally accepted viewability standards, despite fears that there will not be one viewability standard for Europe (and the IAB-backed standards would be the minimum ‘safety net’ – although these have already been rejected by GroupM as hopelessly inadequate). It was suggested that agencies already factor viewability into their CPMs but will not like the higher charges if publishers demand a premium for the content that is definitely viewed to higher standards.

More reading

The first part of our Future TV Advertising Report, covering our first seven key takeaways, is here.

We will conclude our FTVA 15 coverage early in the new year.


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