Setting Reasonable Expectations for Online Video Power

New media has found one more shiny new bauble – this time it’s online video. Let the exaggerations and over-statement begin! (Oh, wait, they have…)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a video enthusiast. And our work ranges from TV spots for Kobalt brand tools from Lowe’s to 1/2 hour infomercials, web videos, in-store videos, and video send by direct mail.

But I think that gives me a reasonable position to suggest we shouldn’t sell online video services by dramatically exaggerating their potential impact.

What Is Being Said. Right now we’re bombarded with promises that you can “beat your competitors with online video” and that you need to jump onto the bandwagon now so you’re not “left behind”. We’re even told that online video is the solution to all your communication needs implying that online video will take the place of traditional TV. (And who can count the number of lists we’re seeing of 10 things or 12 things that are the “keys” to online video success.)

We’ve heard these messages before. First, when we were told that the internet would destroy retail (it didn’t). Then, when we were told that online advertising would be more powerful than traditional (it isn’t even close). And lately it’s been all about how social media would be a powerful playground for brands (except most consumers don’t want to be your friend – no matter how “engaging” your brand might be).

My 2% to 8% View. Let me suggest that for planning, “2% to 8%” is a realistic estimate of the maximum average power (best of circumstance) that online video brings to companies. (These percentages increase dramatically if you create video that might be used online, but is also pushed out through direct mail, television, point of purchase, and any other medium you can find.)

Improvement in this range is not to be ignored – that’s why I’m a strong proponent of wise online video efforts. But this is not “beat your competitor” strength.

The Challenge for Online Video. There are many challenges to online video success and plenty of experts who will tell you they’ll solve them all with a list of 10 steps. But here’s some challenges that don’t often appear on their lists.

1. You have to create your own audience. Traditional TV’s strength is that you can reach out to a known, very large audience. But online video has no guaranteed audience – and creating an audience is YOUR job. I can’t put enough emphasis behind this truth.

2. Few agencies know how to make online video valuable. Agencies create online videos that are little more than extended TV spots. And, for consumers, these are generally yawners (with few exceptions). Even if the online agency video’s are funny/quirky (aka Old Spice), the push to drive viral connection usually washes out all communication value so their end impact is to create an audience of non-consumers.

3. Video Impact vs. Video Clutter. Some companies are cluttering their consumer world with vast databases of video. While more might seem to be better, that’s often not true. A smaller collection of the “right” video’s will have far more power than a huge library of ineffective ones. (Certainly, there are those who love nothing more than to browse these big libraries – but it’s generally a tiny portion of your consumers.)

4. Significant Video is a Rare Find on the Web. Vast quantities are posted. Little proves valuable enough to be watched. In truth, you generally need outsiders to critique your video to determine whether it makes a different or just consumes your disk allotment.

One Important Myth to Debunk: Saying it in Video is more Emotionally Powerful. This argument sounds quite persuasive. But we need to stop. Because there’s a more complex set of truth.

If consumers don’t get hit emotionally the minute they arrive at your website then you’ve blown it in a way that video can never recover. (Note how fully this “emotion” argument ignores the ways great printed/web work delivers emotional experiences.)

Even worse, video whose primary goal is “emotional” had better be damn short – 10 to 15 seconds. Because video online requires higher commitment from consumers than your web page. So they demand that video deliver more value than merely emotion.

Step, but Step Cautiously. Online video has fortunately arrived. But TV, video, and film producer’s are aggressive salesmen. And now they’re turned lose with the venture backing that always accompanies an online advertising effort.

So take care. Set realistically aggressive expectations. Make sure you know how you’ll create an audience. Go create the important video. Then execute. And enjoy the extra juice the right online video work brings to your marketing.

Copyright 2012 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

About Doug Garnett
Growing retail based businesses through television, DRTV, and all forms of video. Doug is a strategist, executive producer, director, author, & teacher.

One Response to Setting Reasonable Expectations for Online Video Power

  1. Michael says:

    Excellent points… about 70% of the videos I start watching I STOP watching after the first 20 seconds or so… after babble about things that have nothing to do with the stated intention of the video… nothing to do with the hook that brought me to the video… and nothing to do with my interests…

    And since I can’t scan ahead… can’t tell what’s coming… can’t tell how long I might have to wait to get to any content I’m genuinely interested in, or even if there’ll EVER be some… I’m gone. Video has its own set of challenges…

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