Online Video: Beyond the View

As part of our lead-up to the Digiday Video Conference in New York City on November 13, we talked with Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, our 2012 Agency of the Year. Formerly vp of digital marketing of Miramax Films, Schafer has been involved with online video since the beginning. Schafer discussed its evolution, the new water cooler effect and the medium’s future.


You’ve been involved in online video since 2003. How has it changed since its inception?

I would say the most striking evolution has been in why we produce it. We used to force video content on people, and to a large extent, we still do. Pre-roll and video in-display advertising are still the largest portion of the online video economy.

But the outcome of that has changed. The goal of great video content is to earn more views. It’s not just one-to-one interaction with video as we all thought it would be. Now its more about rebroadcasting that video content to the people that find it most interesting. So it’s no longer just a search-only drive. It’s that great content finds people through people.

Is it hard to sell clients on the idea of moving beyond repurposing their TV ads?

The notion of moving beyond pre-roll for video is still a tough sell. Right now, people are going for the easy sell in an effort to move as many dollars into digital as possible. You don’t necessary fight that.

But we also want to be thinking beyond the view. And we’re not just talking about videos, we’re thinking about all kinds of online content. We’re talking a ton about branded content because giving consumers the kind of content they want to share is more important than force feeding them a 30-second spot.

Is there a secret formula to creating content that will take off online?

Trying to find the secret sauce for everything is not a worthwhile effort, but finding what works better for a certain brand is important. Finding a certain aesthetic and personality and recreating that kind of content often without being repetitive: That is probably as close to secret sauce as it gets.

What have been some of your favorite branded videos this year?

Some of my favorite branded video content would have to be the things that are shared with me. I rarely encounter great content in my normal digital day. The Old Spice interactive video on by Wieden + Kennedy. There has also been some good content done by Nike, but again these are things that I find interesting because I have an interest in sneakers and comedy. I think people gravitate to branded videos not because they gravitate toward the brand but because they gravitate toward the type of content.

Last night, I watched a clip from the the Jay Z “Made in America Tour,” the “Budweiser” Made in America Tour. It was a clip taken with someone’s cell phone. They didn’t create it themselves, but they created the opportunity for that content to be there by putting on that concert and having Pearl Jam show up and play “99 Problems” with Jay Z. That to me is branded content.

How is digital media affecting the cultural conversation?

One of the things we’re seeing is simultaneous consumption of media, most often on a television and some kind of mobile device. When people see things on television that feel like a cultural event, especially if it’s live or a first-time airing, people know there are millions of other people watching. They want to be a part of it. Those kinds of events are scarce now that we have time-shifted consumption of just about everything.

Opportunities for brands to tap into what’s happening in pop culture are going to be most likely to pop up on simultaneous consumption platforms. It’s not just running ads; it’s figuring out how to make your brand relevant through a pop-culture event. That’s the new water cooler effect. The new water cooler effect happens simultaneously and not the morning after, the way it used to be.

Do you have any recent examples of the new water cooler effect?

I think you saw this past Super Bowl. I mean, certainly the ads that run during the Super Bowl have a water cooler effect. It’s probably the one time of year that ads have that effect. H&M with the slow pan on David Beckham: That had a desired effect. They got a lot of mileage out of that.

I personally had a moment during the Republican National Convention when Clint Eastwood started talking to the empty chair like I started Invisible Obama account and it took off. Now there’s 70,000 people following it. So we know that tapping into the zeitgeist and literally interacting in real time with an event on air is a great way to get velocity.

What is your biggest frustration with online video?

Online video seems really easy to do. Most of the time it is repurposing of assets and its ads are interruptive by nature. Just like television advertising, it’s the break between the content because the network has to pay its bills. But TV is a push medium, and online is increasingly a pull medium. We’re still looking at interruption as being the key driver for online video.

I would hope that we can figure out a way to get beyond that. But maybe that’s all online video is: a toll that you pay to watch the content you really want to see. Maybe the best online videos will be the ones you remember as opposed to what you would actually interact with.

If you want to learn more about the place of online video in today’s digital landscape, register for the Video Conference today.

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