Source: Al Jazeera Gets a US Voice
Source: Al Jazeera Gets a US Voice
David Griner doesn’t think television advertising needs to be saved from the Internet and social media. On the contrary, Griner says television ads need to be saved from themselves.
“I personally find that most television ads are gutless and self-obsessed,” said Griner, director of digital content for the ad agency Luckie and a regular contributor to AdWeek’s AdFreaks blog. “They don’t take risks because television doesn’t reward risk taking. TV rewards pretty mediocre advertising.”
Griner, who spoke last week at the Blogworld & New Media Expo in New York, pointed to this year’s Super Bowl as case study No. 1: 166.8 million watched the game live; another 66 million later watched the most popular advertisement on YouTube.
“Supplementing a television ad buy with an online campaign has consistently proven more successful than doing one without the other,” Griner said, noting Volkswagen’s popular Star Wars ad. The company originally started circulating the ad online five days before the game, which built buzz when the ad formally “premiered” during the game.
It’s still too early to declare that the television ad is dead. Yes, there are so-called “cord cutters” who are canceling cable subscriptions and using online viewing services; Griner has not had cable television for several years despite working in the industry. The U.S. has lost 2 million cable television households in the past two years. But the average American watches five hours of video content each day, and 98% of that video is still on television screens.
“Advertising is in a transitional state,” Griner said. “Digital has depth, and the merger is inevitable. It’s already happening.”
Griner said the most successful ad campaigns focused on engagement instead of reach. He pointed to Audi’s “Progress Is” campaign, which launched in the 2011 Super Bowl but ended up generating a yearlong dialogue using the #ProgressIs hash tag on Twitter.
“For us, it was never a discussion, it was always a hashtag,” Andy White, Senior Social Media Manager for Audi, told Griner. “The Super Bowl is conversation.”
But success wasn’t just limited to Super Bowl ads that filtered in a social component. Nutella boosted holiday sales in Germany by 15% with a video campaign on Facebook. And one of the most successful viral ad campaigns doesn’t have a hashtag tied to it, but has still managed to generate its own meme and boost Dos Equis beer from a sleepy, also-ran in the U.S. market to the sixth-leading import in the market.
Dos Equis has been posting double-digit revenue growth in recent years while the rest of the U.S. imported beer market has hovered at 2.7%. Griner said the video, which was nearly nixed by the brand, has succeeded by following a formula that has consistently worked for brands looking to create a viral ad.
“Most of them are funny and are very sharable,” he said. “They’re the digital water cooler fodder.
“And they are, with a few exceptions, still overwhelmingly watched on TV.”
But not every attempt to tie TV advertising to the social world has worked as hoped. McDonald’s has been trying to actively reach out to bloggers and social media influencers as part of its new advertising campaigns. It has tried to foster online discussions with Twitter hashtags. In other words, the company has been doing everything social media marketing experts say the company should be doing – and yet it still had a campaign blow up in its face.
McDonald’s wanted customers to share stories about McDonald’s on the #McDStories hash tag. While the company did get some positive responses, many more came from company critics. The hijacking of the hashtag was so persistent and so noticeable that it spawned a new term: BashTag.
“The hashtag,” Griner said, “was too vague and too detached from the point of the ads.”
McDonald’s rival Wendy’s is also struggling with the hashtag concept, assigning four different tags to a single campaign. In Griner’s opinion, the hashtags – #HeresTheBeef #UpgradeYourMeal #DefiningMoment #BetterLater – are too vague and confuse the issue. At the same time, the company has had to drop #HeresTheBeef because it drew a slew of innuendos.
“I’m not going to totally bash this yet because they could end up doing something really cool with this,” Griner said. “But right now, it seems chaotic to me.”
What is television? Historically, its definition was more or less set in stone. A television set was a very particular type of device, which served as the hub of audio-visual entertainment in a given household. To take Wikipedia’s description, it’s “a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome (black-and-white) or colored, with or without accompanying sound.”
Over time, the models, sizes and features evolved, but the basic meaning of the word “television” remained unchanged. That is, until recently.
For the first several decades of the TV’s existence, the concept didn’t evolve much. Black and white turned into color. They got lighter, they got thinner and the picture quality gradually improved. Today, the idea of what we used to call “television” is being turned entirely on its head, and we don’t really know for sure what it will look like a decade from now.
The biggest shift, of course, is in where the content comes from. That the Web has blown video content creation and distribution wide open is old news by now. What’s noteworthy today is how that Web video is maturing. Not content to let the networks and cable channels corner the market on professional-quality TV content, YouTube, Netflix and Hulu are all investing heavily in original, Web-only programming.
Plus, it’s not just the source of the images on the screen that’s changing. The hardware and the overall experience are evolving as well.
One thing that’s already obvious is that TV will no longer be an experience that’s based around a single, large screen in a fixed location. Mobile apps from providers like Netflix and Hulu started changing that almost as soon as the smartphone and tablet revolutions began. Social video apps like ShowYou and Boxee also turn tablets into mini-TVs, but with content curated from the social Web rather than more traditional sources.
It’s not just big tech companies and scrappy startups that are redefining how people consume video content. The cable companies and content owners are not sitting this one out. For evidence of that, look no further than initiatives like HBO Go and Comcast’s new Streampix streaming video service.
The Comcast streaming bid is only one point of attack into the changing market for the cable giant. By focusing aggressively on strategies for smartphones and tablets, it is trying its best to ensure that cable subscriptions remain an attractive option for consumers, who are are quickly growing less picky about screen size and location when it comes to watching their favorite shows.
Some believe the future of television won’t involve a television set at all, or at least won’t be very dependent on the traditional concept.
“It’ll involve a big, agnostic monitor on your wall,” writes Live Nation VP of Product Ethan Kaplan. “And even then, maybe that big space on your wall that was once a TV is now a painting because everyone has their own Retina display tablets in their lap and is thereby occupied.”
Even though TV is already moving onto smaller screens, it’s unlikely that the big screen is ever going to go away. People talk a lot about how television is becoming more social thanks to Twitter and Facebook. It’s a little silly if you think about it. Sure, social media is bringing a new digital dimension to TV-watching, but television has always been social in the real-life, flesh-and-blood sense we sometimes forget about. It’s the large screen, easily visible by a room full of people, that facilitates that social experience.
Televisions will continue to get thinner and higher in picture quality. Some may be replaced with pocket-sized, high-resolution projectors that connect to our smartphones (if they’re not built right in). However it evolves, the idea of a big, rectangular image on a wall isn’t going anywhere.
What will be interesting to watch is what evolves around that big screen – everything from the little screens and the apps they contain to the way that real-time communication and other data from the Web are integrated into the experience.
Then there’s the way we’ll physically interact with television, which is already beginning to be transformed. Apple’s much-rumored iTV HDTV set is widely expected to utilize Siri voice control, something we’ve already seen a sneak peak of with Microsoft’s Kinect. The popular add-on for the XBox 360 also allows users to use hand motions to virtually navigate through content. This is something we’ve seen hints of in Apple’s trove of patents as well. However things develop, you can expect the days of the basic clicker to be numbered.
Snatch up all the set-top boxes, smart HDTVs and second screen apps you want. The future of television will still, at its core, be about one thing: content.
All of the stakeholders realize this, from legacy players such as networks and cable operators to new entrants including streaming services and search companies.
If the Web is going to compete with traditional TV, it won’t be so much with technology as with high-quality content that people genuinely want to watch. That’s why HBO is closely guarding its sought-after programing by tying its mobile apps to cable subscriptions. It’s also why Web companies are investing huge sums of money to create premium video content of their own.
Yahoo, AOL and Google have all been developing original video programming that they hope can compete with the type of content people have historically turned on their television sets to watch. Google in particular recently shoveled $100 million into premium content and has begun to reposition YouTube with less of a focus on bite-sized, viral clips and more emphasis on the quality stuff.
That investment in YouTube appears to be paying off in terms of time-on-site metrics, and the company is said to be recouping much of its expenses, thanks to ample ad revenue.
Two players that stand perhaps the best chance of making a mark have both made 2012 the year of premium, Web-original content. Netflix debuted a fish-out-of-water drama called Lilyhammer in February, right around the same time that Hulu launched its own original series called Battleground.
Hulu took things up a notch last week when it announced four more Web-only TV series, each one with its own impressive line-up of established TV-industry talent.
If any Internet-only TV programming has the chance to make a big splash, it’s the long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development. The show became something of a cult classic after being canceled by Fox in 2006 due to low ratings. Early next year, the original cast will return for a fourth season, which will be released exclusively on Netflix.
The entire season will drop all at once, rather than being released incrementally as television shows historically have been. This is the model many viewers are now used to, thanks in part to services like Netflix. Still, there’s something to be said for the timed debut of individual episodes, which allows people to congregate via second screen apps and social media to have conversations in real-time.
It’s still a bit early to gauge the success of Internet-original TV programming in general. If the online chatter is any indication, people have been more excited about Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey this year than they are about Lilyhammer or Battleground.
The arrival of Arrested Development in early 2013 will provide a particularly interesting test case. In the meantime, expect to see the battle for video-seeking eyeballs continue to heat up online.