Engage, Interact, Sell

MediaPost’s Video Insider

By David Hemingway

December 26, 2007 – At the turn of the century the insurance industry, well known for its resistance to change and its ability to plod along safely, was presented with new technology that would allow their agents and brokers to condense claims processing and other paperwork from the typical 90-120 days to just – amazingly-- a few hours, potentially saving these companies millions of dollars.

A slam dunk, one would think. But the typical sales cycle for a technology to sell in their innovation to an insurance company was about 18 months, and in some cases this extended timetable occurred even without any competitors in the picture.

Change is difficult, even when it means losing millions of dollars.

I fear we are seeing the same type of scenario in the online advertising world, especially as it relates to the use of video. Recent discussions and conferences on the subject of online video have produced angst and shoulders shrugged with frustration and confusion.

I’ve heard the current environment described as being in the first inning of a baseball game. A good metaphor because it describes how most marketing and publishing professionals are feeling today -- still trying to get acquainted with, and how to use, online video.

The user generated (UG) video content tsunami has clearly changed the shape of the online environment we live in today. In fact, the growth of UG video so far is turning the internet into a non-interactive medium. It’s created the quagmire we’re in today because the industry is treating all online video the same – meshing UG video with professionally produced brand videos. Even if consumers want to sit back and watch a monkey juggling video online, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to lean forward when they visit websites to get information about that car or house they’re thinking about buying.

Change is difficult, which is why so much effort has been put toward trying to make online video look and act like television. So, sure, pre-roll ads are OK. Right...Right?

The publishers and marketers who climb to higher ground, who see above the fray looking at all online video the same way - combining UG and professionally produced video - know that to build brand equity, to move product, to engage your customers, you must meet or exceed their expectations, and online that means being interactive. On the internet, consumers expect to be able to interact with the content. Why should that not include video? If the purpose of the video is to sell something, then it can work much harder as a sales tool by making it interactive and actionable – even an e-commerce tool. Brand marketers have the opportunity to use the brand to directly sell products by allowing the consumer to interact with the brand message, its products, characters and presentation -- putting consumers in control to make a decision.

People want information: What’s behind the curtain? Who is that? Where are they? What are they wearing? To show the same commercial online as they saw on television doesn’t answer any of those questions. It doesn’t even meet their expectation. The compelling advantages of video should be used to open the door and invite the consumer in to explore additional content and get more information related to the video, i.e., product, brand or service.

Online marketers and publishers heading in the race should be thinking about what they need to do to build relationships with their customers and create loyalty. The top priority will be to deliver the consumer an interactive experience knowing it will lead to transactions, sales and revenue.

Everyone else will be grabbing a hot dog in the third inning.

David Hemingway is co-founder and chief executive officer of Vimation.