Let’s get real with our video engagement efforts

I’ll admit it: for years, I thought that I was an abnormal female because I just didn’t get Oprah. I found her show unwatchable, found her shrills of glee at her “Favorite Things” to be insufferable and, ultimately just couldn’t understand her appeal. However, that all changed upon my discovery of “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes”, a reality show that documented Oprah’s production staff craft together the final episodes of her iconic talk show. Suddenly, I was glued to my TV as I watched a barefaced, non-manicured, sweat suit wearing Oprah joke about wardrobe changes, challenge her staff on scripts and celebrate the end of a hard workweek with a couple Moscow Mules. This was a girl that I could get behind – she faced real challenges, held real interpersonal relationships and really needed to let loose at the end of the week. I found myself think that, aside from her massive bank account and gorgeously decorated gold office, she’s not that different from me. It was through this discovery that I opened myself up to more of OWN’s programming, listened to more of her content, embraced more of her messages.

There is no question that society at large is obsessed with reality. One needs only to look at TLC (The Learning Channel, which my friend affectionately calls the “Toddlers, Little People and Cupcakes” network) to see how much people want to watch other people go about their everyday ups and downs. The benefits behind “Reality TV” is two-fold: yes, audiences are typically stronger than with scripted TV but, more importantly, the cost of producing a hour of reality TV is substantially less than an hour of scripted TV. Higher revenue from a larger audience + lower costs of production = bigger return on investment.

Networks get it. Cable channels get it. The question is, with one industry report after the next indicating that people are increasingly detached from advertising content, is whether we ad professionals get it. Should we be surprised? Digiday reports that 73% of North American Brand Advertisers and Agencies view brand engagement as their primary video campaign objective. Yet, online ad after online ad keeps pushing studio-produced imagery, sounds and messages at an audience who doesn’t live and interact in the vacuum of a perfect studio. If we want our audiences to engage with content, why aren’t we producing content with a real look and feel?

“Reality Advertisements”– they wouldn’t take much: basically just a camera that follows a business operator go through the daily ups and downs of managing their product-service offering in such a way that makes the audience relate with the business owner. Benefit One: With relatable content, we may likely see higher ad engagement through higher video completion rates and longer time spent on video. Benefit Two: Much like what I did with Oprah, the audience will likely develop stronger associations with the product-service offering as a by-product of a stronger relationship with the business owner. Benefit Three (and, most importantly, the answer to a question I was recently posed as to “how can I as a business manager with a small marketing budget produce compelling branded content”): the cost of creating the ad would only be the video camera, basic editing software and the hours to put it together. The potential result: A much larger return on investment on your advertising efforts.

As per a study conducted by Ipsos MediaCT in March 2012, online video’s popularity among Canadian Internet users is taking off. With 2 out of 5 Internet Users indicating that they spend as much or more time watching online video as TV, what better time to test video content creation and online ad serving through pre-rolls, post-rolls and pop-ups? The results could be much deeper brand engagement – not just as the users watch the ad, but also subsequently as they search for more information, talk to others about what they saw and share the content with others.