Building an Effective Online Video Strategy #DigitalSense

We've held Content workshops and strategy workshops for companies such as Google, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), JustGiving, Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), and Camden Council to name a few. 

We also teach Online Video Strategy at University of the Arts London

Don't just take our word for how important it is for your brand to get right, here's an expert, Jerry Daykin (Global Digital Director at Carat)

Read his other articles here

There's an increasingly clear argument that investing at least some part of your ad budgets into online video (OLV) simply makes good media sense - adopting a screen neutral & people focussed approach to TV planning should support moving 10-20% of your AV spend online simply to maximise reach, frequency & effectiveness. Furthermore as a range of digital platforms open up to video it's often the simplest way of having great content to run through your various online media pipes, but there's much more to OLV than just putting a TV ad on a new channel.

Understanding that you should be embracing online video and being clear on the best way to do that are quite different things. YouTube has for a while advocated a 'Hero, Hub, Hygiene (or Help)' approach and it remains a powerful framework for marketers looking to build an effective online video strategy – however it’s often talked about just as a content approach and it’s important to understand the full media implications too.

Hero Content

Occasional flagship pieces of content designed to really maximise the number of people you're reaching, put yourself at the heart of culture & conversation and in some ways to flag that you're a brand worth following. There are well known standout examples like Volvo's Epic Splits & Dove Sketches which deliver through powerful creative, though make no mistake their sheer scale and ultimate success is heavily driven by the paid media budgets behind them.

To this day it's a common mistake for marketers to place too much faith in the virality and earned media of their content, but however powerful your message it cannot drive business impact if people don't see it. Brands used to supporting TV ads with millions of dollars must realise that maximising the online video opportunity still means spending at least hundreds of thousands, not just their loose change. If you pay for a lot of people to see your hero content, and you make it really good, then don't be surprised if they share it on to millions more.

There's no firm rule on how long an online video can be, and powerful storytelling can draw people in for several minutes. Remember the importance of the first few seconds though, partly to draw people in to watch more and partly because on skippable adverts you want to make sure that the 80% of people who only watch a few seconds are still reminded of your brand.

Hub/Continuity Content

This is where you stop behaving like a traditional advertiser and start acting more like a content publisher, producing regular ongoing content throughout the year. Doing so can help you build up your own audience of subscribers but it's also a powerful way of extending your media continuity to be front of mind to potential consumers outside of your traditional campaign spikes.

This sort of 'always on' approach is again not just about putting lots of content out there, it's also making sure an impactful number of people see it - best practice is to set a meaningful threshold of the total audience you want to reach. As with Hero content it's easy to get lost in the noise so as well as extending your approach to content you need to find ways to stretch out campaign media investments too. Pepsi Max in the UK has shown the power of this approach, driving millions of views behind the #Unbelievable videos it produces almost every month – we often forget that Volvo Trucks was just one of a whole series of similar videos too.

Partnering with YouTube super users is an interesting opportunity both to affordably scale your production but also to tap into their inherent audiences and drive scale that way instead. Retargeting might not sound creatively exciting but it's a way in to telling truly sequential stories to the same person over a series of weeks or even months and is well worth considering.

Help/Personal Content

This has often been called 'hygiene', but it's hard to get truly excited about cleanliness, and a lot of OLV hygiene is more about channel management, platform setup and SEO anyway (thoughts for another day!). From a content perspective this is the opportunity to help your consumers out when they most need it, and answer some of their burning questions about the brand. Unilever's cross-brand 'All Things Hair' is one of the best examples of really living out this approach.

A good place to start is to look at the searches people are already making about your category & the topics you want to own and then creating content related to those, though be sure to stay true to what you ultimately want to communicate when broaching topics you wouldn't touch on in traditional comms. This needn't be an entirely passive approach either, feel free to create content around wider key interest areas and to use both SEO and paid search to make sure it's your content that shows up when people look.

This approach gets really exciting when you start exploring 'Personalised Marketing at Scale', building up a bank of content and then using programmatic media opportunities to serve that to people exactly as/when it’s most relevant to them. That might mean creating a range of different executions about different themes, tweaking aspects of a copy to stress a different message or even programmatic ways of altering the content itself.

Whatever approach you ultimately adopt it must start from (and ultimately be measured against) a clear brief focussed on business objectives. Views, impressions & shares may be indicators that you are moving in the right direction but you must keep reverting to a clear objective/change that you are aiming to achieve for your brand to be able to sense check your approach.

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