Does Branded Content Have a Place in User Generated Long-Tail Video?
Editor’s Note: I met Mike through a LinkedIn group I moderate (Video Marketing and Public Relations). He’s an entrepreneur in Sydney, Australia who started a business based on the concept that everyone wants to capture and share their “fifteen SECONDS of fame’ and for his target audience that means while bungee-jumping, shark diving and sky-diving. Mike, a former member of the Australian National skydiving team believes sponsors want to be associated with that excitement. For the sake of the long-tail wagging believers that every market has it’s sponsor … I hope he’s right. - Larry Thomas
Brand advertisers spend over 50 billion dollars on traditional media every year, yet we as consumers spend less time watching TV and more time watching each other and ourselves.
The widespread growth of mobile and social media technologies like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SocialCam`is enabling us to evolve beyond mere content consumers into a world where everyone is now a content creator.
One way that new media companies monetise the incredible amount of long-tail User Generated Content (UGC) is through text or display advertising, targeting what people are searching for (Google / YouTube) or talking about (Facebook). This model is great for direct response advertising, especially for small business, but for big brands trying to develop deeper long term relationships with consumers, the best form of advertising is video. Since the invention of television, advertisers have used sight, sound and motion to capture our hearts and minds and persuade us of the benefits of their products and services. Consumers however are becoming increasingly averse to advertising, mentally tuning out advertising or skipping over ads all together.
Enter “branded content.” The practice of integrating brands, their products or brand messages into the content itself. With branded content, not only can advertisers create messages that cannot be skipped over, but by aligning their brand message with the content message, advertisers can connect with consumers through the emotional response elicited by that particular content, creating deeper more meaningful relationships with consumers.
The branded content model is becoming increasingly popular in online video. Here advertisers can target niche audiences with highly relevant content, often for a fraction of the cost of branding traditional content for cinema or TV. The original example of this is BMW Films ”The Hire”. As the line between advertising and content becomes increasingly blurred, advertisers and content creators collaborate at the earliest stages of the creative process. This “brand funded content” allows for for brand integration to be more seamless and in many cases the brand partnerships is an essential part of the creation process by providing much needed production funding for niche content creators.
Each branded content producer is a master chef, creating a balance between the bitter and sweet of branding and content in just the right way to make it palatable for the consumer. But branded content requires direct relationships between brands and content creators, this makes it difficult to scale the creation process beyond a relatively small number of videos. So the business model for branded content is better suited to the “one to many” model of traditional media content (1 video to many views) than the “many to many” model enabled by the internet. Perhaps this is why YouTube’s recently began to move away from it’s long-tail of UGC to create 100 niche channels similar to Cable TV.
A second issue when trying brand UGC is quality. While Andy Warhol’s 1968 prediction that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” may be true, most UGC consists of the other 50 million minutes in each life. These moments, precious as they are, do not create the kind of inspirational aspirational content that advertisers are looking for to create deep meaningful relationships with consumers.
Perhaps the biggest issue facing UGC is that it can be notoriously difficult to control. Without proper measures in place, advertisers run the risk of loosing valuable brand equity through association with negative or malicious content than can easily be uploaded by an individual user.
So with 72Hrs of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute and 20 million videos uploaded to Facebook every month, is it possible to overcome the issues of scale, quality and control to enable brands to move beyond text and display advertising and media companies to monetise UGC with branded content?
I propose that within the long-tail there may already exist large scale niches of quality controlled, brand safe UGC. Those niches may be found wherever a business is providing an experience to a consumer on video. For example, wedding video, ultrasound video or tourism video producers.
One such area my company RealXstream has focused on is the adventure tourism industry where hundreds of small businesses provide adventure or extreme experiences to millions of consumers every year. Many of these businesses offer professional video of the experience as part of the package in the same way that McDonald’s offers fries with every burger. Examples include tandem skydiving, paragliding, motor racing and scuba diving.
Aggregating content through businesses overcomes the problems of quality and control at scale traditionally associated with UGC.
Each video features a unique customers experience but the video production process is controlled by the business. With each small business having a vested interest in promoting their own brand as well as that of a potential sponsor, the risk of creating content that could be damaging to a brand becomes much less likely.
By focusing exclusively on “once in a lifetime” experiences that represent the “15 minutes of fame” in real peoples real life stories, quality content is a natural result. Years later our recollection of such experiences easily cut through the clutter of memory, reminding us of those moments in life when we were at our happiest, our best or simply doing something inspirational to us or aspirational to those that we love.
Outside of my company’s focus on adventure tourism, there may be many other opportunities where brands can partner with small business to create high quality UGC. In theory, wherever a business is providing an experience to a consumer, there may be the opportunity to create branded content in a scalable brand safe way.
With an infinite quantity of content available on demand it will become increasingly difficult for advertisers to get attention and make a lasting impression. In time video of real peoples unique life changing experiences may come to represent the most shareable and valuable content available. These stories contain all the drama, action or romance of Hollywood but are in fact real peoples real life stories shared organically across their personal social networks. To borrow from Oscar Wilde, perhaps “life imitating art” is more valuable than “art imitating life”. And today, thanks to technology, great moments in real life and art can be shared in real time through video and social networks.
About the Author
Mike McGrath is a social media entrepreneur and founder of RealXstream PTY LTD a social video company that automates the production and sharing of customer videos for adventure tourism businesses. RealXstream suite of products save the adventure tour business both time and money, provides a value added service for their customers and a social media marketing tool for their business. In return RealXstream can harness the market for producing millions of adventure tourism videos each year and monetise this opportunity through pre and post roll advertising, product placements, sponsorships and app downloads.