To the shock of absolutely no one, the time Americans spend consuming digital media has finally passed the longtime time-suck champ, television. More and better content, and faster streaming services have made online video a behemoth in entertainment. However, growth of online video advertising is still being held back by a lack of understanding of today’s consumer, and the failure of the industry to embrace an “audience-first” strategy.
The television experience is being disrupted by second screens — phones and tablets — and so is consumer attention, as any parent can attest. Kids may be watching TV, but at the same time they’re on their iPads, and so are mom and dad. Family time and “must-see TV” has now evolved into multiscreen, cross-channel, always-on time for marketers.
However, we’re not seeing a proportionally large bump in online video ad revenue despite the changing times. Marketers keep running back to their first love, TV, even as viewership dips while online video watching soars. It’s a perplexing situation considering online video’s steady upward growth. The problem lies with the perception of online video viewership. Digital media has yet to see its “Super Bowl” appointment-viewing moment, with the concurrent ability to deliver 20 million eyeballs in a two-hour window.
There’s a higher level of complexity to online video and in assembling the audiences necessary to deliver scale competitive with broadcast. Marketers not willing to spend the time evaluating the landscape can find themselves defaulting to the safe and cozy television model of the 80s. What they don’t realize is how valuable the complexity of online video is – it’s an opportunity to target consumers more precisely, so long as they understand who’s watching, when they’re watching, and how they’re watching. The ability to leverage all that audience data is a critical advantage to online video.
The key to engaging the new generation of media consumers is in understanding their average day. The mediums and content types that they consume is just the first step to marketing to them. You have to understand that there’s a rhyme, reason and a rhythm in their transitions across platforms. They’re not random jumps. They’re conscious, trackable patterns of behavior, and they should change marketing strategy. Consumers are watching a remarkable amount of video online and they’re doing it on their schedule, where and how they want.
The traditional line of thought, one that’s survived and thrived for decades thanks to television’s dominance, is that knowing what programs are being watched and how much they are being watched are the most important factors to consider in targeting consumers – viz. millions of young parents are watching ‘Dr. Phil,’ so Pampers and Lowes commercials shower the daytime TV blocks. We now know that those young parents also watch an incredible amount of video online, and through the magic of the excellent first- and third-party data now available to the modern marketer, we know when they’re most likely to do it. We know much more about viewers than ever before: helping enable the dawn of the “audience era.” Audience-first thinking, driven by powerful data-mining technology, is creating efficiency for individual marketers and the industry at large.
Leveraging online video isn’t about preparing for the eventual dethroning of television. At the moment, television is doing just fine. It’s about recognizing that online video is an increasingly large part of consumers’ media diet, and that your audience-first strategy should drive marketing that is consumer-centric rather than device-centric.
Larry Shender is global director of video at Turn, a cloud marketing platform. He joined Turn from RichRelevance. He is a career-long digital veteran and was the first sales executive at Tremor Video. Larry helped start one of the earliest video adexchanges.