What’s On

Mobile video is too important to put it in the too-hard basket

The advertising industry has been offered an opportunity on a plate. Since the birth of television it has taken a dominant position as the brand-building tool that uses the power of video to build awareness and change attitudes. But it’s been stuck in the lounge room. Now the same power can be found in the hands of a consumer standing outside a department store with a pocket full of spending power. It’s a marketer’s dream come true.

Skip back a few years and the idea of smartphone users avidly watching video on the go would seem like a pipedream. Mobile networks weren’t up to the task and consumers were charged exorbitant amounts to download data. Detractors would point to the growth in big screen smart TVs in the lounge and ask, how could mobile video ever become a dominant force in the advertising mix.

The advertising industry has been offered an opportunity on a plate. Since the birth of television it has taken a dominant position as the brand-building tool that uses the power of video to build awareness and change attitudes. But it’s been stuck in the lounge room. Now the same power can be found in the hands of a consumer standing outside a department store with a pocket full of spending power. It’s a marketer’s dream come true. Skip back a few years and the idea of smartphone users avidly watching video on the go would seem like a pipedream. Mobile networks weren’t up to the task and consumers were charged exorbitant amounts to download data. Detractors would point to the growth in big screen smart TVs in the lounge and ask, how could mobile video ever become a dominant force in the advertising mix. New research from AOL shows how far we have come. In this region more of us are watching video daily on our smartphones than are watching on computers or connected TVs. Why? For many it’s the intimacy and privacy of the small screen, but for most it’s the ability to watch videos whenever and wherever they are. Yet in this region, where the adoption of mobile video is stronger than in most parts of the world, spending by advertisers is still relatively low. In fact, it’s fighting for a share of a pie in which only 35 percent of budgets are allocated online. That will increase to 40 percent this year – still unrepresentative, I’d argue – but only 40 percent of buyers expect to increase their digital spend on video. If you are presenting with this quantum shift in video behaviour, why wouldn’t everyone be seizing the opportunity? The social diversion Many advertisers are, understandably, looking at the growth of social media and deciding to put their money there. That’s fair enough, but it’s important to understand what people are consuming and sharing on social media – increasingly, it’s video. That’s particularly the case in southeast Asia. The AOL study shows that one of the reasons people like to consume video on their smartphones is because it’s easy to view when someone shares it, and it’s easy to share if it’s something they like. That points to another marketer’s dream – being in an environment where strong content can go viral. Most marketers understand the significance of the opportunity. 70 percent of buyers in the AOL study agreed with the statement that ‘digital video is the future of advertising’; one third strongly agreed. So why aren’t more brands doing more with mobile video? I suspect the main reason is that it’s all a bit too hard. How do you create content that is viewable on a small screen, that grabs attention without being too intrusive? Some might even have tried it and have been disappointed with the results. The survey results show logistics and price are the major obstacles; half cited the cost of producing video content, almost as many saw the need to adapt for the multitude of platforms as an issue. Others considered lagging layer technology as a problem, yet the growth in mobile video would suggest that’s not an issue seen by the consumer. All these obstacles can be addressed with technology, of course. The real issue, I believe, is in the creative execution. Strong ideas will be shared, like never before, particularly if there’s a strong sense of immediacy and currency. People like to be seen as on-top of what’s going on in the world, and the posts you share on social media say a lot about you. So companies that produce video content that meets that need will do well. Interestingly, the AOL research suggests consumers don’t really mind whether content is paid for by a brand or not, so long as it’s interesting or entertaining. For southeast Asians education is a key element. Hence, two thirds of businesses expect branded video content to be one of the biggest opportunities this year, so long as they can keep it short. Although, whilst 85 percent of buyers plan to increase their user of pre-roll video ads this year most, curiously, most don’t envisage spending more on branded content. I think that’s because most brands still see mobile video as an advertising medium. In the AOL survey many cited TV to mobile retargeting as a big opportunity. I wouldn’t deny there’s benefits from carrying viewers from the big screen to the small screen, but we must also remember, many of our mobile video users are spending more time on their phone than they are in front of the TV. The opportunity, I suspect, is a hybrid approach, where advertising and branded video content work hand in hand. Advertising kick starts the awareness drive, whilst stand-alone video content is made available for sharing by the social media obsessed mobile users of southeast Asia. I could be wrong, of course. The space is moving so quickly. But it can be disheartening to see brands not trying out new ways of grasping the opportunity. Or worse, just treating this exciting new medium like any other – seeing the small screen as just another channel for direct big screen advertising. If we get it right, mobile video will transform our industry. It’d be a shame to ignore it because it’s all too hard to get our collective heads around. Sadly, in southeast Asia, that’s the stance many advertisers have taken to the entire digital advertising scene. Sometime soon, though, they’ll recognise that people are ignoring their newspaper ads, because their audiences are stuck to the screens on their mobile phones. Watching videos, no doubt. research from AOL shows how far we have come. In this region more of us are watching video daily on our smartphones than are watching on computers or connected TVs. Why? For many it’s the intimacy and privacy of the small screen, but for most it’s the ability to watch videos whenever and wherever they are.

Yet in this region, where the adoption of mobile video is stronger than in most parts of the world, spending by advertisers is still relatively low. In fact, it’s fighting for a share of a pie in which only 35 per cent of budgets are allocated online. That will increase to 40 per cent this year – still unrepresentative, I’d argue – but only 40 per cent of buyers expect to increase their digital spend on video.

If you are presenting with this quantum shift in video behaviour, why wouldn’t everyone be seizing the opportunity?

The social diversion
Many advertisers are, understandably, looking at the growth of social media and deciding to put their money there. That’s fair enough, but it’s important to understand what people are consuming and sharing on social media – increasingly, it’s video.

That’s particularly the case in southeast Asia. The AOL study shows that one of the reasons people like to consume video on their smartphones is because it’s easy to view when someone shares it, and it’s easy to share if it’s something they like. That points to another marketer’s dream – being in an environment where strong content can go viral.

Most marketers understand the significance of the opportunity. 70 per cent of buyers in the AOL study agreed with the statement that ‘digital video is the future of advertising’; one third strongly agreed. So why aren’t more brands doing more with mobile video?

I suspect the main reason is that it’s all a bit too hard. How do you create content that is viewable on a small screen, that grabs attention without being too intrusive? Some might even have tried it and have been disappointed with the results.

The survey results show logistics and price are the major obstacles; half cited the cost of producing video content, almost as many saw the need to adapt for the multitude of platforms as an issue. Others considered lagging layer technology as a problem, yet the growth in mobile video would suggest that’s not an issue seen by the consumer. All these obstacles can be addressed with technology, of course.

The real issue, I believe, is in the creative execution. Strong ideas will be shared, like never before, particularly if there’s a strong sense of immediacy and currency. People like to be seen as on-top of what’s going on in the world, and the posts you share on social media say a lot about you. So companies that produce video content that meets that need will do well.

Interestingly, the AOL research suggests consumers don’t really mind whether content is paid for by a brand or not, so long as it’s interesting or entertaining. For southeast Asians education is a key element. Hence, two thirds of businesses expect branded video content to be one of the biggest opportunities this year, so long as they can keep it short. Although, whilst 85 percent of buyers plan to increase their user of pre-roll video ads this year most, curiously, most don’t envisage spending more on branded content.

I think that’s because most brands still see mobile video as an advertising medium. In the AOL survey many cited TV to mobile retargeting as a big opportunity. I wouldn’t deny there’s benefits from carrying viewers from the big screen to the small screen, but we must also remember, many of our mobile video users are spending more time on their phone than they are in front of the TV.

The opportunity, I suspect, is a hybrid approach, where advertising and branded video content work hand in hand. Advertising kick starts the awareness drive, whilst stand-alone video content is made available for sharing by the social media obsessed mobile users of southeast Asia.

I could be wrong, of course. The space is moving so quickly. But it can be disheartening to see brands not trying out new ways of grasping the opportunity. Or worse, just treating this exciting new medium like any other – seeing the small screen as just another channel for direct big screen advertising.

If we get it right, mobile video will transform our industry. It’d be a shame to ignore it because it’s all too hard to get our collective heads around. Sadly, in southeast Asia, that’s the stance many advertisers have taken to the entire digital advertising scene. Sometime soon, though, they’ll recognise that people are ignoring their newspaper ads, because their audiences are stuck to the screens on their mobile phones. Watching videos, no doubt.

Alex Khan

Alex Khan is the Managing Director APAC at Smaato.
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