TVNZ's Robbie Spargo on digital video trends to watch

  • Opinion
  • February 23, 2016
TVNZ's Robbie Spargo on digital video trends to watch

As online video viewing achieves more widespread adoption, chatter around the dinner table touches ever more regularly on the future of how we consume it. As marketers and content producers, it is tempting to get drawn into sweeping assumptions about the next big trend. However, it can be helpful to look to the past to see that the future probably isn’t as apocalyptic as we are sometimes led to believe – in fact, if you understand it, it’s full of opportunity.

  1. Diversification, not displacement:

Around four years ago I remember having conversations about how the 5 minute YouTube show would replace TV shows. More recently I hear people saying the 10 second Snapchat will replace the one-minute Facebook video, which has replaced the five-minute YouTube show. This is all undeniably because our attention spans are…

With ten or so years of widespread online video viewing behind us, we can see that the negative impact of each new video format on its precursor is in reality fairly negligible and most of these statements are sensationalist claptrap. YouTube viewing is still growing, as is Facebook, as is Snapchat. Meanwhile, the 60-minute/30-minute TV show is probably stronger than ever, as testified by one high-profile exec saying that there is “simply too much television”. What we are seeing is not so much wholesale change in the type of content we consume, but rather an increase in the amount of video we consume and a diversification in both the type of video we consume and the ways we consume it.

  1. Diversification will remain a challenge and an opportunity:

One of the most terrifying and exciting things about being a video producer or marketer in today’s environment is that there are these ever-increasing number of ways to tell your story. It is not enough to talk generically about video anymore - a looping 6 second Vine video, a disposable Snapchat, a series of five-minute YouTube videos or a six-hour Twitch live stream are all very different beasts, commanding very different storytelling approaches.

The only possible way to successfully capitalise on these new formats is to immerse yourself in them, absorb as much as you can as quickly as possible, and then rationally evaluate if your voice will add something of value. (And it’s OK to say it won’t, by the way).

  1. Creation, distribution and marketing teams will work together more closely than ever before

Getting your story heard in this environment is difficult. Distribution and marketing cannot be an afterthought, but need to be part of the creative process itself. Where does the story live? How will it make its appearance in the world with maximum impact? How will it have longevity? How will it make sense for the thousands of people that will come across it in multiple time zones, across many different months, and from hundreds of different sources? With no set recipe for distribution and marketing, these questions cannot be taken for granted – they are part of the lifeblood of the story itself.

  1. The three- to seven-minute video series will become a more entrenched format

I was at a YouTube conference a few years ago at which Robert Kyncl (YouTube’s Chief Business Officer) talked about YouTube videos filling the ‘white spaces’ – moments throughout the day where previously we did nothing. With this in mind, I was struck late last year by this quick survey of participants at New York Stream Con, who describe YouTube as being primarily for downtime in the evenings, when they are using desktops/laptops/consoles.

We have also seen more and more media owners – from YouTube’s new ‘Red’ service, to 4Shorts in the UK, to the New York Times in the US, to Vice internationally - embrace this format. The conclusion you can easily draw from all of this is that the 3-7 minute video series has moved from being incidental viewing to becoming an entrenched format that people are making time in their lives to consume: one of the prime reasons that I joined TVNZ to work on Shorts.

  1. Audiences still appreciate brands for their ability to provide great content

Audiences exist to be entertained. It follows, therefore, that a brand that can provide something of genuine entertainment value in an authentic manner will win viewers’ hearts and minds. This has been true of traditional advertising for years - hence the buzz around Air New Zealand’s last brand ad or the UK’s John Lewis Christmas ad.

The same obviously applies to the field of branded content, and we’ve seen incredible examples of this principle at work, from Honda’s 6-season association with Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee in the USA, to Nutri-Grain’s recent Unstoppable series in Australia (that saw them turn around a decline in sales), and Air New Zealand’s KiwiSkeptics series in Australia, which gave them a 31% increase in sales.

When it comes down to it, it is a simple formula: give the audience what they want, and they will like you more.

  • Robbie Spargo is responsible for branded short-form content on TVNZ OnDemand, which launched last year with Microsoft Surface’s Better Together series.

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