April 13, 2010

Where Have All the Good Videos Clips Gone?


So far, there doesn't seem to be a big difference between video on the web and video on TV.

Plenty of pundits in the advertising space spent time in earlier days writing about how online video had to be completely different. "You can't just run what you run on television, because consumers behave differently when they're watching an online video," they all said. Attention spans are shorter, the screen is smaller, consumers are seeking different things.

All of which is true.

So why does it seem as though the two media are distressingly similar in terms of the content they're offering?

Take, for example, YouTube (which was just snapped up by Google for $1.65 billion).

hilary swank.jpg

On the YouTube home page, there's an ad from Paramount Pictures for a film called Freedom Writers, starring Hilary Swank. It is, predictably, a two-minute movie trailer - the same thing you might see on television, or during the half-hour block of previews at the movies. The only difference is that online, viewers are invited to rate the film preview (which currently has an average of 3 stars, in case you're interested) or write their own critiques (many of which point to the apparent gag-factor of the film, such as: "One day, we'll all hold hands under the rainbow of togetherness and sing songs of, um, togetherness. And stuff.").

For now, the ability for consumers to create (or at least comment on) video seems to be the only exciting video form out there.

I think I understand why. Marketers in the online video space flip their lids over consumer generated video because it is more interesting than video created by their agencies.

Is it because the big agencies still haven't embraced the medium? Do they still believe that what works for television will work online? Perhaps it's just because the younger generation grew up with this stuff and understand better how to use it.

Maybe it's more simple: maybe advertisers aren't willing to spend the money it would take to truly explore the medium.

studio 60 2.jpg

Whatever the reason, agency-created ads, when viewed online, are dull. I wrote last week about the AT&T pre-roll ads that were running before the streaming version of NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The same ad ran before each of the five parts of the video, and I expressed a wish that the ads could have told a story, one leading to the next, in the same way that the five parts of the television show were doing.

In this week's streaming version of Studio 60, Cadillac does it better than AT&T. Cadillac, at least, airs three different ads and they come close to telling a story. Not quite, but close.

cadillac ad.jpg

Interestingly, while traditional, TV-like spots still seem to dominate the online video ad world, the world of television is beginning to experiment with consumer generated media itself. Frito Lay's Doritos brand, Chevy, and the NFL have all invited consumers to create their Super Bowl ads for them. The winning ads will be aired during the game.

All of which says to me that new media is willing to take risks, to move offline, while traditional media is still stuck in the mud.

For example, even in an instance where a staid consumer packaged goods brand like Doritos is stepping outside the boundaries, the video creative is nothing more than dull.

Visit the site that promotes the Doritos contest and you'll find a single video (so far). That video is from the Doritos people themselves, touting the contest. Is it interesting? Is it fun? Is it innovative? No. Is it informative? Yes, and perhaps that's all that matters. Perhaps it will turn out to be an extremely effective ad for the contest.


But pleaseā€¦ couldn't the Doritos people - either the creative agency or the brand marketers in charge of the ad - have come up with something even a tad more engaging than what they currently have?

Open the video and you hear the sound of crickets and see a black background. A question appears: "What do you call cheese that's not your own?"

A bag of Doritos flashes across the black screen. Then a chip crunches and flies apart as driving music begins, followed by the words, "Welcome to Crash the Super Bowl. Brought to you by Doritos brand tortilla chips. Join the contest, make a commercial, tell your friends. The winning entry will be aired during Super Bowl XLI." Logo, and fade out.

I happen to love Doritos (it's my junk food of choice). But this video doesn't begin to inspire me to create an ad about the brand. It doesn't even inspire me to head to the cupboard.

Why crickets? And what does the question "What do you call cheese that's not your own?" even mean? It doesn't make sense!

Was there nothing else that the creative team could think of? Even if "short, informative and to-the-point" was the top priority, surely there are more interesting ways to make use of the space.

I'm still waiting for an advertiser to do something innovative online. If you hear of something or someone, I'm begging you: let me know.

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