Meet Video—the ever-elusive, ever-changing marketing tool that many people seem to find scary and expensive. Let’s go back to basics and talk about the different types and audiences of video to give you some background when creating the video strategy for your hotel.
I’ve written several pieces about video for hotels, but more recently I spent some time figuring out the basics of video in terms of its content and its context. More specifically, it became clear that video is one of those terms that’s not easy to pin down, mainly because video appears everywhere now. It’s difficult to get through an hour—let alone a day—without watching video in some form or another.
This has created a situation where attempting to write articles about "Video" as a topic is becoming extremely difficult without narrowing the focus. As an example, check out my article What Video Can Do For Your Hotel, which gives you a 101 in reasons why video works, but isn’t particularly focused.
As I put together notes for my latest podcast, however, it became clear that when we talk about video with respect to the platform on which it’s shown as well as the audience who is on that platform, the mystery begins to unravel. In the podcast, I talked about three broad categories of platforms in order to make it clear how video is consumed, and how the style, length and content of video is dictated by those platforms.
Check out that podcast below if you want to listen to a more meandering discussion on this right now, or keep reading for a more detailed outlay.
PLATFORM IS EVERYTHING
The platform is essentially the medium on which video is consumed. TV is a platform, for example. As is Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. As is a website. As is a DVD, Blu-ray or movie theatre. Because video is all over the place, and has a different audience depending on its platform, it makes sense to consider the platform of the video above all else.
When we wrap these platforms up, we find they fall into three distinct categories: passive, active and social. These three categories include multiple platforms for video, but each still has its own characteristics that apply to all platforms in its respective category, in some form or another. To explain this further, let’s just get straight into it.
1. PASSIVE VIDEO
TV commercials, pre-show cinema advertising, YouTube ads, Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr ads, essentially all forms of advertising
Either "SELL! SELL! SELL!” (JB HI FI ads/Jimbo’s Tyres) or “brand awareness/emotive” (The new Toyota Landcruiser/Panadol)
Passive video is essentially the kind of video that no one actually wants to watch. They don’t seek it out, and they often find it annoying.
TV ads & Pre-show cinema advertising:
With traditional TV, ads are just the way things are. People are so used to ad breaks that they often switch off, go and do other things, or talk to the family. Marketing agencies know this, so they need to create ads that are really loud and fast (JB HI FI), quiet and filmic (The New Mazda 3), or emotive/lifestyle-based (Panadol/shampoo commercials).
They just need to put that brand in your head, often with buzzwords that you’ll associate with them. 'JB HI FI + MASSIVE SAVINGS'. 'PANADOL + when PAIN is GONE, LIFE takes its place'. The quality of the ad doesn’t really usually matter with television commercials and pre-show cinema. It’s all about getting those few words in someone’s head. It’s very much subliminal.
Obviously, great ads certainly do come along that become memes (“Not happy, Jan!”) but they are so hard to predict or to control, much likely attempting to “create” a viral video for YouTube. It’s why traditional video production sticks to the traditional ways of doing things to ensure their clients get as much value as they can in an arena where many people won’t watch the ad closely anyway.
Having said all that, traditional passive commercial isn’t going away anytime soon. As long as there are places where people can watch TV shows, movies and other video, you can guarantee there will be video ads.
YouTube is really only one step up from traditional television ads in terms of effectiveness. It tends to be more targeted because YouTube knows exactly what the viewer has watched and what their interests are based on browsing habits. It’s still annoying, because it’s placed immediately before a video a user actually wants to watch.
In some ways, it can be more effective than a TV ad, because the advertiser can be sure that the viewer is completely attentive for that few seconds before they can press Skip (as opposed to a traditional TV ad, where as soon as a viewer sees the logo sting to push to commercial, they pretty much immediately switch off and don’t bring their attention back until the intro sting to their show).
Obviously, the advertiser has only 5 seconds in many cases to get their point across, depending on the way the YouTuber has chosen to monetise their channel. YouTubers can actually choose to disable skipping ads (which makes them more money, but could annoy their subscribers), or they can choose to allow it.
Also, YouTube allows advertisers to create 5-second-ONLY ads. These ads can’t be skipped (because they’re only 5 seconds anyway), but they also can’t go any longer than 5 seconds. These 5 second ads will become more of a trend going forward, as they likely annoy users much less. A user can be passive while watching a 5-second ad (rather than hovering over the Skip button), and they’re more comfortable knowing that the ad will go away by itself.
I know that, personally, I prefer seeing a 5 second ad that I don’t have to be concerned about skipping. Also, 5 seconds is a pretty large amount of time to get across a quick, simple message. Companies like Kmart and Coles are actually dividing their 30 second spots up into 5-second ads, and only displaying one special in that 5 seconds. They know that the viewer will probably see a few more of them as they move between videos, so instead of creating one 30-second spot which can be skipped after 5 seconds, they create a whole bunch of 5-second spots which can’t be skipped at all. It certainly makes far more financial sense.
My point here is that short video ads will become more prevalent as advertisers realise that every single second of their video will be watched by every viewer. This is why having a very clear message is so important, regardless of video length.
If video production companies get into the habit of stripping away complexity and pushing the message from the first frame, they’ll have a much easier path to adapting to these kinds of video trends. (Just wait till YouTube allows 2 second video ads—it’s gotta be coming).
2. ACTIVE VIDEO
Hero Video (video on hero header of website), Facebook pinned video, YouTube/Vimeo channel video
Website and hero video:
Active video describes commercial video that users actively seek out. They hit up a website or do a Google or YouTube search to find out about a particular product or service. The great thing about active video is that you know the viewer is watching it because they actively WANT TO.
You don't need to be so rushed with this kind of video. The viewer is looking for detailed information, so they don’t want to watch a 30-second video. They’ve pressed play to really understand your product or service, and are happy to watch a few minutes that will go over this.
This DOES NOT MEAN that you can be lazy with messaging. You still need to create an engaging video. People will still get pissed off if you give them a boring video, or one that doesn’t give them the information that they need. In fact, they will be more annoyed by a flimsy video if they have actively sought it out than if it showed up as an ad.
They’re seeking information. They WANT to be sold to. They want to know how your product or service will solve their problems or increase their pleasures. So GIVE THEM THE INFO.
FUTURE OF ACTIVE VIDEO:
Looking at the current climate, active video will become more and more relevant as more people move away from traditional TV and cable/satellite watching. People who only watch Netflix and HBO GO are never going to see your traditional TV ad, so when they actively seek out your promotional video, it needs to be on- message and really explain why you are the best.
A hotel marketing video therefore that just offers slow panning shots and annoying music is completely useless, especially if your only video strategy is an active one!
Using an active and passive strategy at the same time can certainly help. A passive 5-second YouTube ad can be coupled with a much more informative active video on your website to tie your video strategy together.
If you are Panadol for example, you certainly aren’t doing this well. You’ve created a TV ad, which is just pushed to YouTube as a 30-second spot that can be skipped after 5 seconds (which is useless if the first 5 seconds doesn’t even get to the point), and then your website doesn’t continue this video strategy. Your website’s hero is simply a badly Photo-shopped image of all your products. Luckily, you are Panadol, so everyone already knows who you are...
If you don't have the marketing and advertising budget of Panadol, consider a proper Active+Passive video strategy. Tie your branding, positioning and messaging together in a way that it transitions seamlessly from platform to platform.
3. SOCIAL VIDEO:
Snapchat Story video, Instagram story, Instagram/Facebook feed, YouTube feed, Twitter.
Social video is kind of halfway between passive and active video. Users don’t necessarily seek this video out, but they do actually want to watch it, because it’s presented to them in a trusted way. By that I mean, users have curated the list of people who they follow, so they know that whatever video they’re about to watch is something they’ll probably like.
Social video is exploding. I hate using terms like that, but it’s true. Especially with younger people, social video is growing like an out-of-control rabbit farm.
Snapchat has jumped on this bandwagon in a big way. Not only can users send short videos to their friends, they can upload them to a semi-public (or public, if they choose) “story” which all their friends can view for a rolling 24-hour period.
The big guys are now taking advantage of this too. Brands, celebrities and other individuals are asking fans to follow them on Snapchat for “behind the scenes” looks at events and lifestyle stuff. Even news outlets are jumping on board. CNN is happy to deliver the news with shaky, compressed vertical video shot on an iPhone. It’s interesting how many younger people get their news headlines from Snapchat.
Snapchat is pushing this quick, immediate, candid style of consuming video which appears to be what people are looking for. They’re so used to getting iPhone video from their friends, that it seems only logical for big companies to bring that style down to their level to create a more immediate, personal sales pitch.
This is a market you should seriously be keeping an eye on. Active video, in most respects, still requires high production value, because it is essentially evergreen. That is, it hangs around much longer and is viewed by many more people over its lifetime.
Social video is just very different. Obviously with Snapchat, you are literally unable to use professional equipment (you can, however, hook up decent audio and attach accessories to your phone to make it watchable), so Snapchat is an interesting trend to follow, which many video production companies would find deplorable.
As for your Instagram and Facebook feed, there’s also a case to be made that high quality production can hurt the engagement numbers. Video still needs to be watchable, relevant and interesting. But it doesn’t need to be shot on expensive rigs, colour graded and cut with music and perfect sound. This is mainly because social video tends to quite immediate and doesn’t really need to be edited. In fact, It’s probably a detriment to its candid-nature if it is edited.
Again, social video is getting bigger. As smartphones become more powerful and as the younger generation who have grown up using smartphones become more interested consumers, social video is going to be their port-of-call for so much of their immediate information, in much the same way as Twitter is for text-based updates.
When considering video going forward, remember that the platform really counts for so much. The category that continues to change is social video. As more people upgrade to more powerful smartphones and to higher (and faster) data plans, video will become very much the norm or the social world, and in the social media world of many people, it already is.
Video isn’t some big “trend”—it’s been around for a long time, and it’s here to stay. The only thing that’s changing is where, when and how it’s consumed.
Nick’s background is with visual media, most notably photography and graphic design. His experience with composition, colouring and storytelling led him to his latest role at Raving Digital. He also dabbles with recording music, so he understands how important audio is in any video.
He’s worked at everything from checkout chick to business analyst to pizza chef, but somehow his loyalty lies with telling great stories with brilliant visuals and even brilliant-er sound.
As the director of photography, he’s often behind a camera, but then he’s also back in the studio splitting hairs over the amount of green in the shadows or the stereo spread of the room tone.