Harnessing the Power of Mobile Video

Tuesday Jul 10th 2007 by Datamation.com Staff
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Mobile video creators face two large challenges: Getting people to pay attention to video on small screens and figuring out how to monetize it.

In 2004, Volvo decided to add an interesting component to their full-scale launch of the S40 sedan-video that could be downloaded to mobile phones. The promotion for the "Mystery of Dalarö" video was a successful campaign overall, but in a time where mobile video was in its infancy it was even more surprising to see that 33 percent of people targeted downloaded the optimized video to their mobile handset. Few realized that it would be an early indicator of what was to come.

Today, Internet advertisers are struggling to figure out how to monetize the vast online video medium—YouTube alone delivers 100 million video clips daily and there are dozens of other sites including Google, Yahoo! and MySpace that have jumped onto the bandwagon. It's a conundrum.

A large amount of video on the Net isn't viewed live, which means that consumers that watch television programs at their leisure tend to fast-forward through all forms of advertising embedded in their programs. Advertisers may have been hopeful that it would be awhile before mobile users had similar capabilities but Texas Instruments recently dashed those hopes.

The company recently announced that it has developed the first mobile DVR, which also includes picture-in-picture capability, giving a viewer the ability to see two video streams - either live broadcast content or stored personal video - at the same time. Suddenly the viewing power is in the hands of the user.

To make it even more complicated, JupiterResearch recently found that mobile users don't want to pay for video content. Only 1 percent have any sort of video subscription, which is a small amount even considering that only 11 percent of mobile handsets have video capabilities.

However, JupiterResearch also reported that a growing number of consumers (25 percent) are interested in watching video on their mobile phones, with live television topping the list, followed by full-length movies, short video clips and pre-recorded television.

It's interesting that full-length movies are part of that list. A recent survey from the Associated Press and AOL video showed that traditional Internet viewers are more interested in viewing short clips. Only 1 in 5 users had ever downloaded a full-length movie or television show.

The reason appeared to be primarily related to bandwidth—it takes a long time to download full-length programs and most consumers aren't very patient. If it takes so long on a desktop computer, imagine the difficulty on a mobile device!

Still, the JupiterResearch survey was an indication of interest and the future of the market. Devices will continue to evolve and as battery time improves, storage space increases and screen-size becomes larger, downloading video will become more and more of a priority for users—and a greater target market for advertisers.

If advertising in video is such a challenge on the Net, much less on mobile handsets, how can advertisers take advantage of the uptake in video on the third screen? On both platforms - the desktop and mobile device - the method is likely to be the same. Marketers and advertisers will get ahead by paying attention to what consumers are interested in, what they are downloading, and finding a way to create messages around those personalized content channels.

In today's world, consumers are increasingly looking to interact with companies and information directly. The entertainment sector has already latched onto this phenomenon and is finding savvy ways to reach marketing targets. Musicians have discovered that being part of MySpace and directly interacting with fans is often more effective than many other types of advertising.

The band Duran Duran is taking this idea one step further, reaching out through the popular video game, Second Life, where they will interact with fans around the world and perform a live concert via their in-game avatars.

Currently the number one downloaded Internet video of all time is by a band called OK Go who created a music video in their backyard then invited fans to copy and lip sync the video. The viral success of their strategy was completely unexpected. It took off because consumers drove the process, interacted with the content and shared the results with others.

A video on YouTube a few months ago fueled a Mentos and Diet Coke craze-the chemical reaction of Mentos placed in the sugar-free liquid is quite explosive-in both a literal and figurative sense. When users began creating videos of rockets and fountains created from the concoction, Mentos realized that they had a hit on their hands.

They helped two "mad scientists" at EepyBird.com create a full Bellagio-style geyser display and the resulting video has been viewed over 6 million times.

Now Mentos is running a contest on YouTube, asking users to create their own Mentos & soda videos (guaranteed to bring in sales—the EepyBird video used over 500 Mentos…and that's not including practice runs). They have realized the value of encouraging consumers to develop personalized content while associating it with their product.

Let's look back at the success of the Volvo S40 campaign. Why did so many users download the trailer?

The hook had everything to do with it. Volvo wanted to capitalize on the success of its Internet campaign which featured a seemingly true documentary filmed by director Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich" & "Adaptation") about a tiny village in the Netherlands where 35 people mysteriously purchased an S40 all on the same day.

It resonated with users because of the strangeness of the story and the ensuing controversy—was it true? Why would so many people in such a tiny little place all decide to buy the same car?

Millions of curious consumers downloaded the video and shared it with their friends. They debated its validity in hundreds of different ways—online forums, blogs, audio and video.

To expand upon the campaign, Mobile 365 and Mindshare developed an optimized mobile trailer for the documentary that users could download. They ran the teaser on users' mobile phones and drove traffic to Volvo's Web site via an e-mail link where the full "documentary" could be viewed and more details about the new car could be accessed—perfect for a mobile device, which enables consumers to have access to that information in the palm of their hand when standing in the lot.

Few technology devices are more personal to consumers than their mobile phone. They want to control the content and view it as they see fit. They want to choose how and when they see advertising—disrupting the personal experience will increasingly be a trigger for frustration rather than sales. Until a more standardized advertising model emerges for mobile video, advertisers and marketers should focus on helping consumers interact with and proliferate personalized content, keying into their sense of curiosity, adventure, play, desire, and all those other things that make us humans unique.

This article was first published on WebVideoUniverse.com.

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