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April 14, 2011 / assembled

Digiday: Video Upfront

I was fortunate enough to attend the Digiday: Video Upfront conference in New York on April 12th, 2011, where I learned about several emerging trends in online video content and online advertising.

I arrived just in time to hear from Dan Goodman and William H. Masterson III, Partners and Co-Founders of Believe Entertainment Group, who are famous for various digital content projects, including the recently launched animated web series called The LeBrons. The duo discussed the implications of turning celebrities into media networks, and also touched on how they successfully financed this digital short form content ahead of a revenue stream. In this case, it was clear that there was already an established audience for the content (LeBron’s Facebook and Twitter pages have a combined total of 8M fans and followers). Another key factor that has helped to drive the success and popularity of this series is that these episodes are self-contained units that do not necessarily need to be watched in order. Though this series was launched without the help of ‘big media,’ both Goodman and Masterson agree that despite the changing media landscape, and contrary to popular opinion, big media is NOT out. Big media is oftentimes the solution. In terms of current and future opportunity, both agree that short form content is the best space for producers and advertisers to be.

Following this presentation, I sat through a series called “The State of the Industry on Digital Video” which discussed changes in advertising budgets to accommodate more online/digital advertising. Gian Lombardi of YuMe talked about the emergence of new media such as mobile and tablet, and the huge projected increases in ad spending within these spaces.  Lombardi reasons that huge projected ad spending within these spaces is largely in part due to the targeting capability and measurability. Because advertising is moving into new environments, the need to measure its effectiveness is a hot topic. Lombardi argues that there is a huge disconnect right now with measurement and ROI, claiming that click through rates are not useful metrics. Metrics really need to ladder back to the campaign objectives- this statement is true for online advertising. What really caught my attention was when Lombardi made the point that the shift to online video is not a generational shift, but a technology shift. He also concluded that the audiences that are most difficult to reach through TV are the easiest to reach online. The space is changing, no doubt. Given the opportunities for measurement and targetability, online advertising will slowly begin to steal huge chunks of traditional advertising budgets– we are seeing it happen now, and will continue to see it happen into the future.

In the next panel, titled  “The Buyers Speak Out,” the panel discussed a hot topic– the value of metrics. An important distinction that was made here; the closer metrics get to identifying sales, the more valuable they become. Given some of the capabilities of online advertising, advertisers are shifting away from broadcasting using traditional advertising and focusing on narrow-casting; pinpointing specific audiences they want to reach, and specifying how and when they want to reach them. The ability to measure will be much greater as this process is refined. Though the advertising space is changing, advertising goals largely remain the same: to drive sales and achieve brand lift.

All in all, it was a very valuable use of my time. The entire field of communications, including advertising, marketing, and public relations is changing faster than most of us anticipated. None of us really knows where this is going, or how long it will take to get there. Is this an evolution, or a revolution? Based on what I learned from the panelists at this event, we must continue to work hard, fuel our passion into what we love to do, keep bringing good ideas to the table, and just enjoy the ride.

Image: CPH Metro by Borya

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