Settling in over breakfast yesterday with the Sunday Boston Globe (yes, I actually still read my hometown newspaper in print), I was intrigued by a story featured prominently on page 1 , detailing how Tufts University, a highly-selective college in the Boston area, has encouraged freshman applicants to submit one-minute "video essays" of themselves. Of the 15,436 applicants this year, over 1,000, or 6% submitted one.
Talk about a college in synch with the YouTube/Facebook generation. Not only does the idea cater perfectly to what kids today are already doing a lot of online, it provides the admissions office with an unvarnished insight into the kids, talking about what makes them special, in their own unique and creative way.
Video is an emotional medium in ways that text simply is not. That has never been truer than with these submissions. I looked through all the videos that the Globe added to its gallery (you can also go to YouTube and enter "Tufts admissions" to see more) and they are priceless. There's aspiring engineer Michael Klinker flying a styrofoam elephant he designed (Tufts' mascot is the "Jumbo"), to the music from Disney's "Dumbo." And Amelia Downs, whose interests are math and dance, showing the moves she's invented to simulate different math concepts. Then there's Conor Buckley, pianist and Rubik's cube solver-extraordinaire, pursuing both of his passions on split-screen.
The videos are endearing and authentic. Most seem to have been made on a shoestring budget, featuring 17 and 18-year old kids just being themselves, doing what they love. And if you were thinking that the one-minute video idea biases toward wealthier kids, the Tufts director of admissions said that at least 60% of the videos that have been viewed were from kids applying for student aid. With video-ready digital cameras and cell phones, ubiquitous Flip videocameras plus ubiquitous low-end editing software, kids today are more video-capable then any generation in history.
I relate the Tufts admissions videos to Unigo, the Trip Advisor-like site for high school students to check out colleges through videos made by the students themselves, which I wrote about here. Both are perfect examples of what I've called "purpose-driven" user-generated video ("UGV"). What I mean by that is with millions getting comfortable making short videos just for fun and then posting them at YouTube and elsewhere, there's an opportunity to tap this experience, but direct it into specific pursuits. Other UGV examples include the Doritos Super Bowl ads and ExpoTV's "Kitchen Table Conversations" research service. I'm sure there are plenty of others.
I expect many more organizations will leverage purpose-driven UGV going forward.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
Surfing over to YouTube the other day, I was struck by how the site could well become the ultimate brand engagement platform. Below is a screen shot of what I found - nearly all the visible real estate showcased 2 different brand contests encouraging users to submit videos for a chance to win prizes.
The first contest, the "Kodak True Colors: Video Portrait Challenge," was just kicking off, and therefore had prominent positioning. The contest urges users to submit as many 10-second videos as they'd like in pursuit of a grand prize including 2 tickets to a taping of the "Conan O'Brien" show. The other contest, "The Best of Us Challenge," by the International Olympic Committee, shows athletes doing something outside their specialty (e.g. Michael Phelps doing speed putting, Lindsey Jacobellis doing the hula hoop) and asks user to emulate these or create their own challenge. The winner receives a trip for 2 to the 2010 Vancouver winter games. The contest was featured in YouTube's "Spotlight," a section on the home page populated by YouTube's editors based on user ratings.
These types of brand contest are not necessarily new, nor are their inclusion in YouTube. Over a year ago I suggested there was real opportunity in what I called "purpose-driven user-generated video" - the idea that with YouTube turning millions of people into amateur video producers, their enthusiasm and skills could be channeled to specific purposes. The success of campaigns like Doritos' $1 Million Super Bowl challenge has amply demonstrated that great creative and great buzz can be generated from a well-executed UGV campaign.
What YouTube's home page that day demonstrated to me is that as brands continue embracing online video and user participation, the go-to partner will be YouTube. There's simply no better way to reach a broad audience of likely contestants than by making a big splash on YouTube. While YouTube's monetization challenges have become one of the most-talked about industry topics this year, I'd argue there's been insufficient focus on the fact that since May '08, YouTube's share of overall video viewing has stayed right around 40%, at least according to comScore. In that time, YouTube's videos viewed per month have more than doubled, from 4.2 billion, to 10.4 billion in September '09.
Even as sites like Hulu and others have launched and promoted new and innovative sites, YouTube continues to retain its share of the fast-growing online video market. YouTube has also matured considerably, with its Content ID system largely sanitizing the site from pirated video and helping change its perception among copyright owners. (Note that on my recent visit to YouTube I searched in vain for a video of Johnny Damon's double steal in Game 4 and found nothing but "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by MLB Advanced Media." In the old days a video like that would have been available all over the site.)
While YouTube has made headway adding premium content partners, a significant part of its appeal remains users uploading and sharing videos. YouTube's combination of massive audience, ubiquitous brand, user interactivity and promotional flexibility make it an ideal partner for brands looking to engage their audiences through video.
Last summer I got plenty of flak for my post, "Does It Actually Matter How Much Money YouTube Loses?" in which I argued that YouTube's long-term strategic value (and Google's financial muscle to support the site's short-term losses) superseded the company's current losses. While I didn't mean to suggest in that post that a company can afford to lose money forever, I was trying to contend that YouTube, the dominant player in a fast-growing and highly disruptive market will eventually find its way to profitability and is well worth Google's continued investment.
YouTube is a rare example of a "winner take all" situation; there is no other video upload and sharing site even on the radar. As video becomes ever more strategic for all kinds of brands, they will increasingly recognize that YouTube is a must-have partner. If Google can't figure out how to make lemonade out of YouTube's lemons, then shame on them. I'm betting, however, that they will.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Welcome to October. Recapping another busy month, here are 3 key themes from September:
1. When established video providers use broadband, it must be to create new value
Broadband simultaneously threatens incumbent video businesses, while also opening up new opportunities. It's crucial that incumbents moving into broadband do so carefully and in ways that create distinct new value. However, in September I wrote several posts highlighting instances where broadband may either be hurting existing video franchises, or adding little new value.
Despite my admiration for Hulu, in these 2 posts, here and here, I questioned its current advertising implementations and asserted that these policies are hurting parent company NBC's on-air ad business. Worse yet, In "CNN is Undermining Its Own Advertisers with New AC360 Live Webcasts" I found an example where a network is using broadband to directly draw eyeballs away from its own on-air advertising. Lastly in "Palin Interview: ABC News Misses Many Broadband Opportunities" I described how the premier interview of the political season produced little more than an online VOD episode for ABC, leaving lots of new potential value untapped.
Meanwhile new entrants are innovating furiously, attempting to invade incumbents' turf. Earlier this week in "Presidential Debate Video on NYTimes.com is Classic Broadband Disruption," I explained how the Times's debate coverage positions it to steal prime audiences from the networks. And at the beginning of this month in "Taste of Home Forges New Model for Magazine Video," I outlined how a plucky UGC-oriented magazine is using new technology to elbow its way into space dominated by larger incumbents.
New entrants are using broadband to target incumbents' audiences; these companies need to bring A-game thinking to their broadband initiatives.
2. Purpose-driven user-generated video is YouTube 2.0
In September I further advanced a concept I've been developing for some time: that "purpose-driven" user-generated video can generate real business value. I think of these as YouTube 2.0 businesses. Exhibit A was a company called Unigo that's trying to disrupt the college guidebook industry through student-submitted video, photos and comments. While still early, I envision more purpose-driven UGV startups cropping up in the near future.
Meanwhile, brand marketers are also tapping the UGV phenomenon with ongoing contests. This trend marked a new milestone with Doritos new Super Bowl ad contest, which I explained in "Doritos Ups UGV Ante with $1 Million Price for Top-Rated 2009 Super Bowl Ad." There I also cataloged about 15 brand-sponsored UGV contests I've found in the last year. This is a growing trend and I expect much more to come.
3. Syndication is all around us
Just in case you weren't sick of hearing me talk about syndication, I'll make one more mention of it before September closes out. Syndication is the uber-trend of the broadband video market, and several announcements underscored its growing importance.
For example, in "Google Content Network Has Lots of Potential, Implications" I described how well-positioned Google is in syndication, as it ties AdSense to YouTube with its new Seth MacFarlane "Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy" partnership. The month also marked the first syndication-driven merger, between Anystream and Voxant, a combination that threatens to upend the competitive dynamics in the broadband video platform space. Two other syndication milestones of note were AP's deal with thePlatform to power its 2,000+ private syndication network, and MTV's comprehensive deal with Visible Measure to track and analyze its 350+ sites' video efforts.
I know I'm a broken record on this, but regardless of what part of the market you're playing in, if you're not developing a syndication plan, you're going to be out of step in the very near future.
That's it for September, lots more planned in October. Stay tuned.
What do you think? Post a comment!
The frenzy around user-generated video ads hit a new peak yesterday as Frito-Lay announced it is offering a $1 million prize to an amateur who creates a Doritos ad that scores the highest rank in USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter.
I believe the new campaign, which comes on top of 2 previously successful Super Bowl user-generated video ("UGV") ad contests from Doritos, is a sure-fire winner for the brand. It reflects some very smart thinking by Doritos' executives and will further accelerate the very significant trend around brand-sponsored UGV contests (see chart below for examples of UGV contests that have run in the past year). I've been writing about the UGV ad craze for a while now on VideoNuze and I see it driving continued evolution in brand-agency relations.
The new Doritos UGV campaign works for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the top prize, and the four finalist prizes of $25,000 and a trip to the Super Bowl, are all very enticing awards, certain to drive tons of submissions. Winning the top prize - which requires the #1 rank in the USA Today Ad Meter - is a big-time challenge, but it is seriously aided by all the pre-game publicity this contest will be receiving. Doritos is cleverly stoking things by positioning the ad as an opportunity to "take down the big guys" - an obvious reference to Anheuser-Busch which has won the #1 rank for the last 10 years. With "Yes We Can" and "Yes We Will" political slogans ascendant, "power to the people" pitches like the one Doritos is making have a nice tailwind on their side.
This pre-game buzz means Super Bowl viewers are specifically going to be on the lookout for the Doritos UGV ad, helping its rank. Of course if you're an advertiser, especially in this ad-skipping era, viewer anticipation for your ad is close to nirvana as it gets. It builds brand awareness, engagement and presumably sales...3 big wins when you're spending an estimated $3 million for a 30 second Super Bowl ad. And of course, just think about all the free market research Doritos is collecting along the way, as loyal buyers showcase their thoughts and feelings about the product and brand.
In fact, it's Doritos' decision to morph a conventional Super Bowl ad buy into a broadband-centric, user-oriented campaign that's truly noteworthy here. VideoNuze readers know that I've been ranting for 3 straight Super Bowls that broadband opens up all kinds of new creative avenues for brands to extract new value from their game-day spending and generate a far-better ROI on the insane prices they're required to pay for this once a year extravaganza.
I have been appalled at how few Super Bowl advertisers have actually seized their broadband opportunities (note having ads playing in post-game online galleries is nice, but nowhere near what broadband is capable of). All of this has caused me to wonder whether agencies, and brands, were hopelessly oblivious to broadband's emerging role.
Doritos clearly is not among those trapped in yesterday's advertising thinking. It seems to get what broadband can do for its brand and its Super Bowl ad strategy. With its new UGV campaign, the ROI that Doritos will get on its actual game-day spend will far surpass those of its competitors. With luck that should help spur others to focus more on broadband in their future Super Bowl ads.
What do you think? Post a comment!