October 26, 2015

MOFILM London 2015 Panel Session: What does being a Brand Publisher mean?

By MOFILM

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As part of its 2015 London Award Ceremony, MOFILM brought together senior executives from Google, Dazed Media and Maker Studios to discuss the rapidly changing world of publishing in the online video space. An area of great interest to marketers as the cost of content creation drops as quickly as the ways to self-distribute increase. The conversation covered the role of influencers, the importance of metrics and, considering the seismic changes in the media and technology landscapes over the past decade, what the future might hold.

Historically, the value of a publisher to brands was audience access and the ability to put their message in front of that audience.  Today the same audiences can be easily accessed via Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube, at a fraction of the cost and in far more highly targeted fashion.

So what is the role of traditional publishers today?  They have access to niche audiences and have deep insight into those that regularly consume their work, enabling them to create more relevant content than brands may be able to.  Although to succeed they are developing additional services, such as access to their events and acting more like a creative agency to produce work in partnership with brands. Helping them to reach their audiences in the most relevant way.

Publishers, and platforms, with a defined audience provide the key element of context. Harking back to traditional models, marketers know that an ad at the front of a magazine is far more effective than one near the back.  The same is true for the online world of video. Debbie Weinstein, Google’s Director of Brand Solutions and Innovation pointed out that a consumers brand preference score correlates more positively with their Ad recall when the content is regarded as premium. This is particularly relevant as YouTube grows its preferred inventory focus and ramp up its assault on TV.

If brands are the new publishers, then consumers are the new editors, curating the content they want to watch and deciding for themselves what is or isn’t premium. Individual YouTube stars, such as PewDiePie, have created some of the largest, and most engaged audiences.  Over the same time frame, this Swedish based vlogger has amassed more views than Red Bull, the champion of branded content, by a factor of ten.

Red Bull has mind-blowing content, and lots of it. It also started with a far greater level of awareness than PewDiePie among the general population. So how has this happened? It’s the authenticity that YouTubers can, and do, give their viewers that makes the difference. They have no brand guidelines or rulebook, no boss, they just want to make the best content for their audience and they are succeeding. They are learning rapidly, getting better and better with each piece they publish. They pay attention to what works, what doesn’t and adapt quickly to ensure their next piece of content is better than the last.

For brands, working with influencers can have a massive impact. Multi-channel network, Maker Studios works with over 55,000 influencers across multiple platforms. Managing Director, Dan’l Hewitt, reminded attendees that they should still be considering how best to connect with their consumers, in the most relevant and appropriate place. Always with a view on how this content will help address their business objectives.

Will Hayward, Chief Commercial Officer of Dazed Media emphasized the need to create quality content that really delivers business value. Remarking that the 2015 Gartner Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing put content marketing at very peak of inflated expectations and that the bubble is about to burst. The panel agreed that this shouldn’t discourage brands from investing in making content; rather they should do it well or not at all.

This means that the metrics for measuring success need to be more than the view count. Though the available tools have changed, the fundamental rules of marketing haven’t.  When it comes to creating content you should start with your business objective in mind. This is not about creating content for contents sake, or about chasing views; it’s about what metrics will move the business, such as increasing awareness or preference to buy. It’s about making content that people connect with and that helps to shift product.

When it came to looking to the future, mobile featured heavily in the short to mid-term predictions. In the past year, the number of YouTube sessions from UK mobiles has increased by 200% and the average session is around 40 minutes. This is only going to increase, as is the confluence of screens, as companies take a more cohesive approach to this hyper fragmented digital landscape to ensure that they are getting to their audience in the most effective way for the viewer.

The question is what will we be using to consume content in ten years time. Virtual reality is becoming more prevalent but to be successful, it requires a shift from handheld, 2D screens. Facebook, who focused so heavily on owning the mobile experience for last few years, is already trying to anticipate what will happen after mobile.

A final question for creative and media agencies; when an influencer, brand or publisher does the creative, and production, with appropriate audience distribution baked in, how do the traditional agencies stay relevant?

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