When is a video an ad and when is it content?
A musing on Marketing VS Advertising in digital video.
Video and film have always had a leg up on other types of media to translate a story into an emotional reaction and in the classic TV advertisements we’ve seen some of the most compelling narratives move us and move the bottom line in :30 and :60 spots. Internet video and social are giving way to formless ways to create and translate video content to no longer be just the above the line hero in a campaign but an everyday component to a brand’s marketing mix.
In the early days of online video a lot of digital marketing films and branded content struggled to do go beyond just lengthening advertising. 30 second clothing campaign spots became fashion films and that 60 second car commercials became longer chase scenes. These experiments occasionally made big noise and gave industry folks a lot to talk about but came across as nothing more than the extended version.
Fast forwarding to today’s world and there is more opportunity than ever to use the power of film narrative to tell a story and make a brand feel like so much more than a product—to still market a company or an offering but to do it in a way that creates meaning for its audience outside of product awareness alone. In contemplating the difference between advertising video and marketing video, we’ve defined a few truths to keep in mind when building original content for your marketing that can be so much more than an ad alone:
Provide Value: STORY > PRODUCT
Put yourself in the viewers shoes and ask the simple question "What’s in it for me?” We are in a content heavy world with 300 hours of footage added to YouTube alone every minute. For your content to stand out from the pack it has to either provide pure entertainment or educational value.
Beers, Bets and Golf Cart Races with Kevin Kisner. Vice and Callaway Golf provided an authentic look at the professional golfer as a lead up to the Masters. The film provided a look at this rising talent in a way rarely seen in the sport.
Connect it to Culture
Even the best ads of all time knew this and put compelling ideas at the middle of the content would help make them a fabric of our conversations and in turn, drive sales. To really move the needle look at the stories that are resonating with your target and figure out how your brand can fit in naturally. But be mindful of the intelligence of your audience, if the connection inauthentic it will come off as phony.
Squarespace looks to the inspiration behind soul singer Leon Bridges in the film “This is Home.” At 22 min long the film is pure entertainment with zero product placement.
Brand Essence vs Features
Digital content give you the opportunity to put what you stand for as a brand front and center. You may be trying to sell more product but often digital content can play a long tail role to build true affinity for what your company stands for. This is an opportunity to make a true connection that lasts.
Samsung’s "Hearing Color,” as part of their Connected Series which explores the future of technology to bring people together.
Product as Part of the Story, but Not the Story
Beware the uncomfortable product shot. This is no time for the glinting in the stage light slow pour. How your product fits all depends on what the product is but nothing can turn off viewers faster than poorly timed and overly blatant logo hits.
“The Game before the Game” by Beats is closest to a traditional advertisement but kept the product as a supporting character in the routine of the pregame ritual as the stars of the World Cup took center stage.
Fit the Format to the Channel
The web is ever evolving and the types of stories you share should be tailor made in length and format to the channel they will be distributed on. We’re at the early stages of vertical video and extreme micro content—tight restrictions often breed the most creative executions.
Gap’s :15 second scripted series “Spring is Weird,” created entirely for Instagram’s previous time limitations.
Fuel the Fandom
Here is where the edges blur between marketing and advertising. In today’s world the best digital content should be created with earned viewers in mind but the reality is paid can help drive and spark the success of a piece of content. When planning your video production budgets keep paid in mind as the right targeted dollars can be the difference between a video that moves the world and one that is easily forgotten.
About the Writer
VP, Creative & Experience at Day One
Jamie approaches strategic and creative execution with the idea of story, looking for opportunities to pair original thinking with an editorial perspective. Over the last 10 years he has worked across various industries with one goal in mind: to stay excited and inspired as much in work as in life, always chasing new ideas and experiences. He believes that sometimes if an idea feels a little uncomfortable, you might be onto something.
Stock photo from Google.