Post Date Sep 11

Read It Or Watch It?

A conversation has two components: the words we use and the visual representation that accompanies them. In a video or a face-to-face engagement, it’s all there for us to take in – we hear the words and we see the imagery the presenter has provided us. In a written article, a news feed or a social media post only one of the two components is present: the words. The rest is up to us to create, imagine and develop our own visual accompaniment.

And there’s a time and place for both.

Too often, in the whirlwind of emerging marketing mediums and trending statistics, we lose sight of what matters most. Balance. Every customer is unique and various segments of your target audience will respond differently to each promotional piece you produce. Sure, online video is hot right now (in fact, digital video ad spending is expected to double in the next four years from about $4.1 billion in 2013 to just over $8 billion by 2017) but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the importance of quality, engaging copy. Use both. Remember, a huge part of what makes a video so engaging … is the copy!

But as a business owner, it’s also important that you stay current. And statistics don’t lie.

• Video advertising is growing at a rate of over 10% every year
• This year, 74.4 million mobile users are forecasted to watch video content on their phones
• 52% of consumers claim that they are more confident in their purchase decisions after watching a product video
• Online shoppers who view a video are 174% more likely to purchase than those who don’t

What Would You Do?

While you’re in the process of deciding what medium is most effective for your latest marketing message, it is good practice to put yourself in your recipients’ shoes. Ask yourself, “If I were one of my customers, would I rather read this message or watch it?”

Is the message a brand new concept that is somewhat complicated to understand? Are you trying to convey a fresh idea that will prompt your customers to think differently? Have you launched a new product that requires assembly and you want to create a piece that will help your customers put it together?

Think about the nature of your message and choose the right medium to best deliver it. A complicated concept or product assembly guide is likely to be more effective in a video format. With this you can use clear, simple words combined with powerful imagery and illustrations.

On the other hand, an intellectual idea or philosophical perception may be best understood in a traditional article format. Depending on the subject matter, written words may better provoke deeper, and more meaningful thought processes in your readers.

As you read this piece, you may be wondering why we chose to write an article instead of create a video. Truth be told, sometimes you need to be a little perceptive. You need to take a step back and picture what your piece would be like in different formats. After careful analysis on our part, quite frankly, we came to the conclusion that this particular topic makes a solid article but a pretty lacklustre video!

The Search Engines Like It All

Ah yes, we must never forget the all important search engines that control the traffic to our websites, and ultimately, our online sales. And the truth of the matter is, Google likes balance too. It doesn’t want you to exclusively produce article text or video content but rather encourages that you diversify your marketing strategy. Given the fact that Google robots are “text based”, even when you do use rich media content, including video, you should strongly consider transcribing such files so that the text version is available as well.

Give the Option

It may not always be a matter of choosing one or the other. Let’s set aside the search engines for a moment and focus on your customers. How can you satisfy everyone?

Let your audience choose.

Offer videos and provide a transcription of that video right below. This way, if someone wants to skim through the copy to pick up the most important points, they can do so. And if they have two minutes to watch your video, they’ll choose this route instead.

With a little balance, you can have it all.

Post Date Apr 17

Agile Video Production

The Power of speed, quality and relevance.

While we continue to experiment with many different approaches to creating and deploying online video – one strategy that has proven to be enormously effective for us is to create premium video content but not to spend months or even weeks in the cutting room to get a finished product. The internet moves way too fast to accomodate 4-6 week turnaround times on certain videos. At times there’s a need to create compelling, and highly produced videos not at the speed of your typical production house, but at the speed of a newsroom. Today, if your video isn’t being deployed lightning fast – you run the risk of having your message be diluted by iPhone videos, tweets, keeks (shouldn’t this be Vines if we want to be relavant?) and anything else that can be deployed in seconds from a smart phone.  If you can’t come close to the speed of a tweet that circulates on the social web – people may simply not care about the content you’ve spent a few weeks tweaking and polishing.

Now we’re starting to see a shift in demand of what an acceptable turnaround time is. Everyone had their jaw on the floor when Oreo released a digital ad within minutes of the SuperBowl power out. The marketing agency (insert name) happened to be at work alongside the powers that be at Mondelez, and as a result of the right people from the agency and from the brand being in the office at that particular time – the ad had the sign off it needed to be deployed almost instantly.

That’s the big secret to success. They didn’t go to the board room to mull over details and what if’s. There wasn’t a large arduous legal process to get sign off. The right people were in the room, they said go for it – and boom! Oreo had a moment that was cherished and enjoyed by the millions of people who were sharing in the chatter online.

It’s really quite simple – the secret sauce for this new agile approach to marketing is having whoever is needed in the room to allow for sign off at times when sign off may be necessary.

We’ve toyed with creating content with lightning fast turnaround many times before and to this day it is one of the most effective strategies we’ve ever deployed at BizMedia. A great example of this is our Nuit Blanche videos released in 2011 and in 2012. This is an event that has the whole city talking – but the timeframe is brief. People care about nuit blanche only a fraction as much 48 hours after the event. If we wanted to create a piece of video content about Nuit Blanche, our competition is not the agencies, cinematographers and artists who can capture the event in unique and incredible ways, our competition are those with smartphones where the quality of content is low, but the speed is instantaneous. Our advantage over them is that we make great quality content. So for 2 years we challenged ourselves to make the best possible Nuit Blanche video on the Internet – but we created a hard deadline of 7am the morning after the event. We contacted BlogTO, Now Magazine, The Toronotist, Toronto Standard, Casey Stewart and anyone other local blog or blogger we could think of in advance. Theseblogs would probably be writing about Nuit Blanche the next day anyway – and anyone interested in the event would be actively seeking out content that day as well – but once the first rush of stories came out, that’s it,  the story is dead until next year. So by sticking to our 7am deadline we knew we could get something to these blogs on the only day that people would REALLY care to see our video. Our advantage is that we knew we could make something better and more compelling than that of the average tweet, keek (see above) or instagram photo. Our content is premium – and to match their speed we had to be fuelled on lots of red bull and power through the night. But come 7am the next day – every blogger we promised content to had a link to our video – and of course it stood out as the best / most premium representation of Nuit Blanche on the web. And it got shared liked crazy. There were even articles written about the videos and the speed of turnaround. Aiming for quality and matched with speed and relevance let our Nuit Blanche video cut through all the noise that day. It became one of the most linked to and shared pieces of content related to the event and as a result – even to this day – if you type in “Nuit Blanche Toronto” in a Google video search – we crown the top 1 and 2 spots. Although it was hard work that night – it was actually pretty easy to bulldoze to the top. Again, quality paired with speed and relevance. An unbelievably powerful tactic.

This is a strategy we believe strongly in and over time it will likely become more and more of a standard practice in the realm of digital marketing. We’ve deployed this strategy with Powerade and Target to great success and we even try to exercise this notion of speedy delivery with our Christmas Party photo albums. Information flows too fast on the web to be slow and clunky. 10-20 years ago it was ok to be more bureaucratic - we were all a little slower. However, the times have changed. The people who used to deliver us the news every morning at 6am are now getting the news from us at 5:30am. And if brands want to be relevant in our autobahn pop culture, they – along with their marketing teams need to put the pedal to the metal themselves.

Post Date Apr 11

The misconception about online video stats

Over the years I have studied thousands of reports on the state of online video and it’s starting to dawn on me that reviewing stats and analyzing viewing behaviours is maybe not the best indication of how to find value in online video.

The internet has an infinite amount of possibilities in how a person can interact with it and that includes how they navigate from video to video. By analyzing patterns in their behaviour it’s easy to make some conclusions but I find they are usually of impractical value. For example take this recent piece of data from the Ooyala Global Video Index:

Time Per Play: Long Form VOD vs Live Video

What is a marketer supposed to extrapolate from this data? It shows that on average we spend more time watching long form Video on Demand (VOD) than short form. I think that it would be very difficult for this to be the other way around – considering Long Form VOD is… well, longer than Short Form VOD. It takes more time to watch. Usually people are aware of the length of the content they choose to watch, so naturally if they choose to watch Long Form VOD they will be racking up more minutes than in the situations where they choose to watch Short Form VOD.

Then there is the data showing that above and beyond Long Form – we are spending more time engaged with Live Video. And I can’t help but think this continues to be obvious. I always start with the assumption that viewers are in charge of their own experience. And whether they are choosing to watch Short Form VOD, Long Form VOD or Live Video – they know what they are getting into immediately. So the fact that Live Video has no defined end, and often is a sporting event, breaking news or a special event (such as a concert of keynote performance) – it’s natural to assume it will demand the attention of viewers for longer periods of time. Also, perhaps there is an argument that Live Video is enjoyed more passively than that of Short Form Video. People may not watch a baseball game or a live concert with the same fervent attention as they would a 2-minute comedy clip sent to them from a friend.

Isn’t that behavioral data the crux of what’s important more so than a simple tally of minutes? The problem I have is that this data is used to sell video but it’s focusing on the wrong stuff. What value is it to a marketing director to know simply that people watch Live Video for longer stretches of time? Isn’t it irrelevant without her having a firm understanding of what Live Video content has performed well and what it’s purpose was? I always default to the position that video for the web is all about providing value. Baseball fans watch live baseball games. Marketers would gather in flocks to see a live talk given by Seth Godin. Thousands of phish fans pay good money to tune into livestreamed Phish concerts every time they are given an opportunity. And they watch for hours. Why? Because they’re given an opportunity to experience something special to them.

So what is there to take from the data? Sure it’s nice to know that Live Video is becoming ubiquitous. But we need to be focusing on the bigger questions. Why do people watch Live Video for such long durations? What value are they receiving from the content? Only then can we start to ask the right questions as content producers. What value can we create with our video content? I think we would learn a lot more if we took a deeper look at why a particular person chose to tune into a particular Live Video more so than stating simply how many minutes a vague group of people tuned into undisclosed Live Videos for.

Post Date Apr 3

YouTube Night Part I

YouTube night at Google Canada

Recently I was privileged enough to host the first ever YouTube Night at the Google Canada HQ. It was an event that was a spin off of something we at BizMedia had been doing for years but now that it’s become a Google event I didn’t have to supply the beer. That was a good feeling. YouTube Night is basically a curated list of great video content assembled by myself and some friends played on a big screen with popcorn, pizza and beer. That’s it. No frills, no keynote, just great videos. And to me that’s a huge idea. Not necessarily a unique idea, but a powerful one.

I imagine most people have their own versions of YouTube nights, regardless of it being planned formally or it just happening spontaneously when a group of friends crowd around a computer screen and go share crazy. It’s just cool to think that this is a pastime that is completely new and fresh. And it’s far more exciting and stimulating (in my opinon) than gathering around a (cable) TV set. There is an endless amount of unpredictibalilty on what content will actually make it’s way to your screen and I’ve always thrived on that randomness.

But aside from hopping from video to video – the YouTube Night was an event to highlight what stands out as some of the best content that my guest curators and I could find online (while trying to avoid already popular videos). There was some great discussion and the audience also shared some amazing videos themselves. Thank you to everyone who came out and I look forward to having you at the next one.

Big thanks to everyone who helped curate the content: Mitch Joel, Mavis Huntley, Andrew Lane, Carolyn Van, Jon Simonassi, Darius Bashar and Dima Zelikman

For those of you who didn’t make it out, you can see the curated list of videos here:
(By now you’ve likely seen many of these)

Post Date Sep 19

TEDxToronto 2012 Unveils Alchemy Themed Speakers


Im not sure how many of you out there have yet to have your mind ripped open by an awe-inspiring TED talk, but if you count yourself amongst them, and live in the GTA, now is the perfect time to rectify it. To foster the theme of Alchemy, TEDxToronto are inviting 5 inspirational/groundbreaking speakers to showcase their insights on everything from healthcare innovation, to sexual profiling, and the whole ordeal will take place on October 26th at the Sony Center for the Performing Arts.

We were fortunate enough to have been granted a small part to play in the whole ordeal, ie producing the intro videos for the speakers, and we are very thankful for it. Many of us here at Biz have avidly turned to TED for insight and inspiration over the years, and it was truly an honour to be included in the development process for the Toronto showcase.

Here’s a more detailed outline of the speakers who will be appearing @ TEDxToronto on the 26th:

Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, Lead for the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network

  • A biomedical engineer who has spent his career observing healthcare delivery from the inside, Dr. Cafazzo works on ways to keep people out of the hospital by creating technologies that allow for self-care at home.
  • Learn more.

Ronald J. Deibert, Director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and Citizen Lab

  • In addition to teaching political science at the University of Toronto, Dr. Deibert runs The Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary research and development hothouse working at the intersection of the Internet, global security and human rights.
  • Learn more. 

Heather Jarvis and Sonya JF Barnett, Co-founders of Slutwalk Toronto

  • Slutwalk began in early 2011 as a small idea to fight sexual violence by combatting victim-blaming, slut-shaming and sexual profiling. It has since spread around the world. Heather Jarvis is a queer, sex- and body-positive feminist dedicated to gender equality, sexual education and supporting marginalized communities. Sonya JF Barnett champions women’s sexual rights, and is also the founder of The Keyhole Sessions, which explores the marriage between sex and art.
  • Learn more. 

Shawn Micallef, Urbanist

  • The author of Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, and Full Frontal T.O., Mr. Micallef is a columnist at the Toronto Star and senior editor of Spacing magazine. He also co-founded [murmur], a documentary oral history project that records stories and memories told about specific geographic locations.
  • Learn more. 

We’re positive you won’t be disappointed by these speakers, who will speak on the theme of ALCHEMY – the magical process of taking ordinary common elements, usually of little value, and combining them to make something extraordinary, of great value. Join us in welcoming this group of talented Torontonians to TEDxToronto 2012.