Deciphering Digital: leveraging on video for gaming, Film and VOD
The entertainment industry was amongst the first to be disrupted by the digital economy.
It has been shaken to its very core and at every level of the value chain: from the funding (e.g. Kickstarter), the creative process (rise of the YouTubers generation), to the production and distribution, with newcomers such as Amazon and Netflix becoming content creators as well as distributors.
Consumption has also changed dramatically and is now fragmented across digital channels and screens. A study by Ericsson shows that in 2015, over half of consumers globally were streaming online video content daily, significantly challenging the leadership of live TV (watched daily by 60% of global consumers). Today, every third TV viewing hour is spent watching on-demand TV and video. This trend is accelerating for younger generations: 80% of teenagers watch video-on-demand at least daily, which leads us to expect an even more important shift in the next years. Not to mention gaming: with ¾ of gamers worldwide spending more than 1 hour each day playing games across different screens, gaming is gaining ground globally.
Digital media has become the main source of inspiration and discovery for entertainment: in the UK, 95% of adults use their mobile to help them pick a movie; 45% of them search for movie trailers and 39% search or read film reviews on mobile devices. In the US, 2/3 of internet users actively watch trailers and videos posted by game companies to promote upcoming releases.
Threatened by “digital barbarians”, the entertainment industry is stimulated by the demand for entertaining content that fuels digital and social media: for instance, almost 90% of YouTube’s 100 most viewed videos of all times came from the music industry. This appetite for entertaining content gives the industry a competitive edge in the race for attention and a greater potential to generate earned media, which in turn makes it the perfect candidate for native advertising.
Of all channels, video has the strongest power to tell and convey a story across screens. Whether it’s paid, owned or earned, video is becoming the backbone to all entertainment communication strategy. As a consequence, advertisers from the entertainment industry are already investing 22% of their video advertising budget on digital video, against 8% for the overall market.
At Teads we believe that the context of the messaging is equally important as the content. With native the big (or even only?) real alternative to traditional advertising, video production and distribution become the strategic priority for brands to convey their message.
Below we have a look at some iconic examples of successful video communication and what it takes to cut through the noise – ultimately winning the user´s attention.
(Sources: Ericsson TV & Media Study, 2015; Millward Brown, Entertainment Discovery Study, Jan 2015; IAB / PWC Digital Ad Spend 2015; eMarketer 2015; Statista 2015)
Visit teads’ Toolbox for more insights into out work for the entertainment vertical.
Most video campaigns want an element of virality and “talkability”. However, this is not guaranteed to be achieved – even if the campaign runs on social media. In fact, a social media environment might even be detrimental to the campaign´s effectiveness, as users scroll through their newsfeeds without too much attention or interest. Natively positioning video at the heart of editoral content, on the other hand, allows for higher user engagement.
The “social” aspect of a campaign can be encouraged by featuring clickable sharing buttons, building dedicated mini-sites and landing pages or even fully customised units. VPAID and HotSpot-compatible units are essential to increase user interaction. Two examples struck the “talkability” chord particularly well this year.
Teads Studio can deliver VPAID elements / hotspots to your video campaigns to extend interaction and your social reach even further.
Anticipation around the latest addition to the Netflix series was built in a clever yet unconventional way. Not only disrupting TV viewing – now also reinventing marketing: since May 2014, Netflix have hired the in-house creative departments of Wired, The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal: they were tasked with producing cutting-edge, multi-media editorial content around a major topic – “incidentally”, the theme around which the latest Netflix series evolves.
The key to reinventing the traditional “advertorial” lies in the editorial and design quality of the content: a standalone subject deep-dive, perfectly timed with the launch of a new series.
To promote Narcos, a dramatisation of Mexican drug king Pablo Escobar’s life, Netflix commissioned the Wall Street Journal with an in-depth feature on a major turning point in the history of the drug trade, called Cocainenomics. The dedicated, high-quality interactive mini site includes text, video and images to create anticipation for its series.
Real-life connections: Zoolander 2
The title released long after its original – fifteen years, in fact. Using their experience on grabbing attention well in advance of post-production, Paramount used the closing of Valentino’s Paris Fashion Week show in March 2015 to launch ‘Derek’ and ‘Hansel’ down the runway. The video, which was now removed after the campaign finished, was viewed over 2million times; both Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson stayed in character and created additional content with cameos from Anna Wintour and the Vogue team. The content is hosted on Vogue’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CqErSY8MgQ
Paramount were also cleverly releasing additional information on the cast every couple of weeks – Kristen Wiig had been confirmed with movie stills, and in May 2015, Ben Stiller posted an image on Instagram of Justin Bieber on set: this image alone received 53,911 likes and over 2,000 comments (Ben Stiller Instagram), and over 1.1m likes and over 28k comments on Justin’s account in the first week.
The holy grail of advertising has always been ‘reach the right person, at the right time, in the right place, with the right message’. This has never been more scientific or technical than it is right now – with algorithms, coding and every second of interaction being monitored. At Teads we believe that using this data not only allows for the best campaign results possible but also delivers insights which can help adjust future strategies.
On top of targeting at a user-by-user level, the entertainment sector can exploit different target audiences´preferences in order to tailor its content and therefore address specific niche audiences, trends or events. This is especially relevant when targeting those who can make or break a product before masses will adapt it (or not): influencers tend to be focal points for driving conversations that drive people to the Box office or video games store on opening day.
Below we look at two different types of targeting – strategic positioning as well as the need to address a growing demographic.
Teads Labs and technology offer cutting edge targeting ranging from 3rd party data from Exelate to social buzz analysis, contextual, keyword, device and self-targeting. To find out more, please click here.
Strategic positioning: Star Wars VII The Force Awakens
Difficult to imagine a movie that built more anticipation than the Star Wars saga. With such a strong heritage, the franchise needed to appeal to both the historic fan-audience and the new recruits of Star-Wars interested users.
This was achieved thanks to an integrated, global communication strategy. A content mix of action, landscape, key characters and behind-the-scenes struck the balance between anticipation and not revealing too much of the story. In order to engage a younger audience, then, Lucasfilm also made the most of its partnership with EA, releasing a game called Star Wars: Battlefront and one in partnership with Lego, truly touching the whole spectrum of fans.
EA also wanted to please and emotionally connect with its loyal audience of long-time fans; this is why the gaming publisher released movie posters in nostalgic retro style, recreating the essential communication style of the very first Star Wars release.
Video length also played an important role. The first teaser trailer was released in November 2014, a 1’38’’ long clip. A second teaser, two-minute long, followed suite in April 2015. After that, Lucasfilm kept users engaged through Instagram content and a 3’43’’ behind-the-scenes clip, shot and released during this year’s Comicon. The final trailer before the official movie release date was aired on October, the 19th: 2’18’’ of pure joy for fans of the saga.
On the first week-end of tickets sale, Star Wars: The Force Awakens established a new record, outselling The Hunger Games in its first day by eight times, as reported by Fandango.
Targeting niche, growing audiences
Refocusing the targeting of an entire industry has never been more relevant than it is now within the gaming sector. In a traditionally male-dominated sector, aproximately 52% of gamers in the UK and 48% in the USA are now female. The Entertainment Software Association has stated that adult women are the largest game-playing demographic, taking over from teen-boys. However, 76% of gaming developers are male.
This trend should change with the addition of Microsoft‘s Bonnie Ross, Lucy Bradshaw at Electronic Arts, Sony‘s Shannon Studstill, and Kiki Wolfkill, also at Microsoft. In fact when Bonnie Ross took over the role of Corporate Vice President at Microsoft and inherited the Halo franchise, she made a point of working with the writers and developers to create more, strong female lead characters. In 2014 the Halo series surpassed $4billion in sales and Halo 5: Guardians just launched on the 27th of October this year, achieving over $400 million in global sales during its first week.
The gaming sector has a number of targeting (and positioning) issues it needs to deal with: creating games and characters who are equal to the male products, allowing female gamers to play in a safe environment and making sure that female developers and management are embraced and supported. Episodes such as #Gamergate in 2014, which started with game developer Zoë Quinn being bullied, publicly threatened and sexually harrassed by male gamer communities – are an example that the issue exists and needs to be addressed.
Turning the tables carries an enormous opportunity for advertisers to support the female gaming communities globally, driving change from within the industry and informing campaign planning thanks to accurate audience segmentation, targeting and measurement.
The monetisation cycle for movies has shortened: it used to be theatrical release, then months later home entertainment (DVDs), then premium cable, standard cable, broadcast TV. Now, due to technology and competition, the cycle has shortened and includes digital distribution.
Timing plays an essential role in the distribution strategies of content – particularly when it comes down to three main angles:
Mixing data from the Teads Labs and in-house industry expertise, Teads identifies key trends and monitors a wide set of players in the entertainment category; looking at who is generating the chat and interest early is particularly helpful when it comes to planning distribution timelines effectively.
As movie producers forecast on Thursday of opening weekend whether or not a release will be a success, digital can help drive people to the box office opening weekend – which can help generate more revenue down the life cycle.
As a powerful marketing tool for entertainment content, the trailer is no longer just a one-fits-all kind of video. Trailers are used cleverly to build up expectations for the final product starting months in advance and can be divided into three sub-genres according to online magazine GlassCanopy: the teaser, the pleaser and the sinker. Studios have become experts in exploiting the advantages of this three-trailer strategy.
The teaser is the first impression of a movie; usually short, it focuses on tickling the appetite for the storyline that is, often, still being filmed when the teaser is released.
The pleaser is that somewhat comfortable, mouth-watering remembrance of the story and themes first seen in the teaser trailer; dropped closer to release date, the pleaser does just that: pleasing the target audience’s expectations and keeping the user engaged.
Last, but not least, the sinker trailer is dropped, generally a few weeks before the official movie release. The official trailer outlines all main characters, unveils plots and major themes for the interested user.
Alongside this journey, the content-hungry user can engage in an active social media dialogue across Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram etc. Keeping users interested, brands drop more content, cast interviews, premieres and reviews closer to release date.
Batman vs. Superman is a successful example of a teaser trailer: dropped on the 17th of April 2015, 11 months before the official movie release, the video gathered over 32 million views on YouTube and 236k views on Facebook in the first ten days from release, being shared a total of 4.1k times on Facebook and achieving 230k YouTube thumbs-up. The creative showed the conflict between the two superhero favourites who are in battle with each other – however left the fans intrigued as to why, and escalated the anticipation of the release of the ‘pleaser’ trailer in the next few months.
In order to generate lucrative solutions in an increasingly fragmented environment, communication needs to respond to different consumer needs and target audiences.
When Twilight was released in 2008, for example, Summit Entertainment released the vampire movie simultaneously on DVD and video-on-demand. As Variety wrote, “no other studio had released a pic grossing more than $100 million at the domestic box office that way, fearing VOD transactions would cannibalise disc sales”. Twilight’s distribution strategy actually proved very successful, because it opened up the consumption to different target groups with different viewing habits.
A few years down the line from Twilight, video-on-demand is on the high and new subscriptions are soaring for providers such as Amazon or Netflix. On top of enabling users to choose type and time of consumption, video-on-demand might also prove very useful to studios trying to keep the revenue flowing as a protection from movie piracy.
Narrowing release windows could take the wind out of piracy’s sails, improving legal availability options and letting users pay to watch instead of streaming illegally. Theaters fear the further erosion of their business, with “exclusivity windows” being, in their eyes, still core to their competitive advantage. This is not really the case, though, if the model changes completely. As DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg puts it, windows of availability will “almost entirely collapse in the next years”. However, even narrowing the gap from 90 days to 3 weeks, most movies won’t suffer too much anyways: “A movie will come out and you will have 17 days, that’s exactly three weekends, which is 95% of the revenue for 98% of movies,” Katzenberg told the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills at April 2014’s event.
Technical developments within the entertainment sector are constant – creation, promotion or consumption. This means that brands need cutting-edge innovation to help find solutions to on-going communication problems.
As intrusive advertising practices grew over the past years, users started blocking ads through ad-blocking software; this is now threatening the revenue model of most web publishers and leaving brands alone in fighting for the user’s scarce attention. This is why user experience should be high on the advertising industry’s priority list, promoting advertising that engages, not enrages the user.
At Teads we understand disruption: inventors of the outstream format, we champion solutions that follow users in their journey rather than interrupting their experience.
New technologies seem to go even further – enhancing reality on one side, building new dimensions on the other. Below, two examples demonstrate the increasingly immersive side of entertainment.
Teads recently partnered with Secret Media, unlocking additional reach by solving the threat of ad-blocking. To try Teads’ user-friendly outstream formats for yourself, visit the inRead experience.
Data for content creation: the case of Netflix and Amazon
Entertainment disruptor Netflix is a successful example of a content distributor turned creator. As it entered the streaming business, analysts predicted the company would cannibalise its own DVD rental business model; this didn’t happen, as Netflix progressively moved towards subscription-based streaming. Turning to content creation, the company then leveraged its expertise predicting consumer taste based on past behaviour.
The uber-successful House of Cards series, for instance, was bought and produced by Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix, after having analysed Netflix usage patterns and concluding there was an audience for that kind of polit-thriller content. Data informed this decision to the point that Netflix committed to a full two series of the show instead of first “testing” the content with a pilot episode. It premiered on February 1st, 2013, all 13 episode of the first series were directly available to watch; House of Cards started with full production – and it was, as predicted, a straight success.
The recent Netflix series Jessica Jones is another example of planned success: the series, that just launched on November the 20th, is a spin-off from Marvel’s Alias production, picking up the story of a detective with superpowers as she opens her own investigation firm. Typically for Marvel, the series is part of a masterplan, allowing multiple story and character tie-ins across the Marvel universe as the Luke Cage character series has already started filming in NYC. Jessica Jones was an instant success: as reported by Forbes, on the day of its Netflix premiere the series was referenced over 64k times on social media.
Another example of successful innovation is given by Amazon.
Amazon Studios, founded in 2010, are responsible for the crowdsourced creation of content: screenwriters can submit their plays and ideas, which then get voted – or directly modified – by a pool of other readers and Amazon staff. When a script gets picked up, a pilot episode is created and streamed, after which user reaction will determine whether that specific script will be further developed or not. As of 2015, there have been four Pilot Seasons so far, leading to the successful creation and distribution of series such as Transparent. As Vulture puts it, the strength of this show is that it was never intended for television. As traditional TV productions need to keep in mind advertisers´preferences in order to lock deals, online pureplayers can focus on their online-only target audience.
The same concept applies to video advertising, as mobile content consumption follows very different patterns than the classic 30-second TV commercial.
Enhanced gaming: Microsoft XBox One & Kinect
After Google Glass’ breakthrough, other players are waiting to quench consumers´ thirst for reality-enhancing gadgets. If gaming is the sector experimenting with the most disruptive technologies, two main gadgets come to mind when looking at recent developments: Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens.
Facebook-owned Oculus Rift – which started as a self-funded project on Kickstarter a few years ago – had announced a £350 consumer version of a head-mounted display (HMD) for early 2016. So far, the gadget only exists as a prototype for game developers, but it might pioneer a fully new communication platform in the not-so-distant future.
Microsoft Xbox One´s Kinect sensor already revolutionised the home-entertainment and gaming categories: voice-command and motion sensors with no need of a controller truly enhance the gaming experience, with big game releases such as EA FIFA or Assassin’s Creed already supported by the sensor. Furthermore, Kinect also enables to voice-command the console. Simply by saying “Xbox”, users can navigate through the games and apps, send messages to other players, and record snippets of gameplay to upload and share. This allows users and fans to be fully immerged in their fantasy movies.
Once released, entertainment content can either be consumed directly or go on to become the object of further entertainment events; Game of Thrones fans, Orange is the New Black lovers, gamers – all groups of people strongly identify with the kind of entertainment they consume. This is the case for viewing parties, gaming events and other gatherings where a common passion takes it to the center stage.
When planning for a campaign, it’s therefore essential to factor in the importance of the “tribes”: groups of fans who will become brand and product ambassadors but will also expect high levels of service, content and flexibility.
The online ecosystem plays a crucial role in reaching these tribes: a good starting point is to carefully consider the context displaying the ad. This is why video content is best displayed natively, positioned within premium editorial content reflective of the user’s interests.
The “eventisation” of gaming. Gamers share a strong sense of community. As experts start talking about “eventisation” of the gaming sphere, it comes as no surprise that fans increasingly watch gaming online (e.g. on gaming streaming platform Twitch) and take part in real “e-sports” competitons such as the regularly held International – Dota 2. Electronic Sports World Cup Championships..
Reaching a specific audience across countries can be a challenge.
To find out how Teads works together with publishers and brands globally to ensure maximum reach and targeting, please click here.
Collective consumption: Game of Thrones and Avengers – Age of Ultron
Back in the days when TV was first available, people used to gather in one home to share the experience of “watching TV” with their neighbours; crowds were filling bars and other places where a television was available. Despite most now owning a laptop or tablet to watch videos on, many have started gathering in front of TVs and streaming devices to consume video content together. Especially the series aficionados, fans of epic and complex series such as Game of Thrones, organise gatherings for weekly episodes or for each series’ premiere.
Some content distributors reacted by banning unauthorised large crowd gatherings. For example, Game of Thrones watching parties were banned in the US by HBO, as bars or clubs were making a profit from showing the episodes to a larger public, bypassing HBO’s strict subscription model.
The extreme success of the series called for a collective, cinematic experience – successfully in its second part with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II. This example shows how consumer taste and trends were leading the way for more content to come and a general trend to “eventisation”.
Cinemas also organise special viewing events: Marvel’s 27-hour, 700-seats marathon before the US release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, for example, was sold out in NYC for $70 a ticket. The Ultimate Marvel Marathon was not only a great marketing tool for Disney and Marvel Studios in the time leading to Ultron but, as analysed by CNN, is also a “testament to the power of the billion dollar Marvel brand”.
The “eventisation” of gaming: Riot Games – League of Legends
The “eventisation” of entertainment is nothing new, and gamers also love gathering to share their experience. On top of informal gamers gatherings, the gaming industry has geared up and regularly organises video game competitions. More than 100 million viewers watch video game play online each month, according to streaming service Twitch. As the Huffington Post writes, “in October 2013, 32 million people streamed the championship of Riot Games’ League of Legends. That’s more than the number of people who watched the TV series finales for Breaking Bad, 24 and The Sopranos combined; it’s also more than the combined viewership of the 2014 World Series and NBA Finals.”
If gaming used to be shared through LAN (Local Area Network) parties, nowadays people are connected through high-speed internet – or they gather for proper events at a huge scale. E-Sports tournaments attract huge crowds, with South Korea and Canada owning the most developed e-sports networks. Game studios invite gamers to compete in tournaments such as The International – Dota 2. Electronic Sports World Cup Championships are held on a regular basis, with fans arriving from all over the world to follow the event. The last one, playing Call of Duty, gathered over 500,000 people for the Paris event.
Physical distance doesn’t need to be a barrier, either: as proven by the Xbox Live console – a device allowing remote gaming connections – users can create their own personal events in their own living rooms: fully in control and ahead of the game, playing against other players all over the world.