Aired September 9, 2015
This week on Marketing Matters, Executive Director Catharine Hays tackled the complex and exciting world of mobile video marketing. She welcomed three guests onto the show—Mitchell Reichgut, Chief Executive Officer at Jun Group; David Berkowitz Chief Marketing Officer at MRY; and Michael Bassik, President of Global Digital Operations at MDC & Partners. Each guest works at the vanguard of video marketing, offering listeners insider insights into the rapidly evolving world.
Jun Group, which Michell Reichgut founded in 2005, works with advertisers and publishers to reach millions of people through in-app and native advertising. According to Reichgut, the attraction of video is “the easy part.” “Video gives us sight, sound, and motion—it brings a message to life. On a mobile device it takes up the whole screen, its intimate, its your whole consciousness,” he explains. “Video is the advertising life-blood because it makes the connection so strongly with people.”
But incorporating video is challenging. “I’ve never seen such rapid change in the industry,” says Reichgut, who has worked in advertising for over 20 years. “When people say ‘internet’ we tend to think of the web, but the web is only one part of something far more complex,” he explains. “That’s hugely evident when you think about mobile devices: now 87 percent of mobile usage is in-app, not on the web.”
As video advertising develops, it must therefore adapt to these different platforms: the web and TV will not become obsolete, but a TV ad simply does not work in an app setting. “On the web, if you go to YouTube or ESPN, there’s a commercial you have to sit through, a pre-roll, very similar to TV,” explains Reichgut. “Brands understand that, its familiar. But now the world is getting very different: it’s fun watching people come to grips with it.”
The technical complexity of in-app advertising looms large. “Once we’ve developed an ad, the app developer has to incorporate our code, resubmit their app to Google and Apple, and millions of users have to update their app,” says Reichgut. “If there’s a problem with our code, the app might not function properly. The stakes are very high.” But with the increasing dominance of apps, and the frequency with which we use mobile devices—“we look at our screens over 150 times a day,” says Reichgut—finding ways to adapt is essential for marketers.
Native advertising is another means of incorporating video advertising in an effective, less intrusive way. “Imagine, rather than a pre-roll ad that interrupts your experience, you see something that’s interesting and contextualized, and you click on it because it is meaningful to you,” says Reichgut. This is the power of native advertising. “If the experience is rich, clever, and built for that environment, the user is just going to have a better experience, which is what we want,” he adds.
Respect is crucial to Reichgut’s vision of advertising. “If there is one thing users think, it is ‘don’t interrupt me,’” he says. “A banner ad on your smartphone takes up a huge portion of your screen. A video takes up bandwidth and time. So to create respect we need to offer consumer choice, and the key to that is to provide value—to try to understand what’s going to make them interested.”
Catharine’s next guest, David Berkowitz, Chief Marketing Officer at MRY, shared Reichgut’s excitement for video marketing. MRY, a creative agency held by Publicis Groupe, “works with great brands like Visa, J&J, Coke, where we’re their digital or social agency lead,” he explains. For Berkowitz, video marketing has huge potential, but until recently has had a significant drawback. “Loading time was something that killed videos prospect for a while,” he says. “Marketers are lucky if anyone views more than a couple of seconds of their video, so it better load quickly. Now, that is possible.”
The difference video advertising can make, particularly when curated for a specific platform, was evidenced by Facebook’s recent addition of videos. “Everyone had expected Facebook to get into video for quite a long time, but it was hard for anyone to imagine how well that would work and how quickly that would happen,” says Berkowitz. He explains how Facebook set up its own, very specific, video operating standards. “On Facebook, the video automatically plays in your stream,” says Berkowitz. “And that is really key to marketers. You see some of your friends baby photos, some BuzzFeed stories, and then a video that’s targeted to you will play. You might not watch the whole thing, but as you scroll—whether it is Jeb Bush or a cute panda—you stop for a second.”
Facebook’s video standards also feature an interesting technological throw-back. “As far as Facebook goes, sound is off by default,” explains Berkowitz. “We’ve gone back to the silent film era.” This standard seems to uphold the assertion that respect is key: as Berkowitz and Catharine agreed, there’s nothing more annoying than an ad blasting sound you can’t figure out how to mute.
Video marketing, and marketing more generally, is changing the make-up of creative agencies. “On the video front there’s always a push and pull,” explains Berkowitz. “There’s so much hunger for more video content out there, but how much of these resources you should have in-house is a really tough question. It is easier than ever to be a freelancer, so retaining talent is not necessarily about keeping someone in-house, its about keeping someone for one job.” This diversification is, interestingly, mirrored in how content is promoted: the role of influencers increases daily. “An influencer is really anyone with an audience,” says Berkowitz. “More likely than not it’s a person with a really sizeable audience on a certain platform, like YouTube or Vine.” Getting a marketing message embedded in an influencers’ content—say on their Vine feed, or through their Snapchat account—is an amazingly powerful way of reaching their followers.
But for Berkowitz, video marketing still has some exciting catching up to do. “We need to focus on adapting video advertising to what works with how people engage,” he says. “What comes across in those first few seconds is what counts. So, does it work with sound or without? Should you shoot vertically or horizontally? Video offers a great potential to reach people in the way they want to be reached, and we need to make sure we are doing just that.”
Catharine’s final guest was Michael Bassik, President of Global Digital Operations at MDC & Partners and Penn alumni. Like the earlier guests, Bassik emphasized the increasingly ubiquitous presence of mobile. “Its time we stop thinking about devices, as there being a distinction between something I hold in my hand, and something I hang on my wall—its time to think about them as screens,” he explains. Of course this shift in approach—a valuable breakdown of siloes—comes with challenges.
“Marketers used to produce a video for a 30 second TV spot, something you could run across every platform around the world,” says Bassik. “Today, marketers are expected to produce dozens if not hundreds of video clips, from Vine-style to documentary-style, as well as a traditional ad spot style video. The burden of production has never been higher on marketers, and the burden of quality has never been higher either.”
Thinking ‘as screens’ also reveals the end of another long-standing concept: primetime. “These days, thanks to mobile devices, there are millions of people for whom primetime is anytime,” Bassik says. “There’s no longer this concept that I can only watch my favorite show on Tuesday night at a specific time. Primetime is now me time, when I want to watch the content that I like.” As the digital world shakes off the restraints of both space and time, the challenges—and possibilities—for marketers are endless.
With a Political Science major from Penn, Bassik has a keen interest in a timely facet of marketing: political campaigning. “This is an area of particular passion for me,” says Bassik. “In the past, politicians were always a cycle if not two cycles behind what was happening in the digital realm. Now politicians are the early adopters—they’re the ones trying out platforms before most major mainstream corporations.” Snapchat, which recently published political campaign guidelines and hired Google’s head of Political Advertising Sales, is a perfect example. “Just a few months ago Snapchat had their first political ad,” says Bassik. “If I looked at Fortune500 companies, about a dozen would be advertising on Snapchat. In contrast, all the political campaigns at the presidential level—and some state-level—will be using it as a campaign medium.” The growing popularity of online marketing is reflected in spending data: “We predict that in 2016, over 20 percent of all political advertising dollars will be spent on the internet; that’s up from single digits just eight years ago,” says Bassik.
Programmatic media is increasingly playing a crucial role in campaigning. “By using programmatic platforms, candidates can advertise specifically to people their polling data says they need to reach. So campaigns can now programmatically buy audiences—democrats who voted in the last election, are married to republicans, and who are members in labor unions,” explains Bassik. “In the past you would say, ‘I’m a democrat, I’m not going to advertise on the Fox News website,’ or ‘I’m a republican I’m not going to advertise on the MSNBC website,’ but that’s ludicrous because we know both websites attract members of both parties,” he says. With programmatic media, the candidates can focus on an audience, not on a website.
There are, of course, risks inherent to such a marketing model: programmatic media is highly automated, so the editorial vetting process publishers adhere to could lose traction. At the same time, there is the danger that one well-funded campaign will saturate the market, downing out the online voices of other candidates. But publishers are developing guidelines—such as ensuring equal opportunity to buy ad space for competing campaigns—to try to ensure the process is fair.
As programmatic marketing and video marketing begin to dominate the online campaign process, the learning opportunities are many. “Go onto Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Periscope, MeerKat, YouTube—any of the platforms—and follow the political campaigns,” says Bassik. “Sign up for their email alerts, or, if you want to get really creative, sign up from multiple email addresses. You’ll see that, based on your browser history, different accounts are getting different emails.” Likewise, where you access a campaign website from will effect the marketing angle you see: “If you visit the political campaign website in New York they’ll be asking you to donate, in Iowa they’ll be asking you to volunteer,” explains Bassik. And no doubt, each message will be delivered via a quick, compelling, engaging video.
WFoA Program Assistant
PhD Student, History and Sociology of Science
University of Pennsylvania
With research support from:
WFoA Research Assistant
University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2017