Online video to reach critical mass in ’08:’s U.K.

As the year gets underway, today's pundit - David U.K., VP/GM of the online video brand - warns marketers that the online audience is now savvy enough to recognize when an experience is sub-par - and not specifically developed branded entertainment.

David U.K., VP/GM of Toronto-based online video brand Heavy Canada – one of the final pundits in MiC‘s look back/look forward series – applauds the increasing acceptance among marketers of the need to develop video players on their websites. What worries him is when television content is ‘simply put online’ rather than being specifically developed for the web.

MiC: What were some of ’07′s big trends?

‘With the recent mergers and acquisitions within the media industry, the development of premium ad networks is on the rise. So we’ll see further consolidation of the web and of media companies. We’ll also see increased consolidation of Canadian websites along with further representation of US websites, enabling media buyers to have increased vertical channel variety and an easier way to purchase larger audiences.’

MiC: What surprised you last year?

‘Nothing, really. Having worked in the US for five years, it feels like I have a crystal ball looking at the Internet industry today in Canada. Nine years ago, I was in Los Angeles convincing movie studios to move their marketing budgets online to follow the media habits of their audience and consumer. Now, we still need to convince Canadian advertisers to move their marketing dollars online and follow their audience’s media habits.

‘As an example,‘s typical viewer is 30 years old, well-educated, earns over 100K, drives a BMW and spends two hours a day surfing the web, not including handling email. He spends only one hour a day watching television and an equal amount of time listening to radio in his car, and less than 1% of that time reading newspapers or magazines. Yet the majority of marketers spend less than 5% of their budget online, which means they’re not maintaining top-of-mind awareness with these consumers.’

MiC: What happened in ’07 that you applaud?

‘The fact that broadcasters are recognizing the need to develop video players on their websites. However, it still concerns me that they’re pushing their television programming online and expecting the audience to follow. Some of the Internet’s most popular shows have been developed specifically for the web. The least popular programs are ones that were developed for television and simply put online.

‘In order for Canadian media companies to survive the Internet broadcast revolution, they must start developing web-specific programming and become more creative with audience interaction, utilizing user-generated content, social networking and the latest gadgets and tools available.’

MiC: What trends are you spying for ’08?

‘Social networking will change. Not unlike trends in restaurants and bars, people get tired of properties and fads and will move onto the next big thing, which is probably being developed in a garage or a dormitory in Silicon Valley as we speak.’

MiC: What do you see as the next big opportunity?

”SPUG,’ which stands for ‘semi-professional user-generated’ branded entertainment – truly utilizing the Internet as an engagement tool and being able to interact with your brand’s consumers.

‘There’s a great opportunity now where the wall between advertising and editorial is not clearly defined. Many users embrace advertisers who’ve taken the time to develop great content just for the web. A famous example is a video that was posted to the Internet where it appeared that teenagers had broken into a US air force facility and spray-painted [the president's airplane] Air Force One. The next day, every major news network showed this video, and it took weeks until people realized it was actually a Mark Ecko ad, developed by droga5. But as it was so clever, and had been developed for interactive media, consumers didn’t mind that it was marketing.

’2007 brought everyone’s attention to the importance of video online, and 2008 will be the tipping point. Unfortunately, a lot of broadcasters are still treating the Internet like television and simply pushing existing programming onto the web. That’s a mistake. The Internet should be viewed as a unique media environment where advertisers and content producers need to engage the audience with short-form content. Viewers online have shorter attention spans and prefer to interact with the content, sharing, embedding and creating their own experiences.

‘Building your own website for your own content is rarely successful. Brands need to recognize that just because you build it, they will not come. It’s not easy for a brand to build an audience – it makes much more sense to partner with a publisher that already has one. Broadcasters are in the business of entertaining, building audiences and trust. Marketers are in the business of making and selling products. They often make the mistake of spending a lot of money on building a web property and expecting their audience to go to that website to be entertained.

‘Today’s online audience is far too savvy, and within 30 seconds will realize that the experience is limited. Bottom line: Develop branded entertainment, work with broadcasters to develop content for the web, work with your agency to create a great online experience. Embrace the web, user-generated opportunities and the new branded online world.’

MiC: What do you see as the next big looming threat?

‘Canadian users will go to American sites to find what they want, so American sites will benefit by selling advertising around the experience. We need to cultivate talent in Canada and ensure that the audience stays here.’