Look Back/Look Ahead: Content exclusivity is old school, says U.K.

In the new world of online video, the measurement will be engagement with an audience that is spending less time with other media, and the future is branded entertainment, says the managing director of Heavy Worldwide.

Recently promoted to the managing director’s seat of online video brand Heavy Worldwide, former VP and GM of Heavy Canada David U.K. predicts the role for advertising will move away from the intrusive model and toward video commercials, sponsorship and, of course, branded entertainment.

MiC: What were some of ’08′s biggest trends?

2008 showed that video is the major contender online. Canada led the world with 86% of the population watching video online, with entertainment video usage reaching over 90% of all Canadians. Universal McCann conducted a Global Research Panel which surveyed 17,000 Internet users in 29 countries in March 2008. It revealed that watching video clips online was the number one Internet activity at 82.9%, reaching 394 million viewers.

In the United Kingdom they predicted online spending will outpace television for the first time in history. Canadians now watch an average of 145 videos per month, spending 526 minutes primarily engaged with multimedia entertainment, and short-form content leads the spectrum of usage.

Canadian broadcasters should consider increasing their short-form original programming. If they don’t, they risk loss of audience to US sites, which will eventually open Canadian offices, threatening not only revenue but audience reach.

In this new frontier, content exclusivity for broadcasters is an old concept. We are launching a Hulu Channel on Heavy in the United States and are keen to work with Canadian online broadcasters in a similar fashion. In the United Kingdom they are launching a new initiative named Kangaroo, where all the traditional broadcasters are getting in bed together online. This is the future.

MiC: What happened in ’08 that you applaud?

Traditional and digital agencies were willing to experiment in the branded entertainment space. Many of our clients worked with us to develop branded entertainment video initiatives which were incredibly successful. A Labatt Kokanee video placed on Heavy reached in excess of 600,000 streams, and two Molson branded entertainment video series reached almost six million streams within three months, challenging TV reach against a targeted audience. There’s an 800-lb. gorilla in the room, it’s now digital video!

MiC: What trends are you watching for in ’09?

The typical click-through measurement is old school. Direct performance advertising has its place, but in the new world of online video, the measurement will be engagement and time spent with an audience that is spending less time with television and other media. Agencies and brands will begin to compare these new metrics with television measurement. Given the global economic situation, clients will look for an increased ROI and increase their online spending, utilizing video as a way to better reach their audience without increasing their ad spend.

The online video commercial experience will change. The pre-roll will become a video commercial served within the stream of content. At Heavy, we serve one commercial per four videos, equalling an average of two minutes per hour.

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

Branded entertainment will be the next wave of marketing. Online video offers the opportunity to infuse a client’s brand into content which is viewed and shared.

Communication today has changed. We used to tell jokes, then faxed and emailed them; now we send videos that we find entertaining and identify with. In a world where we now receive messages from voicemail, email, SMS text, IM, Facebook and several other sources, we are cautious to open anything that does not come from a trusted source. If a brand is embedded within, and referred by a friend, there is no better form of endorsement.

Online viewers embrace brands that understand this new world and accept advertising that provides entertainment. Advertising will move away from the intrusive online model and toward less interruptive formats such as video commercials, sponsorship and branded entertainment which assist audiences in accessing new content. Brands now have an excellent opportunity to create and distribute branded content. It is the future of online advertising.