The dawn of the digital video era has passed; we're getting close to mid-morning now. Content is king and video is par for the course for brands, advertisers, media, and publishers alike. It's been a few years now since the TVC, as we've known it, was the only show in town. The emergence of new platforms, devices and networks and the evolution of consumption habits have led to the development of a range of video types - long, short and mid-form; hero, hub, hygiene; Insta-cuts, Insta-Stories; Gifs and 3D Videos, AR, VR... you get the drift.
With the number of pieces of content a brand produces in a year going from one to eight to a few dozens or, in some cases, even a few hundred to a couple of thousand, the shelf life of most pieces of content has gone down tremendously. And with that, the willingness, ability and propensity to spend on each piece of content have also decreased.
Clearly, this calls for a brand new approach; one that literally rips apart the TVC production model, gathers the debris and stitches it back together for us to achieve our noble purpose.
Why won't the TVC model work? For starters, it's project-based. Even if a client and agency have their favourite director and production company who end up with a large share of the work they may farm out, each project is creatively and financially distinct. The production company, in turn, contracts freelancers and vendors on a per-project basis. This is a well-developed system that provided great results, until recently. But a project-based model just doesn't make sense for digital video done in bulk. The economics don't work, it's cumbersome and the output ends up being erratic.
Digital video output calls for a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand or a summer fling. With the kind of volume we're talking about for a relatively larger player, the smart thing to do is to convert as many variable costs as possible to fixed costs. Once you've amortised the latter across a certain level of output, the marginal cost for each additional unit falls significantly. That implies a (hopefully) significantly lower average unit cost of production per video. If the volume at hand is large enough to justify the investment, equipment like cameras, lenses, lighting, basic rigs, edit suites etc.; key crew like cameramen/operators/cinematographers/DPs, directors, producers, editors, and others; and even a studio, can be purchased or hired long-term or full-time, as the case may be.
Sounds simple enough, right? Should be pretty straight-forward. In theory perhaps, but in reality, we're up against the practical issue of visibility or rather, lack thereof.
To actually glean the benefits of the economics described above, an advertiser needs to be able to have visibility on the minimum volume they expect to produce in a given year. More importantly, they need to share that visibility with their video content partner. The vast majority of advertisers and their systems just aren't programmed to think like this. Or if they are, there's something else stopping them from making that commitment in contractual terms.
If you ask me, from the dozens of conversations I've had on the subject over the past couple of years, it's just a matter of perspective and discipline and totally doable. Three years ago, no one would commit visibility. Today, under our video content brand, Sooperfly, we work with two large advertisers who have been able to give us visibility and have committed to it. And we expect another two to sign up along the same lines before the end of the financial year. This visibility is of paramount importance. The economics just don't work without it. Unfortunately, most want to have their cake and eat it too. But if you won't go out on a limb, you won't get the benefit.
Remember, the benefits aren't just economic. Just as your other retained agencies develop learnings on your brand(s), so will your video content partner. And that in turn will always lead to a sustained level of higher quality output that's in-line with the brand's objectives.
When it comes to digital video, for best results, you don't want to separate strategy and creative from production. And like everything else we do at The 120 Media Collective, Sooperfly too is focused on achieving measurable business impact through content. But that's a story for an in-person conversation. Above all, the model needs to flexible, so it's designed to plug in at any stage of the value chain. As long as an advertiser is ready to work towards visibility, everything will fall into place.
(The author is founder and CEO, The 120 Media Collective, a communications and content group comprising Jack in the Box Worldwide, BANG BANG and Sooperfly)