What makes a video premium - the lighting, the actors, the budget, the language... or something else? When 'crappy' content breaks the internet, can it be called premium?
'Something of superior quality and therefore, higher priced'. That's the simplest definition of the word 'premium' on Google. In the context of digital video, does this definition work? And how much premium - extra money, to be clear - should brands pay to be part of quality video content, online? This was one the topics discussed at our recent convention on online video - vdonxt asia 2018 (2nd edition), held in Mumbai.
First, I asked my panelists to explain the word 'premium', outside of online video. Here are some of the descriptors that emerged: Premium is something that's "exclusive", "invigorating", "that teaches us something new", "that only a close network of people get to see... and thus makes them different from the rest", "that brings value", "that has high production quality", "that is engaging", and "that has an emotional connect."
The panelists then tried breaking down the elements -the determinants- of premium digital video.
Nandini Dias, CEO, Lodestar UM India, says, "For different brands you may pay a different amount of additional 'top up', depending on the value the content provides... We are in the media business and have the luxury of spending clients' money; we meet at least 10 content creators a day. The gamut of content available today is huge. On a daily basis we have to figure out - 'Which content, at what price?' That's difficult."
She adds, "There's no formula. Sometimes you have people coming to you with content that's 'ready-made' - and this may be superbly shot content, say from Google or a TV channel like National Geographic - but if it doesn't match the (exact) specifications of your brand, then its value keeps (falling). Then we have advertiser funded programmes where you tell somebody (how to create) it and ask them to do (it a certain way). Telling someone... and asking them to create content is 10 times costlier than 'available' content. Fact is, the more contextual it is, the more money I'm willing to pay."
Dhiren Raikuvar, head of marketing, Times Network Digital, says, "Premium video has to be looked at in two ways - from the point of view of the audience and that of the marketer... For marketers, elements like production quality or (the presence of) certain actors give a sense of predictability, making the content easier for them to bet on. But content created by an individual YouTuber, on the other hand, is totally dependent on the context (he/she) builds."
Anil Nair, CEO and managing partner, Digital L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, says, "One important factor is context. I believe content cannot be seen devoid of context. Great content with bad context means nothing. The second thing is time - in this fast-food generation, we want everything quickly. But one needs time to produce a great piece of content."
Do brands even classify digital video as premium versus 'regular' or is this something only content creators and platforms do? L&K's Nair says, "The rules and framework are not yet laid. I'm hoping AI (artificial intelligence) will come into play in the future. From my experience with brands I can tell you that everybody wants to have a piece of this action. If you're (from) a category that has a reference to context with video then I would recommend investing in your own content or in user-generated content. And last but not least - there's the option to piggy-back on content created by other people. As of now the only benchmark for success is video views but we all know that can be bought at some level... So for me, fit, consistency and strategy are greater," citing the example of Red Bull as a consistent "video investor" in the online space.
Raikuvar of Times Network adds, "It's important not to confuse quality with popularity. But a popular video that doesn't have great production value or a big budget, can be premium."
Lodestar's Dias says, "The content that the client is producing is clearly (considered to be) premium. In the mind of the brand custodian, it is perfect. But content that's sourced from outside is not valued as much, because it is not exclusive to them; it may be shared with other advertisers."
In response to a question on the difference between media buying on TV versus online, she adds, "In terms of the metric, we are trying to bring in similarity. The value of content depends on how scalable it is. And even if the valuation of content is low, it can go as premium," citing the example of 'On Air With AIB' on Hotstar.
"My biggest fear with respect to this whole 'content-premium' story is - fortunately or unfortunately, the people who value it or put a premium on it are the ones who understand attribution modelling, market mix modelling, correlations... and I don't think an idea should be (measured against) these metrics that media guys are so familiar with. But today, that's how content selection is being done; content creators must want to kill us for quantifying their content this way!" admits Dias.
L&K's Nair opines on the subject, "It is changing rapidly. Three-four years ago, people would make content for TV and put the same thing online. But today more and more brands are investing in separate digital-first or digital-only content... I don't know where they're getting the budgets for it! And they often go to content providers outside the agency ecosystem for this."
Lastly, the panel spoke about the things content creators and platforms can do to position a video as premium.
"Content needs to be a bit of a Trojan Horse for brand messaging to go across," says Nair, standing on the commercial -not fine art- side of things, "Brands will be willing to back stuff that subliminally carries the brand message without pissing the audience off... it's like a capsule that conceals the bitter medicine... And there needs to be that innovation or 'whack' element and some 'sharability'."
"There's a difference between content done for a brand and content done for entertainment. By and large, you'll find that content which is paid for is not too irreverent," cautions Dias, before going on to explain how content can be looked at as "core content" (main video) and "peripheral content" (spin-off content created around the main video). The two, she says, can be monetised differently.
(vdonxt asia is an afaqs! event)