Interactive Video: Why and How

Johan Belin
Oct 1, 2017 · 6 min read

Video marketing is growing like crazy and will according to sources familiar to the matter just continue to grow into 2020 and beyond. According to Entrepreneur 80 percent of online content will be video by 2019. Let’s face it, people don’t read anymore. The only thing keeping us from total illiteracy are those subtitled silent auto playing videos in the social feeds 😉.

In an earlier article I took a stab at defining the different types of video and how they can be used. This article will focus on Interactive Video, dig a little deeper in the why and how.

The first question that comes to mind is why you should consider making a video interactive. Generally speaking interactivity increases engagement, which is what everyone wants, marketers, creatives, even users. Below I describe different ways this can be achieved.

You can find the example projects mentioned below in a separate article here.

Add functionality

Interactivity allows you to add functionality to the video beyond the standard play/pause/skip that makes it more useful for the user. One example is pre/mid-roll video ads which are mostly just linear. But if you have someone’s attention, why not provide a way to a deeper engagement? Just add a button so they can

  • buy the product
  • talk/chat to a sales representative
  • book a test ride of a car
  • subscribe to a newsletter

More advanced functionality could be sharing functionality, maybe it is a contest or just a really badass ad; tracking different objects in the video so the user can learn more about each; allow the user to configure the product. Video ads might not be considered sexy but there are really no creative limitations to what you can do in an interactive video ad, it is all in your mind 😉.

Any video can benefit from added functionality to make it more engaging, accessible, shareable, rewarding. One project that really shows this is Sons Of Gallipoli, an interactive documentary. It is a perfect example of how added functionality can make the experience so much more rewarding than just the video itself.

You can read about the project here.

Make it richer

There are often information and content connected to the story of the video that could add depth, context, make it a richer experience. It could be purely factual, like explaining terms or giving background information. Or it could add emotional depth to a drama, by giving the backstory of the characters. The question to ask: what can I add to this video that would make it an even more rewarding and engaging experience for the users?

Additional content if available is often presented as links outside the experience. By integrating it into the video it becomes a part of the narrative, making the video itself richer.

One note about where the video lives. The YouTube interface is not nice to your video, a cluttered interface where all this other content screams for attention: “stop doing what you are doing and look at this instead!” If you want to have the full attention of the user, don’t put your precious into a pile of crap 😜.

I use Canada Goose — Out There as an example on how additional content can be used to create a richer experience. It is a short film based on real events where we integrated the stories into the film itself. It makes you look at the whole film in a different way.

You can read about the project here.

Make it respond

User interaction is mainly used for navigation, the user clicks somewhere and new content is presented. We call that interactive but it is quite far from the interaction that you would have with another human. Ok, maybe you can push some buttons on your ex, but I doubt that leads to something good. So in real life we hope to have meaningful two way conversations. You say something, the other person responds in an unpredictable but interesting way, which in turn drives the conversation forward.

So what does that have to do with interactive? If you get a response that makes sense but you did not expect, then you are getting more back than you asked for. You are no longer the controller of the machine, you are now engaged in a two way conversation, experiencing instead of observing, the requirement for a truly immersive experience.

This can be applied to navigation itself by thinking of it as a two way conversation (don’t tell the UX guy). There are also unique opportunities to integrate other ways of interacting that could surprise, engage and immerse the user in the communication:

  • the video can react on device rotation and direction
  • the experience can be controlled through a text conversation with a chatbot, or even with your voice
  • the video could respond differently depending on your facial expressions

In my example, Outcast, it is using the last option. We use face detection to see if the user have their eyes open or not, which is a more emotional, immersive, visceral type of dialog. Much, much more.

You can read about the project here.

Make it Your story

This is when the user makes decisions that affects how the story evolves. Often called Choose Your Own Adventure from the children’s book series. This is often associated with larger experiences with branching storylines but it has so many practical applications where it really can add value compared to a linear video. Here are some examples:

  • selecting the right insurance: it would be so much more personal if someone actually explained what the differences are (and remember, people have stopped reading)
  • support videos: instead of having a linear film that just keeps on playing you can get a step by step instruction
  • cooking: so you have this fantastic YT video explaining exactly how to bake this bread, but every time you need to pause it your hands are covered with dough.

Maybe these examples do not qualify as adventures but the value for the user is huge. And let’s make them voice controlled and you have a two way conversation!

An interactive interview that never saw the light of day.

And then there is all the creative possibilities with interactive storytelling, emotional and dramatic brand stories created together with you, the user. I use Nissan Infiniti — Deja View as an example. The characters in the film call you on your mobile phone, what you say affects how the story evolves.

You can read about the project here.

A checklist for video interactivity

Based on the different ways interactivity can be used, here are some questions that you can use when thinking about how a linear video might benefit by becoming interactive:

  • what added functionality would be valuable for the user?
  • what added content/information would make the user experience even richer?
  • in which way could I invite the user in a dialog?
  • could the user even be a part of the creative process?

Not all questions makes sense on all projects but you might be surprised by the ideas that come up when asking these questions.

This was part two of the video series. Here are all articles currently published:

Forget about VR, AR, AI and ML: Video is the Next Big Thing!

Interactive Video: Why and How

Interactive Video — Example Projects

Personalized Video, dynamics and a fancy word for “targeted”

I will add new articles continuously. Or more likely now and then.

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Integrated Digital Disruption

Johan Belin

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Founder and CD @ Dinahmoe, passionate about digital, looking for likeminded



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