Branded content has facilitated customer engagement in unprecedented ways. It has also redefined the role of advertisers or more specifically what we define as advertising.
Recognising the recent trend in the consumption of online video and with an understanding that film enables deep levels of engagement — the ability to tell a brand’s story in a way that static content simply cannot — online retailers have been quick to explore the potential of ‘Shoppable Films’ (video content which includes eCommerce features). So far, success has been varied.
When UK online retail powerhouse ASOS began researching why awareness of their brand among young men was low, they discovered that male consumers don’t take their fashion cues from magazines or the catwalk but from culture, sports and the street. This observation inspired the creation of Urban Tour, a fully shoppable short film of London’s best street dancers. It enabled users to pause, explore and purchase the featured clothing. The campaign was hugely successful: it lead to an additional 500,000 men visiting asos.com within the first three months of launch and was also awarded a coveted Cannes Gold Lion.
Another Cannes Award recipient was The Liberation, an online interactive film by Danish denim brand Only Jeans. Touted by the brand as “the world’s first on-demand, online, video, retail environment and also a fashion catalogue, movie, game and music video”, it allowed viewers to click and freeze the film and with the movie paused, viewers could purchase clothing or share their selections via their preferred social networking platform. Pushing the boundaries of consumer engagement, it even enabled the viewer to determine the characters’ actions, furthering participation with clever interactive techniques. The film ended by curating a bespoke catalogue based on users’ behaviours enabling them to revisit their choices.
“Both ASOS and Only Jeans understood that the unique content was neither a film, nor an eCommerce website. The result was two exceptionally well executed Shoppable Films.”
A key to the success of these campaigns was choice of narrative style. The format of both films was non-linear, similar to a music video, so that a viewer could stop and start the film with minimal interruption to their understanding or enjoyment. Clever video editing devices and seamless audio allowed the content to be loopable if stopped at any time, much like a video game. This enabled intuitive eCommerce functionality and a range of other interactive features to be effortlessly incorporated into the films, alongside the branded content.
ASOS and Only Jeans demonstrated that success can be found with this new medium if every aspect of the user experience is approached in a new and considered way. Both brands understood that the unique content was neither a film nor an eCommerce Web site. The result was two exceptionally well-executed Shoppable Films, that yielded a high return on investment. (see Results, below.)
By contrast, U.S. retailer Target’s three-minute short film Falling for You may have had the budget to secure an A-list cast, but its poor execution and scant regard for the user’s experience is a classic example of traditional advertising poorly re-purposed in a digital context.
“The choice of a scripted film was an erroneous one. If the viewer took their focus off the film for just a second (to, for example, shop?!) they immediately missed dialogue”
The choice of a scripted film was an erroneous one. If the viewer took their focus off the film for just a second (to, for example, shop?!) they immediately missed dialogue and potentially lost track of the story. Compounding this was the side bar navigation which scrolled articles of clothing as they appeared in the film. The user was left with what was essentially an animated eCommerce website ‘attached’ to a video. Users couldn’t engage with either on any reasonable level.
Shoppable Media may be in its infancy, but many signs point to a trend of video as branded content. If an agency is fortunate enough to secure a client with the ambition and budget to pursue the production of a Shoppable Film, several factors need to be considered. It’s essential to understand the purpose and target market, and also to recognise that a traditional approach to both mediums will invariably fail. It requires significant investment in high production values and consideration of the nuances within both forms of media. More broadly, it requires an appreciation that traditional advertising and digital media no longer exist independently — a timely reminder of the direction of the industry.
ASOS Urban Tour — Results:
- 3rd most watched brand video on YouTube in 2011
- 7.36 million views recorded in the first 8 weeks
- 6.9 million twitter impressions
- 46% of all visitors were new to asos.com, rising to as high as 81%
in the US
- 14% of visitors made a purchase within 7 minutes of watching the video
Only Jeans The Liberation — Results:
- Traffic to only.com rose more than 500%
- Site garnered +560K unique visitors with +810K page views
- Within 2 weeks, the site had over 280,000 unique visits and the campaign had spread to thousands of sites and blogs
- Movie has since been viewed over 1 million times across more than 100 countries worldwide
- 3 Cannes Lions at the 2012 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity
- Play-to-end rate: Germany (74%), Denmark (68%) and Norway (67%)
YouTube launches Annotation functionality.
A recent ComScore report estimated that 181 million people watched more than 39 billion online content videos during September 2012. Studies predict that video-based internet traffic could grow to more than 90% in the next 12 — 18 months.
In November 2012, YouTube announced the release of external annotations technology enabling merchants with channels to implement annotation tools in their own video content, allowing click and buy functionality to be incorporated into the video, linking back to eCommerce stores. Many high profile brands are already utilising the new feature with varying degrees of success.
This is yet another indication that the branded content video trend won’t be slowing down any time soon as brands continue to look for innovative and original methods of engagement.