Marketers Must Recognize that Digital Video is Not TV

We’re just at the beginning of the digital video revolution, and marketers are treating digital video the way people treated cable in its early days. If you remember the early days of cable, it was used  first as a way to increase reception in areas that had problems with antennas, and then later as a final resting place for re-purposed assets. Two of the early cable stations, Ted Turner’s WTBS was a way to get a local signal to reach a broader audience, but the programming on it was the same as on the Atlanta station he owned until 2007. Another early cable channel, the Christian Broadcasting Company, used old TV shows to fill out its lineup between religious programming. With the exception of “pay TV,”  people thought that’s where old TV assets went to die.

However, in the past few years cable as emerged as a primary source of premium content that is never seen on the networks. And indeed, cable has fragmented the TV audience so that the networks are actually suffering audience losses and the accompanying marketing dollar losses as advertisers seek out more highly targeted audiences.

Now we’re facing the same change with digital video. Although there is plenty of exciting new content, the big brands are re-purposing their brand assets from TV. This will stop. Eventually, and sooner rather than later with the switch to mobile, they’ll recognize the mobile video requires unique ad formats. Randall Rothenberg, President of IAB, said it really well in a post he wrote for AdWeek:

Digital video is not television. The NewFronts is not an assault on this classic medium. Rather, digital video represents a culmination of television and the start of a post-television world. Granted, it’s clear how this misunderstanding came to be. There’s little precedence for the unfolding of digital video—a medium that can appear so similar to existing, predominant media yet is such a dramatic evolution from its apparent kin.

Already in its young life, digital video can do everything that television can—it can easily deliver big brand, direct response and local advertising, just like the TV set in your den has done for so many decades. Its producers and networks can already create entertaining and culturally relevant programming that assembles valuable audiences. Premium video content is truly premium by the highest measure: cultural cachet.

Premium content will soon by followed by ad formats that are worthy of it, and the most forward-looking marketers are already creating cross-platform campaigns that access the unique strengths of each medium.

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