Executive Vice President at Veritone One, leader for the agency’s strategy, organization and growth.
A decade ago, watching TV meant being tethered to cable or satellite. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime were just emerging — and they needed special equipment since “smart TVs” didn’t exist yet. Digital video recorders were starting to have an impact, but many of us were still watching appointment TV, sitting down at a specific day and time to watch our favorite show or sports event. It was the true definition of a captive audience, the business model that had driven advertising revenue for generations.
Fast forward to today. Audiences are able to access a myriad of video and audio content on demand, on the platform and device of their choice. The explosion of online content has given rise to the notion of cutting the cord: giving up traditional TV services altogether and relying on streaming services for news, information and entertainment.
With more than half of U.S. consumers expected to cut the cord by 2022 and a whole generation that’s been raised as on-demand media consumers, the game has changed for advertisers and content creators. The once captive linear audience has become more fragmented. More audiences are turning to streaming, often with the option of ad-free viewing, creating a group of “unreachables” from an advertising perspective. According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, 91% of U.S. adults 18 and over said they subscribe to a paid streaming service — and almost half of 18- to 24-year-olds subscribe to three or more paid services.
It is possible for advertisers to reach the unreachables, but it takes some creativity. At Veritone One, that’s precisely the type of challenge that we’ve been assisting clients with for almost two decades. Based on our experience, here are three strategies brands can leverage to get in front of this growing consumer audience.
Strategy 1: Integrate Into Programs
Even with commercial-free content, there are ways to call subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) attention to brands and products. One of the most obvious is product placement. Let’s take one of my favorite programs on Netflix, Stranger Things. As any fan knows, the main character, Eleven, is obsessed with Kellogg’s Eggo waffles; in fact, Eggos have figured into storylines for all three seasons. While a Kellogg’s partnership wasn’t why Eggos were used in the original script, by season two, Eggo and Netflix had created a strong partnership that felt seamless.
In the same way, we look for advertiser-host integrations that are authentic. When we work with the hosts of radio, podcast and YouTube shows, we collaborate on a message that is both authentic to the brand and the host. Creating these blended moments that don’t feel scripted is key to telling a brand’s story uniquely through a host’s own voice and experience.
Strategy 2: Leverage Complementary Platforms
This strategy assumes that most unreachables fit into the demographic that’s most likely to consume many other types of free content, on platforms that offer more straightforward advertising opportunities.
Podcasting, in particular, is a relatively untapped and high-potential medium for advertisers to reach and engage new audiences. It’s attractive for two primary reasons:
• Podcasting is experiencing explosive growth, both in volume and variety of content geared to incredibly diverse audiences. Approximately one million podcasts are in production, and they’re reaching eager listeners on every type of device, including smart cars and connected homes with Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home.
• Podcasts offer fantastic possibilities for personalizing content — even down to the level of individual consumers. With the right tools, such as AI-based content classification, advertisers are able to align their brands with content that appeals to highly targeted consumers. At the same time, they can ensure brand safety. And then consumers get easier access to the products and services they truly care about in the context of topics they find interesting.
If you’re looking into podcast advertising, start with a reputable agency that has strong relationships and understands the medium. Be sure they are able to build a solid strategy, develop podcast-specific messaging, plan and buy media, and most importantly, measure ad efficacy. As mentioned above, a successful ad integration will blend both your brand story with the tone and voice of the host, so be both flexible and specific in your script discussions.
Strategy 3: Tap Into User-Generated Content
One of the big impacts we’ll see as a result of Covid-19 in the short term — also possibly in the long term — is a content shortage. Commercial and video production companies have been shuttered like many other nonessential businesses throughout the pandemic. As much of the world begins to reopen, there’s going to be a lag before production restarts.
That doesn’t mean consumer demand for content has waned — in fact, it’s never been greater, with so many people staying home and looking for information and escape. Simultaneously, we’re seeing a huge surge in user-generated content, both on the production and consumption side. Think about all those TikTok and YouTube videos you’ve seen lately, where people are documenting their quarantine experiences, often to hilarious effect. They’re popular because they’re relatable — people can see themselves in the same situations.
As commercial producers and filmmakers are already realizing, user-generated content creates incredibly engaging and authentic content. Real people invite real connection. And with decreased budgets and reduced teams, user-created content offers new content but with lower production costs and faster turnaround times. There are many talent networks to source and purchase user-created content.
Given these opportunities, maybe the term “unreachables” doesn’t necessarily apply in the world of highly targeted advertising to on-demand, digital audiences. Considering consumers’ insatiable demand for engaging, quality content on any platform, there’s always an opportunity to reach the right consumers in the right type of content, with contextual alignment. The good news for savvy marketers is that there are more avenues than ever before to reach the right consumers at the right time. All it takes is a bit of strategy.
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Author: Sean King, Forbes Councils Member