Interactive video is the most important element of your new-media tool kit – more important than blogging, podcasting, or mobile devices. Understanding video’s potential for creating interactive, immersive experiences for the digital consumer is the key to unlocking its value for you.
Why should you care about interactive video? Quite simply, digital consumers want it. According to the Online Publishers Association, 24% of the U.S. internet population watch online videos at least once a week, and nearly half do so at least once a month. About seven out of 10 digital consumers have viewed an online video advertisement, with 31% of them subsequently visiting the advertiser’s Website.
Three reasons account for this growth. First, broadband continues to take hold. Two-thirds of U.S. Web users now use broadband (per Nielsen/NetRatings), which is the essential ingredient to enjoying rich-video content. Second, major publishers and bellwethers such as Google and Apple continue to make significant investments in online video, joining phenomenally popular video sites such as YouTube and iFilm.
But the most important reason you should care about interactive video – based on what our clients have told us – is that video helps facilitate a basic consumer craving for immersion and interactivity. As more of us escape the limitations of dial-up access, we are becoming online gamers, social networkers, and brand enthusiasts. We don’t just tell our friends we like Oreo cookies; we upload our self-made commercials. And we want to have a little fun too. We want to customize the look and feel of an automobile using a rich-media auto configurator, not just stare at a bunch of static pages online.
Watch me blow up a Ferrari on YouTube!
If you’ve spent time on YouTube or iFilm, you can be forgiven for believing that interactive video is turning us into a nation of amateur entertainers uploading movies we’re too guilty to admit we enjoy watching.
But big enterprises are embracing interactive video too. For instance, Red Bull has applied interactive video to inject its redbullusa.com brand site with a shot of vitality and excitement. Redbullusa.com captures the essence of the high-energy performance-driven brand by using streaming video to immerse you into the world of extreme-sports stars.
Red Bull creates an emotional bond with its brand aficionados, who identify with the extreme- sports lifestyle. And the use of cutting-edge streaming media is important, because the site needs to match Red Bull’s high-energy personality. Static, flat images just won’t suffice.
By contrast, AT&T uses interactive video to teach broadband-enabled consumers how to use AT&T products and services. The AT&T Digital Lifestyle (att.com/dlc) is an online world that uses a tour of a home to show how consumers can use AT&T products and services as part of their everyday lives. The Website uses high-definition streaming video extensively. You can navigate the site using pull-down menus or by following the home layout, room by room. Visitors may also pause and replay video snippets if they want to review an instruction.
Red Bull shows how interactive media combined with the right content can create an immersive brand experience tailored to consumers’ lifestyles. AT&T shows how interactive video helps solve a business challenge: in this case, encouraging self-service for its customers by explaining a complex topic.
How to get started
It’s impossible to keep up with the inventive ways companies are combining video with viral marketing and consumer-generated content to build their brands. As examples, Red Bull and AT&T illustrate two important principles for using interactive video regardless of your specific situation:
- Success hinges on knowing the end game for your customers. In a way, interactive video isn’t about video – it’s about understanding your customers better and reaching them. If you’ve not been using personas, or composite profiles of your customers’ wants and needs, it’s important you do so now. Is your customer coming to your site to learn something? To have a little fun? To celebrate your brand? You can’t really use interactive video until you know.
- Think interactivity. There’s a huge difference between an online video and an interactive video. An online video is just a TV commercial dropped into the digital world, creating a passive viewing experience that fails to take advantage of the benefits the Web has to offer. An interactive video gives consumers the chance to play with your brand – assembling their own movies and controlling the pace and flow of content.
Think you’re not ready for interactive video? Then check out your customers. They’re ready and waiting for you to get involved.
Dave Friedman is president of the central region for Avenue A | Razorfish, a Seattle-based interactive services firm, and a monthly contributor to CHIEF MARKETER. Contact him at Dave.Friedman@avenuea-razorfish.com.
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