If you’ve followed some of my adventures in recent years, then you’ll know how much value I place on video as a medium for online marketers and publishers to engage with their audience.

From our initial foray with DR TV in 2008, and then our curated video platform SkiddPlayer in 2009, we learned a great deal about the way in which audiences prefer to consume branded video content, especially those who wouldn’t naturally be identified as enthusiasts or petrolheads.

You see the simple fact is, that petrolheads, gearheads or whichever term you choose to describe the most fanatical enthusiast represent a tiny proportion of those who actually go out and purchase cars (even sports cars), and when you take into account that most enthusiasts are already quite tribal in their patronage, you reach the conclusion that the potential from advertising to this group is actually rather small.

The priority for most car makers is to maintain customer satisfaction and nurture their advocacy, which is better achieved through direct customer engagement in social channels and experiential events.

For Advertisers, a far richer cohort are those customers who will make a discretionary purchase, have little or no affiliation to one particular brand and are unlikely to frequent enthusiast forums or regularly read specialist car magazines. The challenge is being able to reach these individuals before they’ve decided to buy.

Fostering high-quality branded video content

That’s why we have chosen to work with Unruly Media and promote the benefits of branded video content.

Unruly are a global platform for social video advertising, who also run the renowned Viral Video Chart supported by the likes of Mashable, Guardian News and The Huffington Post. The company has won 8 business awards in the past few months including Outstanding Business Achievement of the Year, UK Business of the Year and Digital Innovator of the Year.

Since 2006 they have delivered more than 1.3 billion video views and 1,400+ social video campaigns, including T-Mobile’s Life’s for Sharing series, Evian’s global Roller Babies and the latest TomTom Bert & Ernie ad that we recently reviewed.

Audience reach through OTS

Unlike display advertising, which seeks to hijack a visitor’s attention, branded video is increasingly being seen as a relevant part of the entertainment value in a site. In fact this is one thing that Unruly are starting to notice. Whereas ads used to carry a stigma when shared on social channels, people are now more often using the word ‘ad’ or ‘commercial’ when sharing. This is a huge change in behaviour and something we’ve noticed ourselves on our own video platform, SkiddPlayer.

This plays to our view that ads in future will become the highest form of branded content, where advertisers will compete with each other for a viewer’s attention, just as programme makers have done for decades on TV. We’ve been working with a major content maker on this very idea, namely that viewers will no longer accept their sports broadcast being interrupted by ads, so instead the brands must become an integral part of the viewing experience.

Provided we don’t play down to the lowest common denominator, this should lead to fewer but more engaging ads and will also lend itself better to the integration of TV with online video – which is the next step in the viewing experience. TV ads then become the signposts, directing viewers to a more immersive experience online.

Just as we dislike our programmes being interrupted by ads, so we’ll equally dislike broadcasters covering our TV screens with ‘red button’ or ‘press here’ hotspots – TV is a sit-back format whereas we readily accept online as a lean-forward interactive medium.

Over time, branded video will enable the experience to continue beyond our TV sets, presenting the opportunity to explore ‘deleted scenes’ and maybe even a personalised extension to a programme.

AdWatch, trend spotting and the latest developments in automotive campaigns

During the next few months you’ll see more AdWatch reviews of the latest automotive video campaigns and we’ll also be contributing to Unruly Media’s Meme Machine blog.

Fitch Media Value Scorecard

Since July we have reviewed campaigns by Johnny Walker, Infiniti, Vodafone and TomTom and use our value scorecard (above) to determine which are most likely to deliver results.

We can’t change the situation overnight, but by working with the right players we believe social video sharing can raise the quality and entertainment value of branded content, making it feel less like advertising and more like the kind of content we’d actually choose to watch.

In the run up to Christmas we’ll be compiling a Top 10 chart of the most successful video campaigns and taking a peek at the creative teams behind them, so if you work in an agency and would like to ensure we see your latest masterpiece, please feel free to get in touch.