Brands Struggle to Build Relationships, Not Be Creepy: VidCon

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Online video measurement and metrics make viewer tracking possible in a way it never was for television, but advertisers struggle to use that data effectively (and not abuse it). A VidCon 2016 discussion called "Who's Watching the Watchers?" showed how some pros are trying to navigate those waters.

"It's all about engagement," said Rachel Malone-Olsen, social account manager for marketing agency AimClear. What constitutes a view varies by platform, and in some cases is so low that it's meaningless. A better measure is to look at shares and re-tweets. That shows viewers cared enough about the content to share it.

Television commercials are often great starting points for online video success, Malone-Olsen said. When brands launch a TV campaign, they should make sure the video is online so people who like it can find and share it.

Using influencers is a hot topic for marketers, meaning hiring popular creators on YouTube or other social platforms to pitch a product. While hiring influencers with large followings is important, it's not the only consideration. "Size doesn't always matter," Malone-Olsen said. Brands should look at how engaged the fan base is. Some creators look at their online work as a job and some look at it as a passion. A channel with high followers but no comments might simply be buying views. While it's a fuzzy metric, she advises looking for heart.

When working with star creators, it's important to understand the value of second-wave influencers, said Robert John Davis, executive director of content and social for Ogilvy North America. Celebrity influencers spread a message to their superfans, but those superfans then pass along the message in a way that's even more valuable to brands. New data shows that second-wave influencers can make even more of an impact.

Cookies make customer tracking possible, but also lets advertisers follow people around the web, serving them ads in a way that feels creepy. The solution to creepiness, Malone-Olsen said, is acting with intention and being upfront about what you're doing. Don't simply follow customers and serve them the same ads over and over; that makes the whole industry look bad, she said. Limit ad exposure and bring customers through a marketing journey.

Many brands and agencies don't understand how advertising works, Davis said, and lack good data. Buyer intent comes with engagement, so limit remarketing and don't hit people over the head with the same ads. Be smart with cookies and with the systems now in place.

The session was moderated by Glenn Hower, a research analyst with Parks Associates, who started off with data on video viewing. Average video consumption has grown by 5.5 hours per week, from 2010 to 2015. In the same period, the amount of streamed video watched on the living room TV has more than doubled to 20 percent.

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