Mark Laudi

Which advertiser hasn’t thought of using YouTube or video on their website to promote their products and services? But when was the last time you actually watched one of these efforts and bought the featured product or service? Fact is, some of these efforts only confuse their audience. Some even damage their brands with poor execution and low production values. Many have no notable sales impact at all. I am yet to have a single CEO in Asia boast to me of huge increases in revenue since the launch of an online video campaign on YouTube.

Why is it that the biggest phenomenon on the Internet since social networks is generally not translating into sales?

Here are the seven biggest reasons:

Why video? It sounds exciting enough to be producing your own video content about your products and services. But examine your motivation more closely. Ask yourself what you will be able to communicate with video, that you can’t already communicate with text.

Is it a demonstration of the product or service? Is it to show off the product’s features? Or testimonials from satisfied customers?

If so, how will a video help?

You may have good answers to all these questions. But it’s important to be clear about the objectives. If the features of your product or service can just as easily be communicated in written form, with the help of still images or an Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlite animation, save yourself the effort of producing video.

Online video vs web television – it’s mission-critical to distinguish between the two.

Many companies decide to produce online video cheaply. The process is typically this: a staff member with a penchant for birthday party or holiday videos is seconded to become the company’s official Director of Photography. Someone from corporate communications plays the role of interviewer while the product manager is drafted for an on-camera presentation – usually painstakingly scripted and painfully read from a big cue-card behind the camera. The recorded video is then uploaded to YouTube, and the resulting URL embedded in the company’s website.

It looks as cheap as it was to produce.

Web Television, on the other hand, has all the production values of a real television programme. It looks like it could be on TV, it sounds like it could be on TV, and given the chance it probably could be broadcast on TV!

The car industry in particular has caught onto this, with and being two leading examples.

For many companies, it’s not worth establishing a television studio internally, with all the requisite staff and equipment. So, engage a professional camera crew. Critically also, hire a professional presenter who lends credibility to the production. If you must use someone internally, ensure they have had the proper training.

Soft skills. As recently as 15 years ago, high costs and onerous licensing requirements meant it was virtually impossible for companies to produce their own television channels. There was the costs of establishing a studio, hiring qualified presenters, transmission equipment and licenses, and carriage on cable or satellite. Those costs have come down to virtually zero. The Internet is cheap to transmit over. Licenses are no longer required. Good equipment will still cost a big bundle of money but it is certainly cheaper and easier to buy than even ten years ago.

Now the biggest barrier-to-entry is the soft skills to produce meaningful, engaging Programmes. Content is still king, and that means bringing on board good people to produce it for you.

Editorial vs advertising. Another common error is a misunderstanding of the difference between advertising and editorial. They decide to produce one but end up producing the other.

The Internet means your Web Television productions have a greater chance of being seen by millions of viewers all around the world. But unlike in traditional television, Internet audiences have complete control over what they watch and when, where and how they watch it.

So, why would they spend any time watching your carefully crafted advertorial, which aims to fool them into believing it’s editorial when it’s really an advertisement?

If you are going to produce an advertisement, hire a good agency and commission it to produce an award-winning television commercial that will knock your target market’s socks off and achieve your desired outcomes.

But if you are producing editorial, avoid the temptation to pump it full of marketing messages. Let the information speak for itself. In a product demonstration, this means being honest about what the product can, and cannot, do. Don’t shy away from pointing out limitations. If you don’t, there’s bound to be a blog or bulletin board somewhere that will.

Smart advertising agencies and creatives will also understand the need for an honest relationship with the target market that is built on trust. They have an opportunity to capture this growing market on their terms.

Credibility. Why is it that viewers can sniff an advertorial or an infomercial a mile away?

Because editorial programmes provide viewers with balanced and objective information which they can use in their own lives in possibly infinite ways.

Infomercials provide viewers with one-sided information whose only application is to make a purchase. The key is to produce programmes which are more like the former and less like the latter. Your Web Television programme must be of value to the viewer.

In our experience, clients which have their customers’ best interest at heart understand this difference and are happy to see the whole story told.

Reach. There is little point in producing a programme and syndicating it only via your own website, or YouTube. As with any campaign, you need to know who your audience is and what they are watching. Then approach those websites with your Web Television programmes. Done well, they might even pay you for it!

Frequency. Again a common mistake is to produce a video once, and wait six months to produce the next one. Audience engagement requires a constant communications effort. Returning visitors to your website will thank you for it.

It is an irony that, far from making advertising, creative, marketing and communications specialists redundant, the free-for-all Internet makes them more important than ever to craft messages in a value-added way.

Only now they have a new outlet for their creativity. They are not just designing the commercials between programmes. They are designing the programmes themselves, where the client is always the top story and the client’s speaker is always the guest.

This finds particular application for media professionals serving financial services or pharmaceutical companies, which have compliance, and/or legal and ethical issues to take into consideration when it comes to marketing their products and services. For them, it is important the customer is educated before they are led to a purchasing decision, and this is where Web Television can play a critical role.

Mark Laudi is a former CNBC television presenter who now heads Hong Bao Media, and has spent more than three years looking into what works – and doesn’t work – in web television.