It’s common today to hear agencies talk about creating mobile-first digital campaigns for clients, so ubiquitous has the smartphone become. That means that those companies’ video messages must speak the HTML5 language established by Apple as the mobile standard. Desktop browsers, too, have heard the clarion call of the mobile age. They’ve adopted HTML5 and opened the door for scalable cross-channel video campaigns.
Still, creating seamless, cross-channel video campaigns requires extra steps on the parts of brands, their agencies, and publishers. “Apple devices make up a majority of the traffic, and there are limitations to the way Apple allows you to consume video content,” says Derek Gatts, associate director of ad operations at Time Inc. More specifically, iOS only allows autoplay video ads in-app and not on the mobile Web. “It’s been a challenge for us particularly, because we have so many entertainment clients who focus on video consumption as a KPI.”
Earlier this year, ad tech provider Celtra introduced AdCreator 4 with capabilities that promised to disseminate video content cross-screen with little added effort. Time Inc. signed on as the first publisher to use the new software across all platforms, and it enlisted long-time advertiser Fox and its agency Mediastorm to test its capabilities. Fox was running a three-day campaign for its Gotham series on the websites of People and Entertainment Weekly to coincide with San Diego Comic-Con in July. Normally, the creative would consist of video banners on desktop complemented by static creative on tablets and smartphones. But this year, the Time properties endeavored to deliver a full video experience across all channels.
Time’s entertainment properties see a boost in viewership each year during Comic-Con, and Fox had already booked a schedule including a homepage roadblock, sponsored content, and premium content. Had People and EW approached Fox last year and asked if it would like to run the video campaign across all channels, the resultant time and expense would have made the proposition prohibitive. “It would have gone beyond just the added creative considerations,” Gatts says. “It’s very cumbersome for both the client and the publishers when we attempt to do this multi-platform build for them.”
In this case, however, People and EW used a customer video player embedded in Celtra’s rich media creation and measurement platform to bypass the iOS native player and auto-stream video in line with editorial content. Very little extra effort was required from either Fox or its agency. As a result, mobile viewers could watch the video trailers for Gotham without launching a separate player and Fox saw an 8X lift in engagement versus a traditional desktop-only campaign. Over the three days of Comic-Con, according to Time Inc., the videos drew more than 5 million views and 300,000 minutes of viewing.
“I could easily say that this is a 40 to 50 percent increase over the results we’d see in a desktop-only campaign,” Gatts says. “Having that video play automatically, it’s something consumers have gotten used to. It draws their attention.”
Matevz Klanjsek, Celtra’s chief product officer, says the browsers’ embrace of HTML5 is a “big deal” for marketers who rely on video campaigns. “As mobile grows in number of devices in the marketplace, it’s becoming clear that mobile technology will dominate and desktop will change accordingly,” Klanjsek says. “The results we saw for the [Gotham] campaign were extremely high. We got more than a 60 percent completion rate for the videos.”
Word is sure to spread through the halls of Time Inc., which was recently spun off by Time Warner and is in the midst of formulating an independent operating plan. “I think this technique will almost certainly extend to all Time Inc. properties,” Gatts says. “What we’re trying to do is present this to clients in simplified fashion with quick turnaround and few added assets. I now feel we have the tools to get these cross-channel campaigns done seamlessly.”