Video Streaming Advertising for Small Business - Tips and Guides
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This is the first article in a series for operators of businesses who
actually want some real practical everyday answers about streaming video and
online advertising - what's the best way to do it, and how does it work in the
First of all, let me disclose that I'm a producer of streaming videos and
online advertising. I've ybeen making commercials and online tours using
streaming video for local businesses in Perth, Western Australia for about the
last three years, after coming from a background in film and television. From
what I’ve experienced, there’s a steep learning curve and a methodology
particular to streaming video, not only in a technical or production sense, but
also in terms of business use and marketing.
If you're like me, you've probably done your fair share of googling for
information about streaming video and how it works. And there are some genuinely
good articles out there. But many focus on aspects which, though relevant in
some respects, don’t directly address the concerns of business operators who
just want to know the best way of adding video to their website. A typical
selection of articles will focus on the greater trend of streaming video in
terms of a global or nationwide user base. You know the ones I’m talking about
– "40% of such and such..." and "3 billion users by...."
etc. Others will talk about the technological issues: servers, formats, delivery
This is all well and good, and valued information. But, if you're the owner
for a small to medium sized business, you'll probably be interested to know how
it works on a very local level. That is, how do you get it done, what's the best
way of doing it, and what’s the best way to optimize your video once it’s
been produced? Hopefully I'll be able to provide you with some tips that will
hold you in good stead should you wish to go down this interesting track. I'll
break this down into a couple of areas, beginning with the initial decision
about how to go down the streaming route.
I’ll gather that you’re already aware of whyou want to use streaming
video (or audio) on the internet. So we’ll skip the “why video?” question
for the moment and move onto the “how and who?”. I’ll then discuss tips
that will give you ideas about how to get the most of the production and deliver
a great video, and then how you can get more people to watch it and feed into
WHO should I get to produce my streaming video?
This can be dependant on the level of presentation you want for your video.
In general, I've never recommended that operators go the DIY route. I know you'd
expect a video producer to say this, but there you go. Why? Because most often
than not, the final product is a piece of crap whose total value is the merest
slice of novelty. There, I said it. Sorry if this causes offence. It's not just
a technical issue. To a certain extent a typical audience will endure a less
than professional image or sound quality if your final video is incredibly
entertaining and engaging. But that is unbelievably rare, and also the reason
why a lot of these guys selling these DIY video streaming packages are kidding
themselves and trying to kid you. It's fine for basic video blogging, but
doesn't cut the mustard when it comes to online advertising.
The production standards are likewise less of a concern in the personal video
blogging domain, but generally sub-par production standards reflect badly on a
business website, no matter what the content. If you're in business and you
value your business image, you need to stay at a genuinely high standard of
presentation. You wouldn't, instead of using a professionally printed business
card, choose instead to scribble your name on the back of piece of chewed up
cardboard taken from the back of your breakfast cereal box. But that doesn't
mean you need to spend megadollars on a big time media-producer. If you do
decide to go down the DIY route, you’ll have to accept that you will require
some basic training and practice in video production. If you plan to have a
video that you will update on a monthly or even weekly basis, this may have some
merit, and repeat visitors to your site may put up with less than perfect
standards in exchange for the positive of regularly updated content. Be warned
however, first time visitors will not be impressed with anything less than a
high professional standard.
At the opposite end of the spectrum you have your larger video production
companies who traditionally produce corporate videos for DVDs and commercials
for TV. I also engage in this market as part of my own business. They're set up
for larger corporate clients and their often larger production demands. These
production companies typically structure their business in accordance with these
demands. They operate with larger crews, have more staff, and the production
process has to pass through a number of stages before final completion. An
efficient and relatively cost-effective structure if you're into producing
something with a budget of a television commercial. But if you just need to
produce a simple but professionally produced video for your website, you're
going to find the final bill pretty hefty - a whole lot more than your entire
website. I know because I came from this production world, and I know the costs
That's why I decided that the only way to service small clients with this
particular form of advertising was to set-up a small business structure, with an
extremely streamlined production process that was still able to deliver quality
customised videos. To give you some idea, you can look at any of the samples on
the video showcase page of the Online AURA website. Typically the 2 minute
promos done for tourism and real estate clients were shot in a single day with
one operator, scripted, voiced and edited (with original music) over the course
of a few days, and then added to the client's website. A turnaround that is
basically unheard of for TVCs or any other traditional form. It's not an easy
job, and it's taken some years to perfect the process, but you can see for
yourself the quality that can be produced using this model. So the answer to the
question is - try and find a small production company that shows a genuine
specificity in producing online video. Oh yes, and make sure they're actually
specialists in video production, not an IT or web design company. Nothing
against IT or web design companies, but many of them seem to be offering
streaming video production as an addition to their other services, and it's
evident they know almost nothing about the craft. If there's a single major
determinent of quality, it's basic video craft - from scripting, to lighting, to
editing and image grading. The process of finally encoding a high-quality master
into a streaming video format (e.g. Windows media, Flash etc.), adding it to
your website or into a new webpage is a relatively simple task.
Tips for your video content
Length of your video - This depends what you're selling, and who you're
selling it to. A common thing you'll hear out there is that "the shorter
the better", and that online advertising videos should be less than 30
seconds in length. While this may have some merit for the particular model of
advertising usually discussed in relation to this (usually "interstitial
advertising" spots that are placed before or after genuine content), for
the content that we're talking about, this is incorrect. A general rule of thumb
I used for producing streaming videos for real estate tours or tourist operators
in Perth was 2 minutes duration. Beyond this, unless your content is either
blisteringly good or your audience highly specialised, it wears a bit thin. 90
to 120 seconds seemed to work reasonably well, and gave the video a chance to
develop and breathe. Why not make it just like a 30 second TVC? Just because
that's an established norm for television, doesn't mean it needs to be a norm
for online video advertising. If anything, online advertising should break out
of those imposed conventions. It doesn't have to be 30 seconds and doesn't need
to be. If people are on your website, they're most likely taking an active
interest in what you are and what you're offering, rather than passively
consuming a TVC between breaks of Idol.
In our research, users have wanted to have the full experience, the detail,
not just the flashy summary of a 30 second sales pitch. This of course depends
on your content. Say, for instance, you wanted to produce a streaming video
demonstration for each of your products. My guess is that each demo would not
exceed 20-30seconds, especially if it were something relatively simple. My own
video introduction to my business takes about 1 minute, though for other
businesses I could see shorter and longer form videos. And don't forget, there
are ways in which longer form videos can be broken up, like chapters on a DVD
that are selectable. Give your audience the choice of which section they'd like
Get involved in the scripting of your video - This may not mean writing the
final copy for it, although if you have that skill it will prove advantageous to
the final product. But make sure the aspects of your business that you want to
push is understood by the video production company doing your online commercial.
If they care about their job, they should be actively consulting you about the
direction and approach of your streaming video advertisement. Even if you're not
exactly sure what you want to show, give them your thoughts and ideas. They'll
be able to translate some of those ideas into a rhythm and visual flow.
Make it personal – While the copy on your website needs to convey a
professional image and spell out the features and benefits of your product using
specific language, you’re video doesn’t have to be a total sales pitch. One
of the strengths of video is its ability to build identification, familiarity
and emotion. I suppose this point can be applied to marketing in general.
Customers don’t necessarily gravitate toward companies they feel offers them
the most in hard benefits. They often choose companies and businesses that they
identify and feel comfortable with on a human level. That’s why many people
still choose to buy from local businesses, and also why businesses with
marketing campaigns that emphasize people over product do very well. Video has
this ability to humanize what otherwise would feel impersonal and cold. Look at
many of the most successful websites and how they are designed visually. Note
how many use images of people, and particularly faces, as a fundamental part of
their visual design, regardless of what product they’re trying to sell you.
This design approach is used to counteract the feeling of a website as an
impersonal cash-register waiting to gobble up your money. Video has the strength
of being able to take this further, by offering life and personality, the
texture of a person’s voice and face. Think about this when you do your video.
Think about whether your entire video should be focused entirely on your
product, and entertain the idea that maybe people want to see the culture of the
people behind that product as well.
You’re selling a lifestyle – When I do streaming video advertising for
tourism and real estate, the important thing I keep in mind is that I’m
selling a lifestyle, and not just a ‘product’. You’re always selling an
experience. Even if it’s for bug spray, in which case you’re selling the
wonders of a bug-free life for your customers. So make that a fundamental part
of your video. It’s very tempting with video to show and explain everything
– I’ve had clients in real estate for instance want me to go into detailed
descriptions of all manner of architectural features. But even though part of my
job is showing off the actual features, primarily I’m creating a film about
the lifestyle that living in such and such a property provides. That’s also
why there’s a lot of emphasis on the culture surrounding the property, not
just the structure itself. If you’re working with a video producer, let them
know you want to focus on the lifestyle your product or service conveys, and let
them know the kind of feeling you want your viewers to experience. The end
result will be a lot stronger and your video will be far more effective.
Voice – A lot of streaming videos include voice-overs. They’re very
effective in terms of lending a narrative or story to your video. I have a
dedicated voice-over artist do all of my video voice-overs. And it’s amazing
what the effect of having a good quality voice will do to lift an advertisement.
On the flipside of that, having a poor voice will bring down even the strongest
visuals. If you can’t afford fantastic live video footage, at least you can
make up for this in some degree by having an engaging speaker.
Music – Another underrated aspect of videos online is music. You’ll run
into a lot of video production companies that use generic or “stock” music.
It’s usually terrible stuff, and makes your video seem contrived and
artificial. AURA doesn’t have that problem, because we also have a background
in original music production, and so develop our own music tracks. Ask about
music and, if possible, run through a selection of available soundtracks for
your streaming video.
Tips for your finished video.
This is the part where you’ve gone through the process of producing your
video. You’ve found your producer, the final streaming video advertisement is
great, and you’re ready to add it to your website. Here are some tips:
Make it visible – Although this seems obvious, many businesses inexplicably
choose to place a tiny, barely visible link to their video on their website.
Having a tiny bit of text in 8pt saying “video” with a hyperlink does your
video no justice, and greatly reduces the effectiveness of your streaming video
ad. A prominent display on your homepage is preferable, with some kind of
graphic (animated graphics work best) that attracts clicks from users. Video is
still a rarity of most websites, and users will easily overlook that a site even
has a video unless it is significantly signposted.
Portal power – If your business lists its products on portals, why not
include a link to your video. Sometimes, with accommodation industry portals,
they forbid direct links to your website because they work off commissions from
people booking on their site. In my experience however they are far more open to
allowing links directly to video content, given that it doesn’t take people
off to a separate webpage. This is sometimes the advantage of having a simple
link to your video, rather than relying on it just being embedded in your
webpage. Ideally, you should have both. That way, people can see it inside your
site, but you can also email people links to the video directly or list it as a
hyperlink on other people’s sites.
Video search – This is the area making big waves at the moment in the
search engine world. With Google video, Myspace, YouTube and other players, your
video can be a key part of your search engine strategy. Arrange to submit your
videos to all these sites, and provide keyworded descriptions of the content and
a link back to your website. It won’t cost you a thing. Video search is going
to take off in a big way, with major players Google, Yahoo and MSN all putting
big money into marketing and developing this new arena. Also keep in mind the
paid video ad market that will emerge in the future with Google and Yahoo. You
can have a highly visible direct link to your video straight from search. For
uploading purposes, ask your streaming video producer for a higher definition
version of your video, either in Windows Media format or MPEG-2.
Offline action – Your video should be able to be supplied to you on
physical media in some form or another for little extra cost. This could be DVD
video, as part of a CD-ROM presentation, or just as a digital file on disc.
Videos are typically shot and edited in very high-quality and then compressed
greatly for streaming delivery on the internet. This means that the producer
will most likely have a broadcast quality master, either on tape or on digital
file. At AURA, we store uncompressed masters on external hard drives or DVDs.
This means also that the streaming videos are future proofed – should some new
fabulous video codec, like a new version of Flash or Windows media come out, we
can take the master and re-encode it again to take advantage of the new
technology. Also, as broadband becomes quicker, we are able to up the bit-rate
of our videos.
Having a high quality digital file means you can use your video for other
things, like showing it at a trade expo at DVD quality, or re-packaging it as
part of a CD-ROM presentation or CD-business card.
Hopefully what I’ve discussed will help you as you embark on the wonderful
adventure of producing your first streaming video advertisement for your
website. I’ll be back later to discuss other aspects of streaming video, and
also another interesting media element that has been much underutilized on
business websites – streaming audio. Until next time, take care, and if you
have any questions, feel free to email me or visit my website at www.onlineaura.com.au