The Undeniability of Video

Web advertising represents an increasing part of our everyday internet experience. That’s why we at Crew Tide wondered about the differences between television advertising, and branded content that’s created for web.  For answers, we turned to award-winning advertising creative Kareem Fahmi.   Fahmi is Creative Director at the San Francisco-based advertising agency Organic, Inc.

“Despite rumors about its demise, television is one of the quickes ways to get a powerful message across,” Fahmi said, thereby disagreeing with some marketing experts (such as Seth Godin) who have already said years ago that television advertising is dead.  Fahmi, whose client list includes Wal-Mart and Hilton, produces advertising largely for the web these days.  Called “digital advertising,” it takes the form of banners, icons and embedded video – although he also still makes TV spots.

Many companies favor digital advertising, Fahmi said, because “they can quantify every dollar they spend.  Clients want to see numbers.   They like seeing a black and white return on their investment.”  Web analytics can determine how many times a client’s advertising of a website was clicked.  Fahmi added, “Even if you didn’t buy and you went to their site you still engaged with the brand, and you still spent 2 minutes on the site. “Those two minutes are highly valuable to a brand.” In television advertising, on the other hand, the number of viewers is at best merely estimated. “Nielsen can tell you that 10 million people saw your ad, but for all they know, you might have been in the kitchen making a sandwich when the ad came on.”  To stay in the game, advertising agencies have had to branch into digital, Fahmi said.  “Not too many ad agencies these days do only TV and print. You have to prove your ability in all media, especially digital.”

Most big brands, Fahmi said, still see television as a powerful way to appeal to consumers’ psyches.  “It’s difficult to deliver the same emotional impact in a banner as in a TV spot,“ Fahmi clarified.  For emphasis, he cited the memorable Mac television commercials comparing Mac and PC computers, with Mac portrayed as a fun-loving person and PC symbolized as a staid dolt. “The Mac vs. PC campaign would not have worked anywhere near as well if it had only been a Flash banner,” stated Fahmi.

Fahmi added that it doesn’t matter whether a consumer watches an advertising video on the web or on TV – but the fact is that people are still watching a lot of TV. “No matter what kind of medium you’re working in, you have to have a story and a persuasive message to consumers,” Fahmi said, “whether it’s during American Idol on TV, or in a rich media ad on your smart phone coming home from work.”  Most, if not all, big brands in America still use the television modality to forge a connection between consumers and the brand.

However, digital advertising has become significantly more engaging over the past decade, and absolutely essential to a client’s marketing mix, Fahmi said. “Compelling websites can draw consumers into rich, immersive experiences that TV spots have no hope of delivering,” he explained.   He said it is possible to embed rich media video within a banner ad. Viewers can click on it and watch video, such as a comedy show.  “Some do pretty well,” Fahmi said, of these types of ads.  “If you get .03 percent of visitors to click on your ad, that’s considered good.”

Another, less-utilized but increasingly intriguing advertising format is the 3-5 minute branded short film.  Not all companies can afford this mode of marketing. Fahmi said the most famous branded films are from BMW, featuring “amazing pieces of content and amazing directors.”  He estimates that shooting each film probably cost somewhere “in the millions.”  At the other end of the spectrum, a brand with a lower budget could commission an animated piece incorporating aftereffects and flash for $30,000.

At this point you may be wondering about viral videos.  For many business owners and consumers, creating and disseminating a viral video would seem to be the ideal way to get the word out about a brand, and to do it cheaply.   Fahmi reported that some past clients have approached his team saying they want their ad to go viral.

“That’s a tall order for most corporate brands,” Fahmi said.  This is because he believes the age of true viral videos is past.  These days, professionals are paid to post marketing videos repeatedly.  “It’s like P.R.,” Fahmi said. “Most of the top videos on YouTube are there for a reason — somebody’s been paid to maximize that video’s visibility.” In order to make a video truly viral, he said, “you usually have to be absolutely hilarious, bizarre, or controversial.  “Most corporate clients tend to hesitate when you present them ideas that fit those criteria.”

Fahmi allowed that another way to achieve widespread sharing of a video is to make it “over-the-top amazing” – but that also costs big.  You could use celebrities, he said, “borrowing their credibility and glamour.”  Or you could be like Phillips, which did an ad that lit up the opera house in Sydney using Phillips bulbs.  He said the company spent $500,000 in the process.

No matter what, though, Fahmi concludes that “video is still the strongest way to deliver an emotional message.  “You can’t underestimate the power of a beautifully-done video – it’s still the most powerful way to connect with the consumer.”  In fact, Organic, Inc. often uses video as a way to present its credentials to clients because “people just get it.  People like to watch video.”

Fahmi’s most recent project is on Bank of America’s website: myhome.bankofamerica.com.  Visitors are walked through how much money they need to save what they should look for when exploring the real estate market.  “It’s an interactive experience designed to educate you in what you need to do to buy a home,” Fahmi explained.

You can check out Fahmi’s work, including his award-winning TV-spots, here: http://www.kareemfahmi.com/

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