Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in May-Jun 2017

Understanding what drives the native video

What Pakistani brands need to do in order to master native videos.
Illustration by Creative Unit.
Illustration by Creative Unit.

The other day, one of my Facebook friends posted this query as a status update:

“Why is Facebook pretending to be Insta?”

The implication was obvious – what’s with all the videos showing up on our Facebook newsfeeds? There were many replies to her question, with most people suggesting that Facebook is competing with Instagram and Snapchat for social network dominance. Yet, this is only partially correct. Yes, it is true that many people use Facebook in tandem with other networks and tend to prefer the others, but Facebook’s real competition – and the reason for their new and improved video strategy – is YouTube, and perhaps more to the point, Google (which owns YouTube).

In February this year, when Facebook unveiled their new video strategy, Mark Zuckerberg said video is a ‘megatrend’ that he wants to capture, but for now, the focus will be on shorter form content, i.e. native video. Facebook started putting this strategy to the test in the last quarter of 2016 by downplaying other video formats and automatically playing all videos on our newsfeeds (albeit without sound). The results were encouraging to say the least, and analysts found that Facebook’s native videos performed, on average, 186% times better and held a 1,055% higher share rate than YouTube videos.

With Facebook’s aggressive video strategy, YouTube’s continuing popularity, Instagram’s launch of ‘Stories’ and a growing audience on Snapchat, native video is having its moment. In Pakistan, this is coupled with improvements in 3G, 4G, WiFi and broadband which have made downloading and watching videos an inherently better experience. Additionally, by most accounts, internet penetration in Pakistan has reached 14 to 15% and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has recently reported that almost 40% of its data usage is from video. These facts and figures are more than enough evidence for brands to invest in native video, if they haven’t done so already.

Most large brands have had a digital strategy for the last few years, but as Syed Amir Haleem, CEO, KueBall Digital, explains, there is a definite change in their attitude towards the medium. “A few years ago, when brands first started experimenting with digital, they had an annual budget of a mere Rs 50,000 for the medium; today, the larger brands are spending almost 10% of their total marketing budget on digital, and as for the medium and smaller brands, they are devoting 80 to 90% of their marketing investment to digital, because ATL media has become unaffordable.”

Not only is ATL more expensive, but because digital is more measurable, it has become obvious that video, when done correctly, is far more engaging. According to Azam Jalal Khan, COO, Digitz, as per Facebook’s statistics, video comes out as 70 to 80% more engaging than static posts. Khan emphasises the importance of video for brands by saying that “brands which do not have a video strategy in 2017 are comparable to brands that didn’t have a social media strategy in 2012.”

Although brands are investing time and money in video, their objectives appear to be driven more by the desire to achieve the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set out by regional or international offices, rather than to drive real engagement with consumers – and this is obvious from the type of content they are creating, most of which mirrors what is already popular and has gone viral internationally.

"Brands which do not have a video strategy in 2017 are comparable to brands that didn’t have a social media strategy in 2012."

In Haleem’s opinion, the brief from brands to their digital agencies should be to drive engagement through native videos, instead of asking them to replicate something they have seen on YouTube or Facebook. Cases in point are the many local food brands that are copying the simple but incredibly effective Tasty food videos.

The trouble with replication, says Haleem, is that “consumers only have a certain capacity to absorb a type of content; after that they want to experience new things and if you keep replicating, you will not get engagement.”

There are other problems too when it comes to engagement. By their very nature, engaging videos are those which may (or not) have been created by brands, but their true test occurs when they are taken over and owned by consumers. An excellent example is the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ series. For better or for worse, the idea generated so much interest that it resulted in a great deal of brand-consumer dialogue as well as positive and negative user-generated content (UGC).

From this we can surmise that good video content will create engagement by driving consumer interest and linking it intelligently to what the brand stands for, so that people will participate and want to become part of it. Of course, this kind of engagement requires that the brand willingly relinquishes control of their Big Idea, thereby enabling consumers to own the idea; unfortunately, most brands in Pakistan are still afraid to engage in this manner.

Haleem says the acid test of good video content is that “it doesn’t stop when the brand stops producing something. The consumer owns it and starts generating the content.”

Going back to Khan, he says that one of the main reasons that this type of content is so appealing is because it has authenticity and “consumers are more likely to interact with something that doesn’t have a logo on it.”

This authenticity is driven by the fact that there is room for engagement and conversation with a brand in a way that is impossible on ATL media. However, the key is for brands to manage that conversation without becoming defensive in the face of criticism as and when it arises.

It is equally important for brands to ensure that the content gives value to consumers without necessarily pushing the brand in every frame. Khan says a lot of brands just want “lifestyle related content regardless of whether it connects with their brand or not, simply because they think this is what will appeal to consumers.”

Haleem believes these disconnections are partially driven by the fact that brand teams don’t understand digital as a medium. However, he adds that it is not possible to play the blame game because digital agencies too are not equipped with trained resources to be able to create good native video content and are drawing on people who have experience working on TVCs.

This, according to Haleem, is not ideal, and there is a lack of conceptualisation in the videos.

“These resources are used to creating one-way ATL videos and that is why nothing goes viral.”

Although brand experimentation with native videos has yet to cross the threshold of virality and UGC, both Haleem and Khan know that this is part of the digital journey and that brands are going in the right direction.

“Yes, brands are not adept at video at the moment but it is a journey,” says Haleem. “In a few years from now, when internet penetration increases and 25% of the spending population is connected to the internet, brands should have already gone through that journey.”

Marylou Andrew is a freelance writer and a former member of Aurora’s editorial team.