Advertisers on the prowl for more opportunities within non-fiction video, no matter how consumers watch them (web sites, mobile, smart TV sets and devices) received good news Tuesday throughout day two of the 2021 Digital Content NewFronts. There was a gold rush of new content to check out, from music videos and music-related fare delivered on Vevo to lifestyle, sports and entertainment coverage provided by Conde Nast and Verizon Media.
The Big Message: The marketplace of unscripted programs and programming services will continue to grow as the general public, especially the 18-34 demographic, exercises viewing habits through smart TV sets and connected devices. As those habits mature, it's critical for advertisers to run their messages in the most suitable content possible -- and give viewers the option to request further information on their products, or order them on the fly, through interactivity.
Host: Maria Menounos, joined for this go-round by Digiday senior media editor Tim Peterson. Once again, Menounos kept the agenda on track in a bright, poised manner. She continues to have an easy rapport with her co-hosts, and Peterson's laid-back manner injected a lot of fun and play to the back-and-forth segments. Anyone calling "Take on Me" their favorite music video of all time gets a thumbs-up from here.
What Worked: Kicking things off with YouTube's annual Brandcast, which over the last decade has become one of the best annual showcases of its kind, in-person or virtually. It's always imaginative in format and execution, and yesterday's effort was no exception. Led by host Hasan Minhaj, Brandcast 2021 turned one of the biggest sound stages around into a playground for a variety of YouTube creators, complete with a train track operating in the center of the floor. Think Pee-Wee's Playhouse to the ultimate degree. Their big message: YouTube is as smart a smart TV-distributed medium as anything out there. "(It's) becoming indispensable to millions," declared one creator. "It's a place built on a culture of sharing, a culture of community." For the second year, YouTube allowed NewFront attendees the option to customize Brandcast segments in advance, and this time around, invited viewers to choose what's next several times in a pre-show sequence.
What Also Worked: Channel Factory's "CF Idol" segment, where ad reps watched a trio of content clips, then asked if they would place commercials next to those clips. If yes, give a check. If no, give an X (in Family Feud fashion). Extremely inventive and entertaining approach to covering the topic of brand safety.
What Didn't Work: Spectrum Reach and MAGNA's joint presentation, based on new consumer research over how viewers react to specific commercials placed on specific programs. The main conclusion: When you match TV content with ads in a contextual way, the ads get better results -- in some cases two or three times better than under normal circumstances. A classic case of all tell, no show. Instead of having Spectrum and MAGNA's executive reps go back-and-forth via Zoom with the findings, incorporate an example or two of a program segments matched with a compatible commercial. A simple way to turn a presentation from boring to engaging.
Data Points: Thirty-five percent of ad buyers responding to a new Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) survey expect to increase their smart/connected TV expenditures this year. At the same time, 73 percent of ad buyers already with smart TV in their spending plans will shift dollars from broadcast and cable. Also, 60 percent of all advertiser officials surveyed give smart TV set/device makers and content providers high ratings in creating a brand-safe environment.
YouTube's Originals unit will deliver new unscripted miniseries featuring Will Smith and Alicia Keys in the second half of 2021, along with Ice Cold, a profile of a hip-hop jewelry business, and Recipe for Change, a special celebrating Asian-American culture and trendsetters. At least one interactive ad format will be introduced on a regular basis, where viewers can request further product/service info over their smartphones via their remote or voice control.
Conde Nast has a GQ/GQ Sports linear channel in the works, expected to premiere during the 2021-22 season. Seventy-five series running on web sites, mobile and/or connected devices will get new episodes, with 50 new series pilots in various stages of development. Watch out for more live event specials, including a multi-hour Super Bowl 2022 pre-show.
Vevo is enhancing the ways viewers engage with music videos in the living room. They're continuing to grow and mature in the CTV space, with expanded partners and programming, including linear channels. New products such as Moods, Moments and Concierge are now available for brands to tap into. Billie Eilish closed the show with an exclusive interview and performance.
Broadcast station group Tegna will expand content from its Locked On sports podcasts (covering individual pro and college sports teams) to smart TV applications programmed on the company's 54 stations. A national Locked Out smart app is a late 2021 possibility.
Expect Verizon Media to do a deep dive with immersive parenting, cooking and shopping experiences, powered by 5G and augmented reality technology. One question: When Verizon Media becomes Yahoo! under its just-announced $5 billion purchase by Apollo Funds, will their content continue to be available mostly through mobile, or expand into smart TV carriage?
Parting Words: "Human beings around the world need quality storytelling. We will create culture-defining programming that is timeless." -- Agnes Chu, Conde Nast Entertainment's new president
"We're moments away from an era … where everyone around you is a choose-your-own adventure." -- Ver Nigel Tierney, head of content for Verizon Media division RYOT.
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