In this edition of ‘Buy-Side View’, we speak with Callum Watt, brand director at online retailer Firebox. In this interview, Watt discusses the different strengths of Facebook and YouTube when it comes to brand building and sales generation, and how video can be used for both purposes. He also outlines why he’d like to see brands become more open towards sharing their learnings with each other.
What is your biggest bugbear when it comes to video and OTT advertising?
For me, time and cost are two big factors. A lot of the time businesses understand the need for video, but often what doesn’t come with video advertising is immediate impact. So businesses don’t necessarily have the patience to create great branding or great product focused videos, especially from the retail point of view.
Retailers don’t have that patience to create that sort of story driven content, compared to the big media brands who can dedicate a lot of resources to it. The retail landscape has changed so much, and everyone is looking at the bottom line, rather than thinking about brand marketing and storytelling.
How much media buying – if any – are you carrying out in-house?
At Firebox typically we’ve done most things in house. For media, we are currently working with a media agency, which is a new appointment over the past couple of months, which had allowed us to extend our capacity across channels.
Internally we were focusing on PPC and elements of paid social. But as we expand onto more channels and formats, that’s becoming a bit more complicated. We dabbled with affiliates and display in-house, but by taking on agency support, we’ve been able to upscale that activity quite quickly.
What advice would you give smaller sell-side companies to help them compete with the larger platforms?
My advice would be to invest in video, and have the patience to develop truly narrative driven content. Being able to tell a branded story can be a very powerful thing, and I think that’s what the consumers will eventually buy into, which will set you apart from your competitors.
Which do you think video advertising is the most effective for – generating awareness and brand-building, or driving short-term sales?
Over the years I’ve used it for both, but wherever I’ve worked I’ve definitely seen it perform better for raising awareness and brand building than for driving short-term sales. Especially when you’re looking at storytelling video content, that’s much more about brand building.
When I was at Topman, I ran a six month test of video content on YouTube and Facebook, and it was very interesting to see the outcomes from it. We were producing weekly video content, and then editing it for suitability on the platforms, so we were each playing to the platforms’ strengths.
What we saw over the six months was that on YouTube our brand metrics like overall reach, view-through rate and engagement were all increasing quite significantly. We were growing an audience and could see people were engaged, and our overall brand sentiment increased in that period. But it really wasn’t driving many, if any, sales at all.
Then on Facebook, we didn’t see the brand metrics move that much. We got reach, but the view-through rate didn’t change that much, people were only watching a few seconds of video. Our view-through rate was one minute thirty on YouTube so we knew the content was working for brand building when put in the right place. But on Facebook we did see fairly significant sales come from the campaign.
So we could see that YouTube was the right platform for us for brand building, while Facebook worked better for driving sales, though that was a few years ago and the platforms have changed since then.
Are you investing in OTT advertising? How will the shift towards OTT change your TV buying strategy?
We’re not spending on OTT yet, but we are watching it very closely for next year. I’m very interested in being able to buy it programmatically, and seeing how that develops next year.
I’d also like to be able to test it more efficiently, as at the moment there’s not a huge amount you can do to quickly test and learn on OTT. So if we could see that developed in the same way it has for digital, that would make OTT more attractive for 2020.
What could brands do to help clean up the industry?
I’d like to see more of us sharing information. In my experience, everyone is very guarded when it comes to that. I’d like there to be an honest, trusted, and maybe even confidential platform that could exist for brands and retailers to meet and network, to share their learnings, their frustrations and their positive findings.
That would be so useful, because we could then work collaboratively on any issues we’re having, whether that’s fake video views, measurement, or whatever it might be.
There are lots of networking events and conferences out there trying to do this sort of thing, but none of them are really ongoing. No one is meeting up on a weekly or monthly basis like you do internally in a business, and that’s what’s really required for these sorts of things.
Which metrics do you value the most when it comes to video and OTT advertising?
Before I even look at metrics, the first question I ask is whether the video content is watchable. I don’t think the world needs any more branded content, there’s enough being produced, it just needs to be better quality.
Even if the video is ten or fifteen seconds long, I look at it like it’s a movie. Is there a story there? What are the actors and models trying to portray? What is my takeaway? Those are the questions I’m asking myself from a professional standpoint.
So that leads me to looking at the view-through rate, and understanding if there’s engagement coming off the back of that. Because if most of the audience is watching 100 percent of the video, then it’s watchable, so we must have done something right.
And if it’s watchable, then hopefully it’s memorable, so then there will be brand recall associated with that as well, which is probably the next most important metric for me.
If you had £1,000,000 to spend and were forced to choose between content marketing, influencer marketing or paid advertising, which would you choose and why?
Over the years I’ve spent across all those three. But if I had that amount of money I would spend it on content marketing. With that money I would create an online mini-TV series which would play out across my brand channels. That would then act as a tool to build a community with my current audience. And hopefully my current audience would love it so much that they would spread the good word.
Word of mouth is incredibly strong, especially when you’re looking at community building. So hopefully the content would be so rich and powerful that people couldn’t help but share it, and therefore they’d act as our brand ambassadors.
Out of all the video and TV advertising campaigns you’ve been involved with, which are you most proud of?
When I was at Bacardi I looked after a portfolio of whiskeys, including Dewar’s Whisky. For Dewar’s we created a mini-series of TV ads all about our double aging process, and the idea was to bring to life the double aging process in a creative, interesting and watchable way, rather than just telling the story of another brown liquid and its double aging process.
A lot of whisky providers talk a lot about the product specifics, rather than showing something that’s visually interesting. So we created this series of ads, and our research last year showed us that they were seen as the best whisky video ads of 2018.
And the impact was substantial. Pre-campaign, Dewar’s was the eleventh most talked about whisky brand according to our research on social listening, but post campaign, it’s the fourth most talked about whisky. For us to be able to move that dial, that told us we had a real creative cut-through which resonated with our audience.