Video Essentials

SXSW ’14: Online Video Storytelling Is Evolving, Not There Yet

Yes, online video storytelling is evolving, but evolutions don’t happen overnight. At a standing-room-only first day panel, Toby Barlow, executive vice president and chief creative officer for Ford, reminded the audience that 22 years passed between the invention of television and the first great TV show – “I Love Lucy.”

TobyBarlowThe good news is that it’s been around 20 years since Netflix was invented, so terrific online video should show up any day now.

A gifted storyteller himself, Barlow told the audience how in the early days of the web, people thought choose-your-own-adventure-style videos would be the next evolution of storytelling. They weren’t. Basic storytelling has been in human DNA for tens of thousands of years, and viewers have shown they like the old and familiar stores best.

The challenge for brands is to figure out how to harness the power of storytelling to grow a customer base. The answers aren’t always obvious. When Toyota signed the Muppets to create a series of branded Vine videos, Barlow thought there was no way Ford could keep up. Then he learned that another creative exec at Ford had signed up Vine superstars, including as Nicholas Megalis, to create branded videos.

While its seemed impossible to top the Muppets, Barlow showed that the Toyota campaign earned under 200 likes, while the Ford campaign got over 560,000.

As it turns out, hiring online video stars with their own massive followings and getting them to put a Ford in their works was much more effective than creating videos with mainstream stars.

“[The Vine stars] ended up having a much closer relationship with the person,” Barlow said. Those creators know their audiences’ interests, so they’re able to tell branded stories that their followers enjoy. “We’re living in a time where we have access to things that are much closer to what people are interested in.”

Don’t be arrogant, Barlow cautioned the marketers in the audience, and think you can come up with all-new stories that people will be interested in. Instead, insert the brand into successful stories that are already being told.

As long as the result isn’t cheap or gross or tawdry, Barlow said, it can be effective.


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