A charming young woman rings your doorbell, says she has locked herself out of her apartment and asks to be let into your home. She is only wearing a towel and your wife is arriving any minute. Do you let the woman in or turn her away?
Audiences at the 1967 Expo in Montreal were faced with this exact choice and several others as part of the world’s first interactive film, a Czechoslovakian comedy called Kinoautomat: One Man and His House. I don’t know which option the audience liked more (although I have a pretty good idea), but I do know interactive video has come a long way since 1967.
Today, this type of vehicle is becoming much more mainstream. As a testament to its popularity and growing role in the digital-media landscape, the media and advertising industries have even created new awards to celebrate them, including the Tribeca Film Festival, MTV O Awards, Webby’s and more (Tribeca just debuted the first interactive film in its history). And it isn't slowing down. The interactive-media sector is expected to see a 33 percent increase in profitability this year, according to Ernst & Young,
For those still on the fence about including interactive videos into their marketing strategy, here are four reasons why you should.
1. Devices are evolving. The internet is interactive, as are the devices that connect to it: PCs, TVs, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and so on. Technology is evolving from delivering content to you as a passive observer to offering you an opportunity to control what you see, when you see it and how you experience it.
The changing habits of consumers -- particularly the younger generations -- are creating an entirely new set of expectations for engagement. In the classroom, learning is increasingly facilitated through iPads, not notepads. And in the living room, YouTube is more recognizable as a brand than most broadcast networks. Need more evidence? Check out this video of an infant using an iPad and trying the same approach with a magazine, only to get frustrated.
To capitalize on the shift in expectations, marketers need to fully leverage the interactivity inherent in digital devices. One way to do so is to create content for the medium. For example, Raz-Kids creates interactive e-books for children on their preferred reading platform: mobile devices.
2. Audiences are different. There’s no denying that our habits, expectations and even attention spans are quickly changing in today’s digital world. With more connected devices (think wearables), the prevalence of social-media platforms, the expectation of on-demand content and the desire of millennials for everything to be personalized, marketers are challenged to create compelling, engaging and shareable content that will break through all the noise.
One way is to stop simply pushing messages at the audiences and hoping they hear it. Instead, marketers should engage the audience in a dialogue -- treat them as co-creators and invite them to participate in a story by allowing them to determine what happens next. Not only will consumers lean forward, they will likely spend more meaningful time with a brand.
One example of this is the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, which has drawn fans into the conversation by encouraging them to submit videos and then vote on their favorites to appear during the Super Bowl. The campaign’s wide success has kept it running for seven years, with their record-breaking 2014 campaign drawing nearly 100 million views for the five finalist videos.
3. Storytelling has changed. While digital devices invite interactivity through comments, likes and links, those activities fall outside of the actual narrative experience. Storytellers are already creating content that they hope will be shared, but there is a need to move toward making the content itself more engaging.
The music industry has led the way in pushing the envelope with non-linear storytelling. From Arcade Fire’s collaborations with Google to Pharrell presenting a 24-hour music video to our own interactive video for Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” these interactive videos not only showcase unique creativity but are exploring new ways to tell a story.
Audiences are passionate about these nonlinear stories, and they succeed in standing out in an otherwise cluttered marketplace. Despite their polished look, interactive videos don’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of affordable tools, like HapYak or MadVideo (or our platform Treehouse is free for noncommercial use). Or if you want to go the traditional video route, you can add annotations in YouTube for increased interactivity.
4. Data-collection capabilities have improved. With the internet, marketers can speak to the right person with the right message, making their work so much more effective. And still, brands continue to create a single piece of content or slightly different versions, which they broadcast to audiences based on broad generalizations.
One example of this is movie trailers. Studios often create multiple versions of a trailer, which they test in different markets on fairly generic assumptions. A better alternative would be to create a single interactive trailer that lets the individual viewer make choices to ultimately watch the version most relevant to them and inspire them to see the film.
In the music industry there’s a saying that if someone hears a song three times it will stick. Interestingly enough, according to my company’s data, interactive videos inspire viewers to replay them on average up to three times. If you want to make your brand stick, try interactive video.