Following the disruption caused by digital transformation, we are now entering a phase where the use of new tools is widespread, daily, and almost taken for granted. We can then see how profoundly digitization has changed the balance of power between customers and brands and how, inevitably, the balance between consumers – who are the recipients of the advertising message – and communication agencies – who are responsible for creating and conveying that message throughout the customer journey – is different.
In particular, the proliferation of new media has played a fundamental role both in shaping the new technology horizon and in redefining the type and characteristics of the creative content that agencies must design in order to satisfy the increasingly complex needs of companies. In the case of video, for example, the commercial (which is still widely used in television) has gradually been flanked by leaner, more flexible formats that are open to the contributions of user-spectators.
It is this category of content that we’ll focus on in this post. We’ll talk about the gradual emergence of audiovisual solutions that, thanks to data-telling – the mode of storytelling based on data – are now able to intercept the needs of an aware, differentiated, and changing audience: personalized videos.
Consumers have changed… What about communication?
Before we talk about why personalized videos are now an unavoidable choice for agencies, let’s take a step back and see how the possibility of incorporating data into communication has determined the conditions for brands to build more accurate, authentic, and effective narratives. Let’s start by breaking down a relationship, the one between consumers and advertisers.
In 2007, the Digital Advertising Solutions division of Microsoft created and released a video on YouTube, The Break-Up, that was destined to become viral. The aims were twofold: to make people aware of the characteristics of its offerings on digital channels and to represent, through a metaphor, the transition to a new model of media consumption.
The Break-Up is about the relationship between a consumer and an advertiser (beyond “advertiser,” in this case, it can also refer to advertising agency professionals and to some marketer profiles). The couple (they are married), find themselves in a restaurant. The man is satisfied and confident, and continues to have the same attitude of unjustified confidence even when the woman announces that she wants a divorce. In the course of the meeting, she makes it clear why she is leaving him:
“See, that’s the problem between us: there’s no dialog. I’ve changed and you haven’t.”
Then she gets up and leaves: she is disenchanted rather than disappointed, and absolutely determined to end a communication that is destined, as we immediately understand, to fail. The cause of the inevitable failure is the inability – candor? obstinacy? – of the advertiser, who continues not to (want to) understand what the consumer is telling him. He remains at the table alone and until the end, he really doesn’t seem to understand the topic of discussion, despite the fact that she has made it abundantly clear: the problem is the absolute lack of empathy, interest, and openness. In other words, it is the inability to recognize the other as an equal in the conversation and not as a passive listener.
A new paradigm: from broadcasting to participatory and personalized communication
Microsoft’s video was a huge success because it records an epochal change, the one we described above about the impact of new media on the business world: brands, consumers, and agencies. From the typical broadcasting of “old media” in a one-to-many mode and from top to bottom, that is, from the brand to the consumer (passing through the skills of agencies and production companies) to the new paradigm of co-creation and participation, which is made possible by the new media. This paradigm works in multiple directions: from an audience of spectators, whose only response, binary, is to listen or not to listen and to buy or not to buy, to a community of people who can be heard as never before (and can actually be heard), confident that their voice will resonate distinctly within the dialog with the brand.
The video also talks about the other major change that is taking place before the short-sighted eyes of the abandoned advertiser. With the mass adoption of new technologies, today’s media environment is opening up to personalization, and this is not a cautious advancement but a progressive, unstoppable colonization.
The consumer has become aware of their advanced status with respect to the brand and now not only demands to be heard, but also wants to be recognized and known. The consumer no longer accepts to be confused in a vague demographic segment. It’s much more than age or spending power, and to reach customers and convince them to stay requires companies to extract insight from customer data: personal tastes, desires, idiosyncrasies, consumption habits, preferred touchpoints. (We’ll return to the role played by data in building the company-consumer relationship later in this post.)
Here, however, we want to emphasize how this transition from broadcasting to a participatory and personalized communication is fully reflected in the choice to create personalized videos. This is an increasingly frequent choice for companies and agencies who can take advantage of digitization along virtually the entire customer journey through a powerful and effective format.
The three ingredients of change: Visual culture, interactivity, mobility
However, to fully understand why creating personalized, dynamic video is a must-have opportunity for agencies, let’s add three key elements to our discussion.
- Today we live in a historical period whose distinctive feature, according to the French scholar Régis Debray, is the massive and widespread presence of screens (the “video sphere”). This reminds us of the propensity towards communication that is still deeply rooted in cinema and television culture.
- Ours is also an era where the consumer has access to tools that are designed to allow relationships with advanced interactivity.
- The spread of smartphones, tablets, and other devices, which allows for mobile use, has given digital content an increasingly fluid and cross-cutting nature, since it must be experienced while on the move, away from home, often while performing other activities.
The result of fully bidirectional exchanges, which can take place practically anywhere and at any time of day, is the production of a great mass of information regarding purchasing behaviors, recurring patterns in the navigation of the funnel, preferences, and in the friction encountered along the journey. This is all data that can be capitalized by the brand to create knowledge about the target and, at the same time, gain awareness of its brand identity.
From advertising to data-telling: creating personalized and dynamic videos to offer unique experiences
Among the various formats available to agencies today, video remains the most effective for pursuing the main objective of advertising communication: to be visible and memorable over a short time interval. TV has long been the main media through which to distribute this type of communication: striking, effective, compelling.
In Italy, the advertising break in television programming was imposed during commercial TV broadcasts (1970s-1980s) in the forms still used today: 15 or 30 seconds entirely dedicated to promotion, to be inserted within the TV flow. The short and very short format, designed to have a greater frequency of distribution, was one of the factors that caused an initial information overload, together with the multiplication of channels and competition between an increasing number of networks. Advertising messages began to be perceived as annoying interruptions (even spawning the phenomenon of channel surfing). In the Eighties and Nineties, commercials were struggling to emerge from the swarming chaos of television schedules and agencies found themselves facing a challenge in creating video campaigns that could convince brands and consumers.
In the 2000s, the crisis of traditional formats became almost irreversible: commercials were ignored by a large part of the public. Consumer habits were changing and people were beginning to experiment with the opportunities offered by the web. The level of expectations in terms of the relationship with companies had risen. The model, after having worked for decades and despite the arrival of satellite TV, was irreparably broken.
Communicating Is Living: Digital in mainstream advertising
With its award-winning TV commercial “Gandhi – Comunicare è vivere” (Gandhi — Communicating Is Living) released in 2004 Telecom Italia achieved two objectives, both of absolute strategic importance. At a time when the internet was exploding and people were beginning to talk about risks and privacy protection, Telecom Italia’s institutional image was enriched with positive suggestions, choosing Mahatma Gandhi, the champion of equality, as an unwitting testimonial. On the other hand, however, Telecom Italia carried out a meta-communicative operation that spoke to the universal nature of communication (the advertisement conceived by the Young and Rubicam Italia agency and directed by Spike Lee).
The video shows an excerpt of the famous speech given by Gandhi in New Delhi around the message of solidarity and union among people. It is set in 1947, the year the speech was actually delivered, but the various characters, who we see in successive micro sequences (almost snapshots) can listen to it thanks to the devices that existed in 2004.
From the cell phone used by the couple sitting on a bench in front of the Colosseum to the PC in the home of Native American viewers, from the big screen in Red Square to the monitor in the Oval Office in the White House: the whole world is tuned in to those extraordinary words of peace. In addition to celebrating one of the qualities that is the foundation of our humanity and has allowed us to evolve as a species (i.e. the ability to communicate), the commercial also celebrates two of the aspects that, as we said earlier, constitute digital communication:
- screens (signifying the relevance of visual culture) used here as magical objects capable of creating a common narrative,
- a form of connectivity that allows the “live” message to reach any corner of the earth, even in mobile situations, at the same time.
What is lacking here, on closer inspection, is interactivity and, consequently, the possibility of proceeding to a true delivery of the message to people and for people who are understood in their uniqueness. There are no tools for consumers to participate in the conversation with the brand. There is a lack of timely information to build credible buyer personas. And these are no small deficiencies. The road from the commercial to the creation of personalized and dynamic videos has reached a turning point: now what?
With personalized dynamic videos we become the protagonists of our stories
Now it happens that the deep knowledge of the market and consumers enabled by the granularity of information, the careful listening to the needs of customers, the commitment to offering a truly meaningful experience, end up making it possible to create a small masterpiece where we can see all the features we have been talking about at work: mobility, interactivity, omnichannel, and personalization. This is Nike’s Outdo You project from 2015. It is an example among the first in a chronological sense and certainly one of the most powerful if we talk about creative use of data in advertising communication.
One of the outputs of the project is an interactive video that can be personalized by leveraging information from an ecosystem where sensors, dedicated products, community sharing, and activation platforms talk to each other (Nike+). Starting from the data that these tools have helped to collect in the previous year, Nike creates an interactive and dynamic video in which, if we have a personal Nike+ account, we can become the absolute protagonists.
What digitization enables, and what the Nike+ project does in concrete terms, is to utilize a new experiential dimension that makes its way into everyday life, where the virtual gradually integrates with the physical, freeing itself to a certain extent from spatial and temporal limits. Consumers are beginning to look for the same experience of freedom and flexibility in their purchasing habits that they find in other daily contexts: they expect that the increase in touchpoints (to which are gradually added those online, which are increasingly numerous) will lead them to satisfy needs that are also narrative needs, linked to the urgency of self-representation within a fluid, elusive, and complicated reality.
Digital tools to reflect a complex reality: Doxee Interactive Experience
If the volume of available information coming from multiple sources, in different formats (video, web series, surveys, social sharing, mobile apps, social) has increased exponentially (just think that 90% of the data available in the world today has been created only in the last two years), digital tools can provide a meaningful reading of that same data, collecting it, selecting it, and interpreting it according to precise objectives in order to develop products that are able to overcome the resistance of consumers. With personalized videos, information becomes useful and relevant and can evolve the business processes of companies and communication agencies.
To be able to read a complex reality and translate it into creative formats that are able to create connections between brands and consumers, agencies need tools with precise qualities, tools that must:
- be developed with the most advanced web technology,
- allow for personalization and interactivity,
- be fully bi-directional, multi-channel, and measurable,
- be able to extract value from huge volumes of data
All of these features can be found in Doxee’s interactive experience products.
Doxee for Agencies: Creating personalized dynamic videos with data-telling
In conclusion, digital transformation optimizes communication processes and drives a radical rethinking of different creative formats (e.g., video content) by intervening at virtually every stage of the customer journey. The keystone is, once again, the customer experience, the goal and starting point of a virtuous circle fed by data processing and management systems.
This is the framework in which the idea at the base of data storytelling (or data-telling) is formed, a technique of engagement and involvement that Doxee’s personalized videos express in the most complete form. Data-telling is therefore, even in advertising, a sort of enhancement of storytelling. In Doxee’s data-telling, the “storyteller” has the possibility of having new resources for creating the stories where consumers and clients act: the story therefore takes on new dimensions that are more “digitized” through the use of information that comes from data (structured data, as in the case of a CRM management system, and unstructured data, such as the monitoring of online conversations).
Doxee Pvideo® is perfect for the agency world because it offers customers the possibility to use services for creating data-telling autonomously, with the support of the Doxee team.
Agencies today are called upon to identify the areas of intervention that may still be suitable for traditional advertising, but from there they must move decisively towards personalized and interactive communication to design more engaging and authentic customer experiences, so as to create more stable and lasting bonds between brands and people.