1K Ideas in a 4K World

11.16.17 / John Patterson / Advertising

Even before the ball dropped in Times Square, the marketing world declared that 2017 would be The Year of the Online Video. And they were right. Video ads now account for 35 percent of all ad spending online. And nearly nine out of 10 online marketers employ video content in their digital marketing strategies.

Yet, if 2017 is The Year of the Online Video, it’s just as certain that 2018 will be The Year of the Online Video That Doesn’t Suck.

Until now, many agencies and marketing directors have been playing catch-up. In a rush to create video content to please hungry clients and consumers, they’ve given little thought to the message, and the medium itself. But soon, the videos that capture attention will be the ones based not upon technology, but upon something far more primitive: Our brains.

The next generation of online video will, by necessity, need to be driven by ideas – in particular, ideas that support an overall brand message. Otherwise, advertisers run the risk of losing their identity. It wasn’t a big deal when video content made up a tiny fraction of your marketing budget. But that’s not the case any longer. Video needs to be taken as seriously as every other medium.

Facebook, as you might expect, is a driving force for this change. It’s been championing the six-second video as a new standard for advertising, and that makes creativity more necessary than ever. It also makes it imperative that the message is focused on a single, on-brand thought. How do you tell one story in six seconds? You’ve got to throw out the rules of video storytelling and start over. With consumers controlling what they view on their mobile devices, you can’t afford to be wrong.

But the lessons apply to longer videos as well. There is a glut of long, rambling, self-serving video content out there. In order to effectively market online, videos – regardless of length – will need to do more “telling” and less “selling.”

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. There’s always a learning curve when a new medium takes hold, and excitement over that medium often eclipses tried-and-true thinking. Look at television itself. In 1948, less than one percent of the nation’s homes had a television. By 1952, 34 percent had one, and two years later, more than half the nation did. Suddenly, skeptical agency creatives who believed in the power of radio were being asked to make – gasp! – television commercials.


The first TV spots were often just radio spots with a camera rolling. Take this one from Sanka, which ran during an episode of “The Goldbergs.”

Soon enough, however, advertisers realized the power of the new medium. What’s more, they made spots that used that medium to drive home their brand’s positioning.

Today, the smartest brands are seizing the power of online video and seamlessly capitalizing on it to align with their corporate values and brand positioning. Nearly 70 years after Sanka ran that commercial, take a look at one of the online videos in this series from another coffee brand – Starbucks – called “Upstanders.”



Starbucks is creating compelling video content without forgetting who they are. They’re not just going viral for the sake of going viral. They’re staying focused, true to themselves, and ahead of their competition.

Recently, Facebook announced it was testing 4K video by offering the feature to select users and pages. That’s great. It’s about time Facebook brought a higher level of video quality to its site. But 4K technology is pointless if it’s filled with 1K ideas. All it will do is bring into greater clarity the fact that your brand doesn’t stand for anything.

As 2018 approaches, start planning to make better, more thoughtful, more on-brand videos. Don’t be Sanka. Be Starbucks.

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