2014: The Year Prankvertising Jumps the Shark?

2013 was a landmark year in social video advertising but what can we expect from brands, creators and agencies in 2014? Two things are for sure, with 3 major tentpole sporting events due in the next 6 months, and the rise in second-screen ownership, the opportunity to reach new audiences around the globe has never been greater. We spoke to Sarah Wood, COO of Unruly, who predicts the rise of short-form content, a change in the way brands discover what it takes to go viral and the end of prankvertising as we know it.

Prankvertising Has Jumped the Shark

ReelSEO: Sarah, some of the most successful viral video ads of 2013 came in the form of the prank advert. Do you see this format lasting another 12 months?

Sarah Wood: Brands who continue to use prankvertising are going to have to tread a fine line because although they want to shock or surprise their audience, they cannot risk alienating them. I think Prankvertising has hit its height. The reason I think it’s over is because of the wonderful John St parody – everyone is aware of the genre and it is starting to lose its impact just because it is so well-known. Brands and agencies who continue to use the format will need to do it very well for it to succeed. One brand that did do that at Christmas was WestJet, who played that beautiful prank on their passengers. It worked because it was in the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of giving and that was a really nice twist.

Goodbye Prankvertising, Hello Trackvert

ReelSEO: So if Prankvertising is losing its edge, what do you think will replace it?

SW: This year we are predicting that the Trackvert will be huge. Think Beyonce’s videos for H&M, and Lady Gaga and the Kia Hamsters. We’re going to see brands and musicians coming together to produce some exhilarating content. This is also economically determined as well, partly because of the revolution in the music industry so new revenue streams are needed – at the same time, brands are looking to be more creative with content so it’s a natural relationship.

Repurposing Video Content Can Work if Done Really Well

ReelSEO: What brands really stand out for you, in terms of being creative in their approach to advertising and how they reached their target audience?

SW: There are so many brands doing things so well in their own niches. The brands that are doing well in these sectors don’t necessarily have to do well across all social media. Brands that I thought did really well at Christmas were Kmart with ‘Show your Joe’ and 3 with Pony at Christmas. Both of these brands had great campaigns during 2013 and they reviewed their approach for a Christmas market and it was perfect timing for both. That’s a great way of tapping into the zeitgeist that isn’t too time-intensive. They can take content that they’ve already created and customize it for a new occasion.


ReelSEO: What are your big predictions for 2014 in terms of social video and video marketing and advertising?

Prediction #1: Video Advertising Matures

SW:My big prediction for 2014 would be that the video advertising format becomes more mature. This has to happen because there is interest from both brands who want to publish their content in a content-rich environment on behalf of their content stream, and there’s an interest from publishers who want to increase their revenue streams, which have been falling over recent years. Native advertising feels like a great way to do this but there are issues around disclosure and transparency and also relevance so it’s going to be a hot topic with a lot of scrutiny and focus on how success is measured in native environments.

For video, views have always been very important for advertisers but where does a view take you? I think we are going to see brands questioning the value of a view and we are going to see the main purpose of digital video changing from being about pure brand awareness to further metrics down the funnel such as uplift, purchase consideration.

Prediction #2: Short-form is Here for the Long-term

SW: My second prediction is for short form content. Last year we saw lots of brands experimenting with short-form content such as Vine and Instagram video but that was too late to be incorporated into many large-scale marketing programs. This year, many brands are going to integrate it into their longer term marketing campaigns.

Prediction #3 Tentpole Sporting Events Will Dominate 2014

SW: 2014 is going to be such a big year compared to last year which was dubbed Empty-13, because no tentpole sporting events, this year we have the Winter Olympics, The Super Bowl and The World Cup all in the space of 6 months which is going to give brands the opportunity to enter into conversations and be part of the party atmosphere. We’re very excited to see who is going to be taking advantage. The bar is higher than ever before in terms of content and the media landscape is more cluttered than it’s ever been before – more brands are creating content, more people are connected via social media and are talking to each other so brands that want to capture viewer’s attention needs to be creating awesome content and distributing it in a way that makes sure it’s going to get seen.

Prediction #4: Marketers and Brands will Turn to Tools

SW: Discovery and curation tools will be invaluable in 2014. We’ve seen lots of big brands embrace the concept of actually being a ‘brand’, whether that’s a manufacturer, a single content producer or whatever – and then understanding that a brand has to capture and entertain an audience. Brands have mainly been using people to discover/research good content. We’ve talked to a lot of brands who have big teams of people and may also employ a PR or social Media agency looking to identify content – that’s very labour intensive. I think we’ll see an organization shift where technology is used a lot more to meet that demand and help out. We will see brands using tools to make the system faster, sustainable and more efficient.

Two concurrent trends – and how brands use these – are going to determine how successful they are in the video space. One is the ability to automate content but at the same time, doing that in a way that stays true to the brands own identity and also resonates and makes an emotional connection with the brand’s consumers. A combination of a very human input along with a programmatic input. Together they are going to be very powerful and almost impossible without each other.

Sarah Wood: Unruly

Gherkin headshot (SW)Sarah Wood is Co-founder and COO of marketing technology company, Unruly, where she ensures that the company delivers the most awesome social video campaigns on the planet. She has been voted UK Female Entrepreneur of the Year by the Growing Business Awards, one of 15 Women to Watch in Tech by Inc., one of 10 London-Based Entrepreneurs to Watch by Forbes and a Rising Star in Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in UK IT. Sarah is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches a course in “Mash-Ups, Memes and LOLitics: Online Video Culture and the Screen Media Revolution” for the Screen Media and Cultures MPhil.