I interview Bismarck Lepe, co-founder and President of Products for one of today’s leading online video platforms, Ooyala. Bismarck talked with me about how best to work with your online video hosting provider in terms of doing “social video marketing,” and how “social needs to be a standard part of everybody’s targeting for delivering a message to consumers” today.
I’ve now interviewed Bismarck at back-to-back Streaming Media West conferences, and followed the developments with into video monetization and performance measurement. I was particularly interested to catch up with him from last year and learn more about how he thinks both marketers and consumers have evolved with the technology advances in online video and OVPs, and what he sees for it’s future.
The Power of Video + Marketing
Grant (me): How would you define “online video marketing?”
Bismarck: I look at online video as a communication tool. It’s one of these most efficient communication tools out there. Because as humans, we’ve been wired and trained over millions of years of evolutionary change, to use sight, sound, and motion to communicate. So if you’re a video marketer, you’re actually taking a lot of what you would deliver in text or images, and use motion to actually get a message across to your consumers. From what we’ve seen, we’ve noticed that video is far more effective than any other medium to drive people to websites, potential customers to stores, and eventually drive overall conversions and sales of individual products.
Me: How will businesses have to learn to make changes to their own marketing strategies with video?
Bismarck: Unfortunately, to date, most of the communication has been in one direction. The marketer that’s communicating to the consumer, rarely gets that feedback of what the consumer is actually saying, what the consumer may find interesting or don’t. The marketer usually looks at their data and says, “Well, I’m inferring that this guy didn’t really like this product because they abandoned the video after 5 seconds.” But there’s so much more. There are so many other tools, like the social piece.
For example: Having a twitter feed and allowing for two-way communication when video is happening; making sure marketers are taking advantage of live video, as opposed to making everything on-demand video and engaging in that conversation; making elements in video interactive. All of these things really tap into what the Internet is about, which is connecting with your consumer, and engaging in conversation; and not just pushing content that looks like the TV experience from yesteryear.
Social Video Marketing
Me: “Communication” is how we are social. Do you believe there is now a distinction/emphasis on what could be referred to as, “social video marketing?”
Bismarck: I would say that “social” needs to become a standard part of every-body’s targeting for delivering a message to consumers. The Social graph is extremely important. We find that play rates, length of plays, number of videos viewed, etc…, more than double when they’re actually recommended from Twitter or Facebook. If someone is actually sending you a video and posting it onto their Facebook Wall, you’re actually more likely to watch it than if you’re on a random site where a video pops up.
So I think is something that you need to do, and it needs to become a dimension of what you do.
Me: So how does an online video platform (OVP) integrate social video marketing?
Bismarck: You need to make sure that whatever provider you’re working with, they allow you to share content to these social media platforms. But then, they are also neatly integrated to make sure that there isn’t a 2-click or 3-click experience; and then probably most importantly, making sure that you’re able to track and figure out what is and isn’t working.
Me: How does a marketer measure the social aspects of video in an OVP?
Bismarck: One of the interesting sets is that we have our own analytics platform. For the videos on our site, users in San Francisco are 4x more likely to watch that video or to have found that video via a Twitter or a Facebook share. In Dallas, it’s the opposite; they’re 4x more likely to discover or watch a video as it was sent to them via e-mail, or they pulled the embed from somewhere.
Obviously, the pockets of the Silicon Valley, and New York, you have the early adopters, who are far more entrenched with what’s happening with social media. But as we’ve seen with a lot of other technologies and services, eventually that is going to be the way that people are going to be discovering content. The social aspects of it will be very important. It won’t be everything, but it will be very a very important signal.
Online Video Marketing Obstacles
Me: What do you see as the big obstacles with online video for marketers, and businesses in general, that need to be overcome?
Bismarck:It needs to be easier to create high-quality video. I’m really excited about a lot of companies that are out there (like TurnHere), that actually provide these services – to create high-quality video for businesses, and for marketers. There just needs to be more of that. We need to get it to a point where a publisher or marketer can actually experiment with different messages, to make sure that they are adjusting as they get the real-time data.
In terms of measurements, I think that people just need to understand what they’re supposed to be measuring. There are some videos that are good for actually converting a prospect to a customer, kind of towards the bottom end of the funnel.
The reality is that, where video really helps is near the top of the funnel, in pushing people through the funnel; and just increasing that velocity. It’s better for training, it’s better for education, you get customer testimonials, you actually see what customers are talking about; how extremely excited they are about buying X, Y, and Z products.
Bismarck, Ooyala, Google, and Online Video
Me: How did you get started in online video, professionally?
Bismarck: When I was at Google, my team was responsible for the non-text-based advertising business, which included display advertising and video advertising. So when we acquired this little video company called YouTube, my team was actually brought in to figure out how to monetize it. It just because really obvious that this was a $400 billion/year market that was completely in flux, and going to digital. I figured that I could either stay with Google and push the industry from there; or I might go out and start something on my own, and be a change agent for it.
Me: What was the strategy behind Ooyala when you started out?
Bismarck: We initially started with the idea of personalizing the media experience. We were noticing that online, consumers are in control. The content is important, but the consumer is king. We needed initially to develop a way to deliver very targeted advertising, very targeted content, to consumers. As we went out and started looking at a lot of the solutions that were out there, we realized that high-quality video couldn’t really be delivered in Flash. So, we developed our own streaming technology that had adaptive bitrate delivery in Flash. Because we developed kind of our own way of delivering video, we needed to develop our own transcoding engine. It’s allowed us to build a very comprehensive, but also very modular, solution for our publishers.
Initially, we started off primarily with focusing on the media space. But today, we service hundreds of marketers; and especially brand marketers and B2C marketers, that are using video as a communication tool.
Me: So what have you seen in the years you’ve been with Google, to where you are now with Ooyala, that has been online marketers’ own growth with understanding and utilizing video?
Bismarck: Google started off as a direct response company. Then they got into more branded types of advertising. (That was the type of teams that I managed.) Because of Google, they had a history of making sure that everything was very measurable. Their big tagline was, “it’s all about results;” and they started calling it, “brand response.” I think with online video, you can have that. Because it is online, you can really tap into, what’s the impact – that you’re delivering X message on Y site, on C device. You’re actually going to track how quickly people are moving through the funnel, down the funnel, or entering the funnel, based on the messages that you are delivering, based on those factors.
Future Online Video Platform Features and Solutions
Me: What do you see as the future of OVPs and the solutions they’ll offer for their customers?
Bismarck: I think over the next couple years, especially as more people are watching more online video, the need for companies that help with publishing will only continue to grow. 3-5 years down the road, as that industry becomes commoditized, in the same way that the content system industry has become commoditized, you’ll probably have more open source companies, once it actually becomes very interesting for every company to have, but I still think we’re at least a couple years away from that.
What we get excited about is personalizing the overall media experience for the consumers. Because we’ve built out our own analytics engine and we did this for a reason, we’ve really been able to build profile data that can be “anonymized” across many different slices of the population, to more effectively deliver the right type of content at the most appropriate time, with the right kind of monetization models; and I think that’s what’s really exciting. It’s about understanding the consumer, understanding the content, understanding how the consumer is using that content; and then, adjusting all these other levers that we have on our end.
If you’re on a bus, and you’re moving, we can tell that you’re moving, and you’re watching your content on a mobile device – we shouldn’t be recommending a 2-hour long film as the next video that you should watch. It should probably be a 2-minute clip. So having that understanding is what’s going to be the key. And, if you think about the template experience, then it becomes even more interesting to understand how do you search and discover content. Because if you thought that your cable package was a mess with 500 channels, well the Internet is going to turn it into a TV with a billion channels; and being able to discover exactly the type of content that you want to see, and where you want to see it, is going to be the big challenge. We do want to tackle that challenge.
A Bit About Bismarck Lepe
As an Ooyala co-founder and founding CEO, Bismarck Lepe raised $10 million in funding and signed many of the company’s early media partnerships until switching to his current role in 2009. Currently, as President of Product Strategy, Bismarck is responsible for marketing and driving Ooyala’s product development vision.
Before founding Ooyala, Bismarck worked at Google as a Senior Product Manager, developing and managing new products for the company’s AdSense network. Most notably, Bismarck managed the early growth of AdSense display and video advertising.