If you've noticed the ads now flooding Facebook's newsfeed, you've probably already encountered performance video. These videos are designed to anticipate and transition to directly speak to their audience, regardless of how often that audience shifts or changes. The outcome is a targeted and personalized marketing experience on a large scale.
Tubescience, a pay-for-performance video lab -- which partners with direct-to-consumer brands -- is responsible for about one out of every 20 or so video ads on the social network. In our conversation, Lucy Bartlett, a vice president at the Los Angeles-based startup, explained how the industry is evolving. Bartlett earned a Ph.D. from the Said Business School at the University of Oxford and has worked and advised in marketing -- from tech companies to social enterprises -- for many years, which informed her insights.
During our conversation, we explored how performance video has increased competition for well-known retailers -- and how the diversity of people featured in the advertisements that entice shoppers to buy a new pair of leggings may be at the core of it all.
Rhett Power: There's been talk of a sea change in advertising, where advertisers are trying to meet consumers where they are instead of telling them what to want. Why is this happening now?
Lucy Bartlett: Non-clickable ads: In the past, people were held captive -- in the midst of primetime television -- by ads. Now, they can just skip them.
That has created the context for a new era of advertising, one that isn't now just about unattainable aspirational characters, emotional storylines and celebrity endorsements. More than ever, what performs best is user-centric content. Ads speak to different customers in ways that are relevant to them; other valuable ads come straight from the communities of consumers via user-generated content. These types of ads feature the people potential customers can relate the most to -- not the person a brand originally envisioned or assumed would use its product.
Power: How is a performance video, in particular, built to enable more diversity? How does it impact growth?
Bartlett: User-centric and user-generated content -- which sells the best over social media -- is, by definition, a source of more diverse people than traditional advertisements. It looks to different types of customers, engaging them in different ways.
By the way, social media advertising is set up to not serve everyone, but to algorithmically serve the most relevant groups. It further pushes only relevant and different content to be delivered to different groups. If you don't have diversity, your window of delivery and conversation potential will be very limited. That may be fine for a while, but once you start to exhaust that group, your growth will plateau or start to become very costly, ultimately hindering significant future growth.
Power: How has your company approached it?
Bartlett: Traditional agencies are trying to sell an idea. For example, a traditional ad might sell the premise "Do you want to party? Buy this alcohol-infused sparkling water."
What we do is find the audiences and user groups for whom the product is a better alternative than mainstream offerings. We'll also look at groups for whom a product is new, but it will benefit them in some way. We market products to the specific needs of different communities.
Take razors: Men and women might use them for different reasons on different parts of their bodies. They might be attracted to a price point or delivery service for different reasons. One group may find it appealing as a product; for example, a brand could offer a one-price product that's the same for everyone -- and doesn't carry the "pink tax" that so many women's products do.
Power: Where do you think a lot of brands go wrong in trying to broach the diversity conversation?
Bartlett: I don't know if they're going about it wrong -- at least, not on purpose. They might just be facing different organizational biases and hurdles. Sometimes, brands still think about diversity as separate from growth. They don't view it as part of their core value proposition, and that can make it vulnerable to changes in company thinking, personnel or budget considerations.
Power: What do you anticipate happening in advertising as the U.S. becomes more diverse?
Bartlett: As far as performance advertising goes, I don't think much will change. That's in the sense of if it continues down the same trajectory, diversity -- and seeing more and more of it -- will spur companies to take note of and take action on it. Advertising will also continue to evolve and change as different communities begin interacting with different social media platforms.
Think about Baby Boomers using TikTok more and more, or consider the increasing use of stories, versus looking at feeds, among different age groups. Advertising will continue to grow in diversity -- as long as products and services are bought by a diverse group of people who feel the item is a better alternative than others on the market.
For digital marketers, the bottom line is if you want to leverage the potential of performance video, you need to drop your brand ideals and assumptions about your consumers and focus on what types of people actually purchase your product.
Think about how they talk, what's important to them and how they talk about it. Incorporate that into your ads. Don't just tell the brand story your boss wants to hear. Tell the one that's going to resonate most with your customers.