It’s live, it’s 360, it’s immersive: that’s video today, are you there yet?

I’ve got some bad news for marketers struggling to get to grips with mobile video. The pace of change is about to ratchet up a notch or two. Particularly in this part of the world. In Southeast Asia we love our phones and we love video and, unlike many parts of the world, we’re ready for the next big thing. That presents a challenge for those brands who know they should be doing more in the mobile space, but they’re not entirely sure what.

First, some facts and figures. AOL recently conducted its sixth annual global study of video use. It found that consumers in this part of the world watch online video more often on their mobile phone than on any other device; 72% watch video on their smartphone daily, compared to 60% who watch on a computer. Elsewhere, with the exception of Japan, it’s the other way around: computers are used the most for viewing video.

It’s hardly surprising we lead on the mobile video stakes. More people in the region have a smartphone rather than a computer, and we like to have anytime access to videos. In fact, 37% of us watch online videos at work; perhaps not something to boast about, but another stand out trait for this part of the world.

Our region is ahead of the rest in another way. We have thrown ourselves into the latest video trends, including live streaming, 360 video and virtual and augmented reality. Here are the facts gleaned from the AOL study, all for users in Southeast Asia:

  • 35% watch live video content daily (including Facebook Live, Periscope and TV live streams), compared to 20% globally
  • 56% engage with virtual reality at least once a month, compared to 37% globally
  • 66% engage with 360 video once a month, compared with 38% globally
  • 62% engage with augmented reality, compared with 36% globally

It’s not the next big thing, it’s here already

Live video is nothing new. Facebook live just broadened the reach a little. Virtual reality has been a part of a gamers life for years. Samsung was amongst the first to take that experience and add it to your mobile phone with their Gear VR headset. And you wouldn’t buy a GoPro these days without 360 degree coverage, which can now be viewed on YouTube just as you would any other video, but with the option to swipe and see what’s around.

As for augmented reality, you only need to look at the Pokemon GO phenomenon to understand how quickly technologies can catch on – it launched in July 2016 and within months had been downloaded half a billion times. So, the terminology might appear relatively new, but these concepts are embedded into how we consume video. This isn’t an emerging trend, it is already clearly established.

How can we cope?

You see a problem here? Consumers are pushing ahead with their adoption of what’s next, whilst advertisers are struggling to keep up with where we were a couple of years ago.

The good news from the AOL study is that the vast majority of buyers plan to spend more on mobile video advertising this year. A quarter expect to ramp it up buy more than 50%. But they recognise the medium is not without its challenges – in particular targeting, understanding audience behaviour and producing the right creative. In fact these all ranked as much higher order issues than issues that seem to dominate the industry’s thinking time, such as ad fraud, transparency and valuation of inventory.

Yes, we are more concerned about getting the right creative to the right people, and understanding how they engage in that experience.

It’s great that these are the major concerns, because the more immersive the video experience, the more important these issues are. Imagine donning a virtual reality headset and panning a scene that’s been poorly produced, or just doesn’t relate to you in any form. Conversely, imagine if it was a truly ‘out of this world’ experience – think about how that could enhance your impression of a brand.

We can spend a lot of time ensuring we use the right data and track online behaviour to the hilt – and we should do that – but it amounts to nothing if the creative is weak.

Traditional video is ordinary

Did you know November 21st is World Television Day? It’s a day to celebrate a medium that has changed so many of our lives. Think about the historic events we have lived through television – the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Moon Landing, Live Aid, 9/11. There’s no doubt it has had a significant influence on all of us.

But it also seems the idea of a two-dimensional pre-recorded sequence is a little old fashioned. It’s clear the younger generation thinks so. In Australia teens watch about a third as much TV in the home than those aged 35-49; and one fifth as much as those aged over 65. It’s likely the same pattern is emerging in this region, if not more so.

The fact that consumers in this region have been so quick to adopt immersive content demonstrates how agencies and brands needs to develop content that fits with the times. How and where it’s delivered is an important part of the puzzle – one that programmatic technology is more than capable of delivering – but the real focus for the advertiser is, how can I dazzle my audience. How can I use 360 degrees, live content, virtual reality or augmented reality, to deliver a standout experience. Because audiences won’t settle for the humdrum anymore.

Alex Khan is managing director of AOL Asia.

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