John Drinnan: Embracing the video revolution

Growth in online advertising is creating more demand for moving pictures
As video content increases, more of it is being viewed on mobile phones. Photo / Bloomberg
As video content increases, more of it is being viewed on mobile phones. Photo / Bloomberg

Seventies cult musician Gil Scott-Heron was adamant that "the revolution will not be televised". But today's media revolution is in your face every time you pick up a smartphone or check a news website.

The current digital media obsession is with video, to fill advertising space. As consumers, we have moved from liking video, to expecting it and that has meant extra demand for video content and pressure to reduce costs.

In my opinion, video production may be the next sector to face the rigours of disruption.

A cloud-based New Zealand firm called 90 Seconds is already having an impact on the market, and for freelancers it may be a sign of things to come.

90 Seconds has expanded its reach after an $11 million investment in April from US giant Sequoia Capital. Sky TV is also backing the firm, which acts as a market for creative talent to make video content for brands.


Describing itself as the Uber for video production, 90 Seconds exhibits the same gung-ho enthusiasm as the Silicon Valley giant trying to take over the taxi sector.

According to its own online blurb, 90 Seconds "strips back the complexity of video production, giving brands and agencies access to a marketplace of creatives, and an automated, end-to-end suite of workflow tools".

"The 90 Seconds marketplace enables flexible and easy discovery of [thousands] of video creative professionals in over 87 countries across 40 categories including videographers, directors, editors, producers, animators, drone operators, photographers and many more."

On a smaller scale, Brooke Howard-Smith, a former host of TV3 consumer show Target, recently started a similar venture named Tenzing. Elsewhere, the media world has been flooded with small scale video production operators, with varying credentials.

Morphing agencies

By now, media and advertising is awash with broken business models, new technology and new companies with impossible names, offering to shepherd brands to consumers.

Advertising agencies -- fighting for their own corner because of disruption -- are morphing into the new digital world. One, cleverly named Us&Co, is a creative agency that promotes itself as "a team of specialists that understand the power of brand narratives & the importance of user experience". That team includes celebrity Gilda Kirkpatrick (Real Housewives of Auckland) as a creative director.

Video craftspeople told me video production is in demand but freelance rates are falling. The Uber model was apt, one said, because creatives, like drivers, did not control the system and were taking all the risk.

A lot of advertising video production is aimed at social media, and there is debate about the required production values.

However, some see positives in the 90 Seconds model, allowing them to bid in an international marketplace. The firm acts as an agency, taking its cut.

One entertainment industry player -- not a content producer -- told me there was good and the bad in recent upheavals, the increase in small video firms and the shift to a casualised marketplace. Not least, it was reducing costs.

"Sometimes, making a promotional video was not as hard as the production industry claimed," said the source.

Some brands were now finding it cheaper to use an in-house videographer.

Meanwhile, a senior ad industry executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said producers for top-end commercials would always have a role, particularly for traditional TV content. However he was concerned that the focus on lower-cost content would reduce expectations of quality.

Print to video

Traditional media platforms are finding their own ways to capitalise on the online video push.

This week the Australian advertising and media website Mumbrella reported on the recent decision by magazine publisher Bauer to reconfigure its video production arm, which had not met targets.

Bauer Australia found, "video is actually quite expensive to create, and getting the scale for each one to cover costs is very difficult, especially when it's not the focus of your business ... people don't seem to be seeking out video from publishers in the way they it was predicted they might."

A lot of advertising video production is aimed at social media, and there is debate about the required production values. This is especially relevant given that increasing numbers of video ads are now being viewed on mobile phones, where image quality is less apparent than it is on a computer monitor or TV.

Mainstream moves

Like other mainstream media companies, Fairfax and NZME have built their video production capability. NZME, the publisher of the Herald, has invested heavily in developing video and the NZME video operation is commercially led by Cameron Death. For more than a decade he worked at Microsoft and was senior vice-president and general manager at NBC Universal's Digital Studio.

Death said the main point of difference for companies like NZME was their expert knowledge of brands.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan writes the media blog

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John Drinnan has been a business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s.

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