While last year's IPO class was full of social companies like Facebook, and Zynga, 2013 so far has been about ad tech. More specifically, video companies have taken center stage this summer.
In June, Tremor Video went public. YuMe IPO'd at the beginning of August. And in a surprise move, Adap.tv -- which some had speculated might go public this year as well -- announced that it was being acquired by AOL at the same time as YuMe hit the exchange.
Most industries follow a pretty typical timeline when it comes to companies going public. The strongest companies will go public first and the weaker will follow.
However, when it comes to ad tech it's really the companies that have most needed to go that have taken the lead. These companies come out, and because they are the first they are considered representative.
But the YuMes, Tremors, and Adapt.tvs don't tell the full story of the video space; they aren't representative of all video companies. They are merely the first generation of video companies.
Second Generation Video
The first generation of video companies focused on traditional video advertising. In order to have the kind of revenue growth that they needed, these companies focused their energy where they saw money being made: pre-roll. This explains why -- in their public offerings and acquisitions -- most of these companies look the same, have similar market caps, and similar revenue.
But marketing is changing and digital video isn't just about pre-roll any more. It's not even just about advertising.
Where the first generation companies facilitate video advertising, the second generation of video companies is all about content marketing.
Visible Measures is a second-generation video company. We take brand stories and put them in the right place, in front of the people who will be most interested and choose to watch those stories. We distribute content. We don't run ads.
This shift in the video landscape to incorporate both advertising and content marketing is the same shift that we're seeing in marketing overall.
Where Content Marketing Separates Itself from Advertising
Content marketing is a word that you hear thrown around a lot. It's being used so much that some might start to think that it's just all buzz. But content marketing is nothing new.
While advertising was trying to grab, or sometimes force, viewers' attention with billboards, TV spots, and more recently, pop-ups and pre-roll, content marketing has quietly sat by its side. In the 1930s, for example, CPG companies like Proctor & Gamble would sponsor radio stories -- or soap operas -- that featured their products.
But content marketing has really made a splash in the past year as a shift in consumer behavior has changed the way that we need to communicate with the consumer.
The Internet has created super-informed consumers. This means that they need to be educated less about products through brand advertising. They prefer to do their own research. Millennials, in particular, are very skeptical of traditional marketing; they prefer to get recommendations from peers than to have a brand sell them on a product.
What all of this means is that brands can't just push out messages via advertising. They also have to invite consumers in to engage with them through content and they do that by giving them choice.
This is where content marketing is fundamentally different from advertising. Advertising is paid media that consumers are forced to watch. Branded content is media that consumers choose to view.
That's not to say that one piece of creative can't be both an ad and content. Samsung, for example, created a spot for its partnership with Jay-Z and showed it on TV -- it was an ad. But the minute Samsung let viewers choose to watch that same spot on YouTube it was content.
Content marketing is good for the consumer because it gives them control. It's good for the brand because a consumer that chooses to watch video is already more engaged than they would be with an ad. And if the content tells a great story, they will be more likely to share this content, and thus, increasing its reach.
So now marketers need to start to think about content marketing as something separate from advertising. That means that brands can't measure content the same way that they measure advertising. They can't buy media for content the same way they buy it for ads. They can't plan media for content the way they plan it for ads. The same technology can't be used for content and ads.
Content marketing isn't 15 and 30 seconds. It's sixty-second and five-minute short films, or whatever your consumers want it to be.