The Web Video (R)evolution

May 31, 2008


Matt DeLoca
Video has long been considered the most compelling and effective of media. A now-famous 1994 study entitled "Communication: A Key To Human Development" (Fraser and Villet) determined that content in audiovisual format is recalled four to five times better than material that is heard, and nine times better than material that is read.

Today, online video represents the next evolution of this memorable medium. For the viewer, it adds limitless on-demand access from any computer; content can be searched, shared, tagged, and downloaded at will. Audiences can rate, comment, and blog about videos. More importantly, the publisher of the content can track all of this behavior. Web video offers the best of both worlds: the most compelling and effective medium available combined with the interactivity, virility, and metrics that have made the Web such a powerful communications platform.

Web video has rapidly become a powerful venue for large companies to reach their audiences. Thus far, the pharma industry has only scratched the surface of what's possible with online video, mostly with initiatives that have been focused on the consumer. This is not surprising, of course, considering the impact of YouTube—but B2B communication looks to be the next frontier for Web video.

The YouTube Effect

Once a grainy, blurry experience, Web video has become high-def as it has moved into the mainstream. The proliferation of broadband and other improvements in technology have made the online viewing experience high-quality and reliable. According to Comscore, an estimated ten billion online video streams were viewed in February 2008 alone. (This is the total number of streams, not the total number of unique videos. Many popular video clips are watched more than once by the same viewer.) Astonishingly, more than 30 percent of those ten billion were viewed on YouTube. That same month (again according to Comscore) 140 million Americans watched an online video—that's 75 percent of the US Web audience.

This is a tremendous new medium for consumer marketers, and Big Pharmas are beginning to experiment with it. In Novartis' successful FluFlix campaign, consumers were asked to submit their own animated or live-action videos about experiencing the flu. Submissions were uploaded through a specially branded YouTube page, and selected winners were posted on the Novartis-sponsored, flu-education Web site: http://Flusource.com/. This user-generated content-marketing model is growing fast, and taking on many forms.

Targeting the B2B Audience

While all this consumer video creation and consumption has marketers excited, the vast majority of pharmaceutical consumers are not of the YouTube demographic. According to the social networking news Web site http://mashable.com/, the average age of YouTube consumers at 27.

Does this mean Web video is of no use to pharmaceutical companies? Perhaps not for broad-based consumer outreach. But the next phase of growth for Web video is in B2B communications, and pharmas may be able to benefit from that. According to a 2007 Gartner Group Study, 80 percent of all enterprises will eventually use video or rich media as part of their overall corporate communications plans.

Pharmaceutical executives should integrate Web video into their traditional means of communications, such as employee training (especially with salespeople), and reaching physicians (enhancing eDetailing and CME initiatives). Video can also help large healthcare companies communicate better with investors and the media.