No crowds. No rain. Being as close as one can get to being there without being there. And all for free.
As the medium of live streaming has evolved and become a larger player in video content consumption, more brands are partnering with music festivals to bring this highly engaging and valuable media asset to the masses.
While traditional forms of advertising are being blocked and muted by the sought-after millennial generation, savvy brands are reimagining advertising and product campaigns by tapping platforms like Snapchat. Integrating video components and tactics into their promotional toolbox. Embracing live music sponsorship as a highly viable area for investment and return.
The power of live streaming, especially in the area of music and sports, will play a significant role in the evolution of brand advertising. And the potential is huge.
The Tidal Wave Behind Live Streaming Video is Getting Bigger
Live streaming video as a whole has picked up great momentum in just the last six months. Facebook Live took off right out of the shoot, and the social media giant has made leaps into live streaming of video games, giving Twitch a run for their money.
Earlier this month Wimbledon signed a three-year deal with Snapchat – which its 150 million daily active users now exceed Twitter’s 140 million - to display Live Story content globally during the tournament.
The Head of Digital and Content at the All England Club and The Championships (AELTC), Alexandra Willis, told Digiday, “We want to show that Wimbledon is willing to change its stripes, but it’s still keeping that core message.” The statement was similar to what Willis discussed earlier this year at the SXSW SXsports panel when she explained Wimbledon’s strategic entry into Snapchat in 2015 with their behind-the-scenes series of Snaps.
The other social entry into live streaming sports was of course, the Twitter and NFL agreement back in February, which further expands the NFL’s market reach into countries outside the U.S.
AOL Build’s live video show features interviews with celebrities and actors about their latest projects, like Tatiana Maslany discussing scenes from Orphan Black, enabling the studio audience and online viewers to ask one-on-one questions.
Amazon’s "Style Code Live” 30-minute show streams live online every weekday to further boost sales of high-end fashion. This was launched earlier this year during Coachella at one of those exclusive, celebrity buzz parties in Palm Springs, with Supermodel Suki Waterhouse as the host of the shindig.
In the world of TV Everywhere, content providers like Sling and Xfinity have added “live” channels to their mix of VOD offering, no doubt due to consumer demand and the need to stay competitive, especially in the area of sporting events.
The Momentum Builds for Live Streaming Festivals and Live Events
Festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza have been ahead of the current live video streaming curve by a few years. A pioneer in this space has been Bulldog Digital Media (DM), a live streaming digital execution and strategy agency that partnered with Gov Ball to help facilitate plans for its webcast.
“Years ago I moved YouTube into the live streaming market,” said Bulldog DM’s CEO and founder, John Petrocelli, “They're obviously the top video platform. They've now built, arguably, the greatest live video stack in the world.”
When Petrocelli brought live streaming into the festival market, although he knew the potential for engagement would be great, he never anticipated live streaming would expand so rapidly and in such a short amount of time. “It's become a bit of a tidal wave so quickly, but we're happy to see that it's being embraced."
Bulldog DM has worked with over 40 festivals, with many more slated for this festival season, including the Vans Warped Tour live webcast from Dallas on June 24th, Firefly Music Festival June 16-19, KAABOO Del Mar, Life Is Beautiful, Okeechobee, Abroadfest, Breakaway, Bumbershoot, 90s Fest, Country Night Lights and SnowGlobe Music Festival in Lake Tahoe.
Part of the recent enthusiam for live streaming stems from the mix of 3 billion global internet users, mostly using only a mobile device to connect, plus Facebook and Snapchat realizing the power in live video streams with their social components.
“It's created this massive interest for people to have these collaborative and participatory experiences,” states Petrocelli. “The focal point is music and we live in the live world. We live in the music space. But we're also front and center in bringing the festival to consumers and fans on these devices that really want to lean in and collaborate with their fellow fans.”
When it comes to making live streaming happen at a festival, “It is a daunting task,” Petrocelli explained, in regards to the many moving pieces of a live streaming strategy and execution plan.
“Fortunately, we've been able to develop a series of best practices. Having done this for ten years we've learned what to do, what not to do, and have got a strong handle on how to bring these to life. We've learned what scales and what's important to all the stakeholders: the content owner, the fan, the device platform, and the social integration.”
Even with a set of best practices, “Each [live event] is obviously different from the other. Whether it's a giant 3-day music festival, whether it’s a small concert in a lounge, or even if it's a movie premier or a product launch, our goal is to make it as close to a [television] broadcast experience as possible.”
To accomplish this, Bulldog DM builds systems with multiple levels of redundancy, choosing production gear and equipment that’s trusted and proven. They hire people who not only know the nuances of live television, but how live video content translates over to a mobile handset or tablet.
“The big thing is also the user experience,” he stated, including how fast the video player loads content onto a user’s device. Tapping into the multitudes of metadata made available though a platform like YouTube’s, Bulldog’s team was able to learn, “20% of the audience will exit if the video doesn't load properly and isn't robust.”
With the massive 3-day festivals and multiple stages, the other key component is the ability to support multichannel, which Bulldog pioneered. This streaming technology enables the festival fan to switch their YouTube feed from one performance to another taking place at the same time, “Obviously, at a festival, that's pretty important.”
One such activation was Vive Latino in Mexico City this past April, a festival the size of Coachella that’s now in its 16th year. “What we do for the brand is really manage the entire live stream process, build a rich user experience, and three channels of video.”
Music Festival’s Live Streaming Content is a Match for Brands
Live streaming is a significant endeavor. With all its moving parts and plans it can be a costly one as well. Brand sponsors are a critical player in a festival’s ability to offer live streaming. The reward to that injection of sponsorship money is the brand’s ability to become an integral part of the viewing experience and the festival’s social engagement strategies.
According to the AEG and Momentum report, “We Know Music Fans,” 93% of music fans surveyed (75% of which were millennials) said they like the brands that sponsor live events, and 80% stated that the best way to connect to them is by sponsoring a branded live music experience.
From T-Mobile’s sponsorship of Coachella and and this weekend's Mysteryland (now in its second year of live streaming), to Toyota’s Stagecoach sponsorship for Tumblr and Yahoo!, brands have invested in festival live streaming, which in turn connects them directly to their millennial target demographic.
"We decided to live stream on Tumblr to support our 'Music Moves You' blog, " Nancy Inouye, national media manager at Toyota, told AdWeek. The activation at Stagecoach aligned with Toyota’s launch of their blog hosting unique Toyota Music content. "Being able to provide premium live video and access to one of the country music's biggest events helps us amplify our presence in the music space in a way that centrally features our brand."
According to AdWeek, Inouye declined to say how many people Toyota had expected to watch the live stream, but she did say they anticipated “millions” in reach that weekend.
Internet and Mobile Users Choke Off Traditional Online Ad Model
While millions of internet users across the globe are viewing music festivals through live webcasts, hundreds of millions are blocking out the traditional ways brands have used to reach them online.
At the recent Code Conference Mary Meeker took to the podium, as she has for many years, presenting her highly anticipated annual Internet Trends Report for 2016.
Key findings: In the U.S., internet advertising spend has increased by 20% with Google and Facebook taking the lion’s share of brand’s investment dollars at 76%. At the same time, “Online ad efficacy still has a long way to go,” Meeker stated, “Many online ads, especially video ads, are ineffective.”
Ineffective at best. Annoying, disrupting, and aggravating at the worst.
Banner ads that overlap the content we’re trying to read by taking over entire web screens, or ads bouncing around like a video game are causing an “ad-blocking Tsunami,” according to Fortune, which showed the use of ad-blocking software doubling in just the last year.
“More than 415 million people—or about 22% of the world’s smartphone owners—now use ad blockers on their mobile devices,” states the article, which tapped research from PageFair and Priori Data.
That 30-second pre-roll ad for foot fungus that keeps playing over and over with each video play on YouTube? According to Meeker’s report, Unruly’s research states 62 percent of users are “Annoyed with / Put off by Brand Forcing Pre-Roll Viewing.” Ya think?
The ads for cookies that play in the middle of an exercise video on Hulu? Ads on ABC.com, CBS.com, Xfinity, or one of many emerging TV Anywhere networks?
“81% of users mute their ads. 93% use ad-blocking software,” reports Meeker.
The square peg of the historic television ad model being forced into the round hole of the online VOD and live streaming viewer hasn’t worked as planned. As linear TV viewing continues to drop and cord cutting continues to rise within the 18 to 34 year-old demographic, brands have begun to venture into and invest in new ad models and strategies to better engage with their target audience.
Authentic, Entertaining and Evoking Emotion – Brand’s Ad Formula for Success
“If there’s ever been a call to arms to create better ads, this is it,” Meeker stated, continuing with some good news. “There are ads that work out there, some of the best come from Snapchat,” whose 3V ad model - based on Vertical, Video and Viewing - it gettings envious results.
One success story was the use of Snapchat's sponsored lenses ad type for Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo campaign. Taco Bell sponsored a Snapchat lens that enabled users to distort their selfies to look like a taco. Sounds silly, but one can't argue with the end result of 224 million views. This garnered 36 percent more views than a similar campaign from Gatorade during the Super Bowl that - just a guess - cost A LOT more to produce and run.
A similar approach was taken by Universal Studios to promote the launch of “Furious 7,” running 10-second 3V video ads within the Ultra Music Festival Live Story. That got Universal a 3x attendance rate for their target demographic of Snapchat users versus non-Snapchat users.
While Snapchat’s 3V video ad models are unique to its platform (currently), the core strategy can be used to drastically improve current ad models. As Meeker said, “The ads tend to be authentic, entertaining, in context, and they’re often brief.”
In the festival live streaming environment, cameras are capturing not only the performers on stage, but also the impromptu, natural and fun-loving performances of the fans themselves in the field taking in the sun and the experience. On the dance floor with colors and lights all around. Enjoying art installations. Having a blast with their friends within a brand’s own on-site activation. And this content is license free as compared to any video containing musican artists, their managers, record labels, etc.
This experiential content curated by a production team during the festival - food, fashion, lifestyle, editorial – can be redeployed by a brand to promote a corresponding product line, a new digital initiative, like Toyota’s Music Moves You blog, a series of 10-second 3V Snapchat videos to promote the next festival or concert the brand is sponsoring.
Petrocelli has been in strategic talks with brands to help them shift from the “one and done” level of festival sponsorship by extending their reach through a series by presenting four or five festivals in a season. “All that experiential content living in between the live shows," he explained, can be used to produce fun and creative campaigns, enabling attendees to relive those festival experiences and excite fans attending the next event the brand is sponsoring.
When brands integrate themselves in authentic and entertaining ways into live music experiences, they’re at the center of where young people spend their time and money. Petrocelli sees, “A huge opportunity to connect with a younger millennial who's all about their social platforms, cause marketing, and mobile.” The conscious and unconscious association with those positive memories are then connected back to the brand that played a part in making them happen.
The feedback Petrocelli and his team are getting from the brands is, “That may be a far more effective strategy than traditional TV commercials that this group is probably not watching. Taking TV commercials and replaying a 30-second spot on a mobile handset is a death sentence. And I've read that there’s a higher probability of surviving a plane crash than of you clicking on a banner ad."
Live Streaming Delivers Critical Data to Festivals and Brands
Not only is the ad model changing, so is the way usage, behavioral, and engagement data is being collected, measured, and calculated.
Nielsen TV ratings for one, was recently called out for being dated, leaving no room in their “TV Viewing Diary” for Netflix, Hulu, or other digital outlets.
Participants who had, years ago, cut their ties to cable were left having to handwrite their Netflix viewing times into the relic paper diaries. One such participant was Dennis Cheatham, a 40-year old professor of graphic design at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
In a New York Times article, “Streaming Era Wreaks Havoc on TV Raters,” he seemed baffled (as most would), asking, “Is Nielsen not paying attention to technology? Don’t they notice that something has changed?”
As data capture technology get more sophisticated, especially in the areas of consumer data, outdated measurement methodologies and focus groups will become a thing of the past. In their place will be solid sources of behavioral data based on actual interactions, engagement, conversations, and sentiments.
Bulldog’s main objective for the Vive Latino and its premium sponsor was, “to distribute this incredible festival across the Coca-Cola TV platform,” by managing the social engagements, providing the support for the technical CDN (content delivery network), and collecting and delivering viewing analytics.
The company's central workflow allows their team to measure the video activity regardless of the many properties the live stream could potentially operate on. “It could be on the Coca-Cola station or it could be syndicated. At Bonnaroo a couple of years ago [the live stream feed] lived on AOL, Yahoo!, CBS, and Pitchfork.”
The reporting running through the video player and the analytics architecture provides that granular data:
- The geolocation of viewers
- If the viewer switched camera feeds
- How often they switched
- Viewing duration times
- The myriad of the social conversations within the video streaming platform that took place during performances
When integrated into the festivals’ social media engagement data, the live stream reporting provides a robust collection of data points the festival, brand sponsors, and performing artists can tap into for use in marketing and targeting campaigns, and even potential cities to tour for those bands and acts.
“I've seen people in the music business make pretty smart decisions on where they may route a tour in the future,” Petrocelli said. “You look at Lollapalooza today. Great data has always come from the webcast out of Chicago. The promoters have been able to see that there's that global audience for the brand.”
Petrocelli believes that C3’s decision to expand internationally was due largely in part to their ability to see viewers watching the webcast of Chicago’s Lollapalooza from Chili, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia and Berlin. All countries that now host their own Lollapalooza. “They make great, detailed decisions base some of this incredible data that comes from this experience.”
The Future is Here: Branded Entertainment, VR 360 and Live Event Streaming
Qualcomm took the success of their experiential video and content and took it to the next level, partnering with Ogilvy & Mather to produce a short film, “In the age of ad blocker, freemium and ‘5-seconds-to-skip’ buttons,” reported PSFK.
They put Qualcomm’s mobile phone - equipped with their new Snapdragon 820 mobile processor - at the center of a 32-minute thriller. Set in China to pull in their target audience, the story line allowed the lead character to naturally demonstrate the unique features of the phone: longer battery life, quick recharge time, ultrasonic 3D biometric security, and advanced imaging.
Although Gemini Balba, Qualcomm's global brand marketing executive, was at first hesitant about Ogilvy & Mathers concept of a ‘a product demo disguised as a psychological thriller’, Qualcomm was blown away by the final cut of the film. Its title, “Lifeline,” resonated with people all over the world, not just in China, and how we all feel about our mobile phones.
“People want to consume content when they want, especially our target audience: Millennials and people around that age group,” Balba told PSFK. “They don’t want to be hit with an ad while watching the latest and greatest Game of Thrones episode.”
This entry into branded entertainment is similar to the branded films by Levis, “The 501 Jean: Stories of an Original,” or Norton security software's documentary, “The Most Dangerous Place on the Internet," which profiles the Romanian town nicknamed "Hackerville" and the undground world of cybercriminals.
Keep in mind, all of these branded films are distributed on YouTube.
Magna Global, one of the largest ad-buying firms in the world, moved $250 million of its clients’ ad dollars to YouTube and away from traditional television. Although its not clear exactly how that will play out – if Magna Global will create branded yet entertaining content or if they'll spend millions running more annoying pre-roll ads – the U.S. president for the firm, David Cohen, told the New York Times, “Consumers have over the past several years been migrating away from linear television, and we need to acknowledge that.”
The networks are also attempting to be proactive, including Joe Marchese, an executive for Fox Networks Group. They’re developing new approaches to advertising while acknowledging the reality of the muting and blocking generation of viewers, “The social contract is broken with the consumer — they don’t want to watch the ads,” Marchese said to the New York Times.
Out with the old and in with new. This is of course, VR and 360 video.
Last year in 2015 Petrocelli participated in the SXSW panel, “Live Music Streaming as Means for Brand Engagement,” with Andrew Klein, SVP, AEG Global Partnerships. During that session Klein shared plans for VR and 360 live streaming at Coachella.
In 2016 it happened. Coachella festivalgoers received a custom VR Google Headset in their Welcome Box, with instructions that also prompted fans to download the Coachella VR app.
Petrocelli believes Samsung and Sony are banking on the success the rapid growth rate of VR, which has already experienced success in gaming and is set to do the same for sports and music. YouTube also followed Facebook in the race to 360 live video, right in time for Coachella with T-Mobile sponsoring the stream. I expect Coachella viewing may have been just a bit more interesting than the Facebook Live stream of two BuzzFeed staffers exploding a watermelon that got...wait for it...800,000 views. Gallagher must have been so proud.
“At a festival, you have an opportunity to take a tour of the property,” he explained, “Go back stage with VR, learn about the artist relations that are happening there.” This backstage experience also ties into Facebook’s Live differentiating strategy as compared to Twitter’s live approach, by providing exclusive content that cannot be found anywhere else.
Brands are also testing the VR waters, including Coca-Cola’s instructional video for turning their beverage boxes into cardboard VR goggles, and McDonalds doing the same with their Happy Meal boxes.
The future of all these technologies holds great potential for brands to co-create immersive experiences with agencies like Bulldog DM and others that provide greater value and return versus the traditional ad and promo models. Brand sponsorship of live music has proven to be an excellent platform to “surprise and delight” festival and concert fans.
For Petrocelli, those VR discussions with brands have already begun while talks on sponsoring live streaming events increase.
“It’s a great model for a brand with an affinity for music. One that wants to make a direct connection to their fanbase. To that audience that's on mobile platforms, that's active socially. It's the perfect template for how to engage with those consumers.”