Thoughts

BINGE WATCHING: TAPPING OUR STORY CULTURE

December 16th, 2015   |   Chris Preston

My wife and I are becoming junkies. Not the rubber tube and needle kind. The Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV kind. We are fairly recent converts to the drug having launched our literature and classical music-loving daughter out the door. She is becoming an opera singer. We are becoming vidiots.

We watched The Killing on Netflix until well after midnight both nights last weekend. Binge watching clue after clue, show after show. Too glazed to press the off button while the next show loads. And we’re not alone. The dark circles under coworkers’ eyes at the office coffee machine are like the telltale needle tracks of the addicts of the past. It is the golden age of TV. The best writers, actors and storytellers are there. TV now has better production values than many movies and better writing than most current books. Even the A-list stars are coming back to TV from the cinema.

Some would have you believe that we have become an information society. I would beg to differ. As a human race, we have always loved a good story well told, and people are telling them as well or better than they ever have. What does this mean for your brand platform?

Behind your company or product there better be a compelling brand story. One that is authentic to who you are. One that begs to be retold. Your TOMS shoes. Your SNICKERS “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” Your Dollar Shave Club (www.dollarshaveclub.com). And if you want your brand to be watched regularly, your story better have a lot of good episodes and multiple seasons. Sure, your brand’s selling efforts should be measurable and show an ROI. But people don’t share clicks and transactions. They share stories. And if you can get them to share yours, every marketing dollar becomes 20. Every Facebook fan is worth 35 more.

Storytelling is why Subaru has overtaken seven car brands with their brilliant car love stories campaign. It’s why viewers look forward to the next Skittles “Rainbow” spot and feel a giddy emotional affinity to the brand. And, it’s why Red Bull has achieved multi-million member audiences for its online “stuntvertising” like the world record plunge from outer space.

The other result of binge watching relevant to advertisers is the University of Maryland and Emory University study recently highlighted on NPR that suggests binge watchers are much less likely to engage with advertising. They determined this by measuring 100,000 viewing sessions on Hulu but felt it was likely to work the same way on TV. Seems bingers are sucked into their fantasy world and don’t want to reenter the real world of ads out of context with their shows.

Since binge watching isn’t going away anytime soon, platforms may want to rethink promoting binge watching if they also want to attract advertisers. Or disable fast-forward functionality “between” shows and feature ad content there. I believe the best advertisers will need to figure out how to place the story of their products seamlessly into more storylines.

Which brings us back to The Killing. We are on the last two shows of the final season. We need advice. Send me an email and let me know what wonderful, creepy, terrifying world we should enter next.

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