Advertisers will have their pick of virtual reality one-offs: loud, snarling car videos; sleek cooking shows; confessional relationship videos; beauty and style hacks, and various shows on female empowerment this year.
Media companies hoping to capture digital advertising dollars spent the last two weeks at the Digital NewFronts in New York unveiling their slate of videos for 2016, many of which either came from the shared brains of publishing executives or shared production companies. While there certainly was a fair amount of originality and entertaining videos, the largesse of sameness was a bit comical, so much so that WWD ranked the top 10 trends, in no particular order.
• Virtual reality: It seemed like every publisher had to have a video shot in VR, despite overwhelming consensus that the technology is not yet up to snuff. The New York Times led off with a slate of VR projects, including projects for its Sunday Magazine and T Magazine. Refinery29 went as far as to open a VR production studio, followed by AOL, Buzzfeed and National Geographic upping their offerings. Even Time Inc. is trying to resuscitate Life, which closed in 2002, with a VR platform called “Life in VR.” The publisher called the platform a “natural extension” of the long dormant brand since it targets mobile and thus, younger, consumers — many of whom likely have no clue about Life’s legacy.
• Refugees: Time Inc. and Condé Nast are either pulling from the same production company or they are taking cues from Millennial favorite Vice when it comes to video — or both. Perhaps the most striking and strange offering was Vanity Fair’s video on the Syrian refugee crisis. An image of a refugee and her children clinging to stay on a raft flashed before the crowd of potential advertisers at Cipriani on Wall Street as Condé Nast Entertainment president Dawn Ostroff called the target for such videos “cultured Millennials.”
• She shall overcome: There was no shortage of videos on women battling adversity — a topic one rarely encounters for men’s titles. Without getting too political, the biggest proponents of such videos came from the magazine publishers, which carry a hefty load of female-centric titles. Women need to be inspired, after all. Hearst offered up a short documentary for Cosmopolitan on a female veteran whose leg was amputated after her helicopter crashed. The women’s glossy has another video series called “All In,” which shows female athletes, dancers and cheerleaders who try to turn professional in her given profession. Time Inc.’s InStyle followed a pregnant editor who tries to remain fashionable as her pregnancy persists. The first-time mom-to-be gets guidance from celebrities on clothing and what to expect leading up to the birth. Aside from VF’s refugee story, Condé Nast showed a Self video on female athletes, including soccer player Alex Morgan and ballerina Misty Copeland.
• Put an idiot in a weird situation: There was a lot of this — more of it at Buzzfeed than anywhere else. In fact, this may be the secret to Buzzfeed’s viral video success.
• Hey we have lots of data and we invented an index to prove it!: Every publisher touted their insightful data-mining capabilities. This was some not so thinly veiled code that publishers can help advertisers get the biggest bang for their buck. A few publishers even decided to launch an index for consumers to provide their insights. The two most prominent examples were Bloomberg’s “Gender Equality Index,” which seemed a bit humorous, considering the organization is dominated by males. Playboy stuck to what it knows best by inventing “The Play,” which measures sex and relationships.
• For the guys: loud cars, tattooed chefs chopping things, grilling, booze, weed and talk of being a man today. This was a catch-all for the guys and pretty much sums up what most men’s magazines view as the extension of their brand in some form or the other.
• The Hacks — Fashion/Beauty Videos: Here’s how you wear your makeup and clothing; do your hair, or find a wedding dress in under two minutes. Culprits: We’ll be here all day.
• Celebrities: From Channing Tatum and his strippers (Hearst) and Bravo’s Luis Ortiz (Vox) to Jenna Bush Hager, Kobe Bryant, Morgan Spurlock (all Time Inc.) and Steven Soderbergh (Bloomberg), publishers were dropping names and bringing talent on stage who had appeared in their videos to entice advertisers.
• The Influencer: Far less costly and usually easier to wrangle are the social media stars or social influencers. Time Inc. is trading off its Sports Illustrated swimsuit models’ travels and using their social media for advertising opps, and it’s developing a new show called “Meet the New Famous,” devoted to the next social media stars. Condé Nast also developed a social media-centric beauty offering called #TheLookIs.
• TV is better than digital video: Hearst’s Cosmopolitan isn’t the only brand with shows in development, one with Freeform and the other with E! Rolling Stone is developing a pilot for Showtime, The New York Post’s Page Six is coming to Fox and Condé Nast Entertainment is looking even bigger, to the silver screen with a handful of feature films. Meanwhile, digital natives Vox, Buzzfeed and Mashable all unveiled some sort of distribution deal with broadcast partners. And don’t forget Vice, which didn’t need to talk about its offerings—which include TV and video. Instead, in a somewhat unsurprising move, a tipsy chief executive officer Shane Smith shouted obscenities during his presentation, as he had the prior year, before heading for the bar.