Traversing media. Will people go from one screen to another?

canada-celebratesLike many Canadians – 19 million of us to be exact – I watched some or all of the World Junior Hockey Championships on television.

As with all televised sporting events, the World Juniors had its sponsors and those sponsors put together advertising to capitalize on the occasion and the audience.

What intrigued me about the advertising for this event were a couple of commercials, one for Molson Canadian and one for WestJet. These were both exceptionally well produced ads. Great visuals, great audio, great direction, editing, pacing, etc. Congrats all around.

In addition to that connection, in each of these ads the commercial was less a commercial for a product, than it was a trailer for the extended videos from the advertiser available on YouTube with the ‘full story. The commercials gave the beginning outline of the stories but were sparse on the details.

The main call to action of the commercials was ‘hie thee to YouTube’

The Molson commercial was about a hockey player taking his dad by helicopter to a mountain top shinny rink (courtesy of Molson) to thank him for moving the entire family to Canada so the young man could pursue his hockey ambitions.

The WestJet commercials was about a young man named Josh who inspired high school students.

In the Molson commercial, you didn’t know if this hockey player was somebody in the World Juniors, or somebody now in the NHL, or somebody who never made it to anything beyond beer league.

In the WestJet commercial, you weren’t told how or why or what Josh did to inspire high school students.

As I said, the idea of each commercial was that you were encouraged to go to YouTube’ to get the whole story.

Will people go from a television ad to YouTube to ‘Find Out More’?

I never went to YouTube to find out more. I was busy watching the hockey games that the commercials were showing on. But I wondered how many people did go. I started by asking people I know of all ages and both sexes who watched the tournament and were aware of the ad.

None of them went to find out more either.

So I went to the web to do a little digging.

The simple answer on how many people did go to find out more is this (from the YouTube data for each video): About 1 million people went to watch the Molson story. About half that number went to watch the WestJet story.

TSN reports that the World Juniors had 19.4M viewers, meaning the Molson ad got about 5% crossover to YouTube and WestJet about 2.5%

I actually have no idea whether these numbers should be considered successes or not.

So as a couple of comparisons (none of which can be considered 100% fair or exact corrollaries), this is what I found out:

The largest thing on YouTube Canada right now is from the Jimmy Fallon show with Nicole Kidman talking about how they almost dated years ago. It has 17 million views (obviously, worldwide). To give you an idea of how that compares to the actual show’s viewership, Fallon’s Tonight Show has somewhere around 4 million viewers in the US each night (according to Variety in March 2014). So the YouTube audience is larger than the actual show’s audience by a significant amount. Four times as big, but again these are global YouTube figures on one hand and U.S. TV numbers on the other. So, maybe three times as big? Maybe twice as big?

Yes, of course Nicole Kidman and Jimmy Fallon are going to garner a larger audience and higher shares and chat than a Molson ad. Still, to have more people watch the YouTube video than to watch the actual show seems to me to be pretty significant.

How big is the audience for watching ads on YouTube?

Susan Krashinsky, Marketing Reporter at The Globe and Mail, recently did an article about the most watched ads on YouTube (Canada) in 2014. As she says “Canadians often weren’t interested in Canadian-made ads. Only two on the list were homegrown: the TD Bank spot at #1, and the video for Always, which was produced by Leo Burnett’s Toronto, Chicago and London offices.

That number one ad, for TD Bank, had 18 million views. Although all of the numbers displayed on YouTube are global views, I am assuming most of the traffic for this is from Canada.  It’s difficult to parse the Canadian viewing of most of the other commercials on the G&M list (including the Always vids) because they are US or internationally distributed and promoted. (For instance, the Always ad in second place has 53M views.)

Moving on from there, and using the links on the Globe article, I took a look at the success of WestJet’s Christmas videos for 2013 and 2014. The 2013 version accumulated 36 million — 36 million — views. The December 2014 version has already had 3 million views. For me, those would qualify as huge successes.

What’s interesting to me is that neither the TD or WestJet huge successes had significant awareness built by advertising on broadcast television. As far as I can tell they were built on the internet, through actual viral spread.

Anything that can be learned here?

I don’t profess to know the know the keys to viral success and how to get it to work with broadcast TV as the seminal ground to spread the word, but I will make a couple of observations:

The WestJet and TD YouTube sensations were both videos about generous acts delivered by the company in a genuine altruistic way. (Yes, I know they did it for marketing reasons, but you don’t get that feeling watching them.)

I am not implying that the Molson and WestJet Josh commercials did not depict generous acts, what I am looking at is the ability of a commercial viewed on broadcast TV to get people to go to a different device to find out more.

I personally would not consider either of the World Junior commercials to be runaway successes. If looked at in the harsh light of basic statistic analysis, it seems to me they got a few percentage of people to go to YouTube. Arguably it is a self defining audience, i.e. only people who are actually in the Molson Canadian beer drinking target audience care enough to go see more, so it increases engagement with their most important potential customers. But that seems a bit of a stretch.

I can’t extrapolate from my own experience and conversations with people I know, but I think maybe if the commercials had given me a bit more of an inkling of what the story was, I may have gone to YouTube.

Something like “the winner of our promotion took the opportunity to take his Dad on this once in a lifetime hockey trip…find out the whole story on YouTube” or “Josh is an incredibly courageous/generous/insert adjective here young man who inspired high school students to be courageous etc. themselves. Find out more at YouTube.”

It might have worked better. Or worse. I don’t know. These are largely uncharted waters and the cartographers are out exploring them and will come back with some good learning.

I do know that these are also exciting waters and those companies that understand the transversing of media is an increasingly important key to marketing efficiency and success will reap huge rewards by experimenting now, experimenting often and putting their learning into effect.