Return on Investment - What does ROI mean to web dramatists?

Brands more and more are using online video to connect with their customers. Beauty brands make beauty tip shows, food brands make cookery shows. This is good news for video producers, even drama producers, but having brands as commissioners requires us to learn some new ways of thinking.

Return on Investment or ROI is the term used by advertisers to quantify the benefits of an advertising campaign. It's the brand manager's bottom line. But why am I proposing that writers and producers of web drama learn to understand this concept?

Imagine you are a brand manager at a corporation. Your brand could be a range of mobile phones or a kind of delivery pizza, that doesn't matter at this stage. Your job is difficult because you have so much choice of how to reach potential customers. Let's assume that you have been convinced to advertise online - but even that decision leaves you with a wide array of choices. Should you do what your rivals are doing and use pre-roll video or should you try and get ahead of the game and try something in social media. Or maybe a viral game? You already do a lot in search based advertising and that works well for you, so whatever you do has to perform at least as well as that. The problem is you're not sure what works because many of these things are not that established and your job is at risk if you don't increase ROI. 

You have a meeting at the agency and they're full of ideas. They're talking about depth and engagement. They keep saying that rather than just flashing people the logo, your brand can embody itself in facilitating social interaction. They're saying that we have to let our customers be our advocates and that we have to listen and respond to any criticisms that are bouncing around the blogosphere. You smile and nod, but you know you weren't employed to give control of brand message to random punters. Then they say that they don't want to sell you the next campaign on the old metrics because they only measure numbers. They don't even want you to pay on views, they want you to pay on actions. The numbers will be much smaller and you'll pay more for each action that a punter takes, because depth of engagement is the holy grail. You remind them that sales is the holy grail because that means good ROI. You're thinking of changing agency now - these guys are getting too airy-fairy. It's a recession, ad costs are down, it's the perfect time to go for numbers. But you decide to play along and see if you can get your head around this depth idea. 

So, this is where I hand the scripting of this little fantasy to you, writers and producers of web drama. If you want to make your series, but aren't lucky enough to be in the handful of people funded by the BBC, C4 and the one or two other places with a remit to explore the genre, then you're going to have to go through this exercise:

  1. How are you going to convince the agency and then then the brand that you can give a sponsor great ROI? 
  2. Why is it worth them supporting you in the way that brands did in the 1950's when they sponsored TV drama and invented soap opera? 
  3. How can you guarantee large enough audiences? 
  4. And why is what you're offering better than search or social media advertising or pre-roll on an established series on 4OD? 
  5. Can you create a compelling argument for depth of engagement? 
  6. And how do you ensure that brand messages won't be diluted or create over-sight problems?

Occasionally in the recent past this fantasy has become a reality. See the following:

SETI fully funded by Canon. The All For Nots fully funded by Dodge. Where Are the Joneses? fully funded by Ford. The Guild season two sponsored by Sprint. Agency of Record sponsored by Adobe. Threshold fully funded by Cisco. Evoke fully funded by the World Bank. Traces of Hope fully funded by The Red Cross. Thumbnls fully funded by the COI. 231B fully funded by Warner Bros. to go with the film Sherlock Holmes.

Whether these all did indeed represent good ROI is hard to know as everything is always portrayed as a success and real audience figures and client feedback almost impossible to obtain. The point is, in being commissioned, a compelling case was made and accepted. They show that exciting drama content can be made with a commercial funding model and that in many of these cases advertising agencies were involved as instigators or intermediaries.

This blog was moved in January 2016 from it's original location on vonviral.ning.com where it had received 60 views.

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Rik Lander makes interactive and participatory narratives. Website

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