When Rob Ciampa came on board at Pixability, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company’s business model included sending cameras out to businesses, editing the video, and then optimizing them for YouTube. But a cold reality soon snapped at them: video production attracts hordes of vendors and can be done on the cheap, which makes for a crowded field where margins get squeezed like oranges.
“We felt that, ultimately, [video production] didn’t make sense for us,” says Ciampa, Pixability’s CMO. “There’s a lot of confrontation in that space. There are a lot of great people doing great content, and we didn’t want to get in too niche.”
Of course, with many businesses, success is determined not so much at rollout, but often on how a company reacts when the market responds to its offering. The success of many a business is the story of how well it pivots. Pixability’s real competency, they realized, was in its YouTube marketing software.
“The further you go down the funnel, the more important long-form content becomes.”
—Rob Ciampa, VP sales and marketing
Translating “big data” to enable YouTube channel optimization, social media outreach and performance audits, Pixability’s software is designed to provide brands a paid and organic strategy to reach the 154 million monthly YouTube viewers and leverage the world's second largest search engine. In other words, getting the right video in front of the right audience and amplifying reach. Providing an opportunity to scale, Pixability’s business pivot has worked on a critical level, for sure—customers include Verizon, Nestle, HP and Sovereign Bank.
High-minded accolades aside, a recent experience with a client aptly demonstrates how Pixability rolls up its sleeves. “Their agency had told them that their audience was watching such-and-such amount on YouTube,” says Ciampa. “And we asked where the agency got the data, and found out that the agency had ‘made some educated guesses.’ Well, we dove in and looked at three million videos for their marketplace, and we looked at the seasonality of specific video production, what types of videos were being produced, what frequency, the number of subscribers to channels reacting to video release cycles, and all the sharing characteristics. And we came up with something that was 180-degrees away from what the agency had come up with.”
How major brands approach their video production strategy (Source: Pixability Brand Study)
The Challenge Today: Getting Agencies Onboard
Indeed, one of Pixability’s pain points has been getting agency buy-in to YouTube marketing. In Ciampa’s view, YouTube and the video world is foreign to agencies. “Unless agencies are really on board with YouTube marketing, and have built in integrative aspects and all these other pieces, we usually run the other way,” he says. “Those agencies that buy in, we’ve found, have a very tight grasp on brands, and they’re forcing their clients to over-produce video. What they don’t understand is that in the YouTube world, you don’t get rewarded for fancy videos—you get rewarded for telling a great story, a video journey.”
Pixability communicates the same message to brands. “We see many brands shooting 30-second slots, top of funnel stuff, and re-purposing it without much thought to YouTube,” says Ciampa. “We tell them that their customer has a decision journey, and that journey is going to be reflected in very different types of video. The further you go down the funnel, the more important long-form content becomes. Clients say, ‘Nobody’s going to watch a three-minute video on YouTube.’ We tell them they’d be surprised at what folks are watching. We see a lot of instances where long-form content can outperform short-form content. I think a lot of the brands are now struggling with that. Welcome to long-form video, or risk losing your voice.”
It’s all part of the journey in a maturing industry, where educating both agencies and brands requires a vigilance akin to missionary work. “Everybody wants to do a test,” says Ciampa, who regularly works sixteen hour days. “And our response when they ask is, ‘We’re not doing tests. If you’re looking for a two-week test, it’s not going to work.’ In the YouTube world, you can have a baby in three months—you just can’t have it in three weeks.”
When we ask Ciampa what the future holds for YouTube marketing, he mentions he’s more than once drawn the ire of television executives who are fearing for their lunch. “I think you’ll see over the next year a lot more brands embracing YouTube marketing and shifting dollars in a more meaningful way,” he says. “And how we evaluate that shift will be on metrics for digital—not for television.”