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Monday, 30 May 2011

The Power of Online Video - Sadler's Wells

On Tuesday 24th May we held a seminar on the Power of Online Video at Sadler's Wells. The event was a big success and we have received some excellent feedback. I'd like to thank all the panellists for taking part. Copies of the presentations will be put up on the Sadler's Wells website shortly along with links to video clips.

Here are the main points of my introduction to the afternoon.

For Sadler’s Wells the use of video has been hugely important. Since 2006 we have almost doubled our audience and video has played a key role in making this growth happen. We began with simple show clips but over the years we have expanded our content to include interviews and behind the scenes documentaries. With the invaluable support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation we have been able to create short films featuring leading artists talking about their own work. At Sadler’s Wells we deal in an artform that is notoriously difficult to describe. The ability to show the work, to allow choreographers to say in their own words what inspired or influenced them has been hugely important.
We have an e-list of 180,000 and being able to deliver video to them at no real cost provides an unbelievable opportunity to introduce them to something new. In our emails we see that people are more likely to click to watch the video before they look at the longer written information. And that video generates sales, 75% of our sales now happen online.
Those of you who work in marketing will be familiar with the phrase “if it is a success, it’s the show; if it fails, it’s the marketing”.  In many ways video bridges the gap between marketing and programming – good video allows us to show good work.

I actually want to move beyond the term marketing as I think we need to focus on communication. For Sadler’s Wells in the short term video is about forthcoming shows which may need to find an audience, but in the long term it is about our identity, creating a legacy and talking to a global audience. 

For much of the work we present the major factor is risk. In many cases what we need to communicate is aimed at informing, not the hard sell. If you know our programme at all, you can guess the public won’t always be asking, will I have fun time? We often present challenging work. Instead they will be asking will I have a worthwhile evening? Will I be engaged? Will I see excellence?

So I am not one of those people who says we should be creating cinema style trailers for every show. If you are a film fan like me, you will enjoy the trailers but take them with a pinch of salt. The quick edits, the focus on action over depth, the restyling of hard hitting drama as light comedy, it is a short road to nowhere if applied without sense. Film marketing is often guilty of brazen opportunism.

As a venue, building audience trust is essential. We need to build long term relationships. It is always worth remembering that any risk attached to attending may be a double risk, as the person who comes often has to persuade someone else to come with them. Increasingly as videos are forwarded they will become an important tool in word of mouth communication. Video sharing is increasing rapidly. From 70million shares a month in 2010 to 220 million a month just a year later.

As you may gather, the future of online usage is video. The figures are staggering. Last week in Metro it was reported  “Britons watch 11,000 years of video every month" In April 26.9 million of us viewed 6.27 billion minutes of streamed footage at home or work. We see on average 7 minutes of footage online a day.

At its most popular the speed that video circulates is incredible. The Volkswagen Darth Vader ad has had 38 million views in three months. Has anyone watched The Greatest Marriage proposal ever video? It has had 12 million views in 6 days. Interestingly some of the most successful clips on YouTube feature dance – The Evolution of Dance with 173 million views,  the Filipino Prisoners dancing to Thriller with 47 million views.

Of course I’m not saying that the videos any of us produce will get these huge figures. A viral hit typically needs to fit one of the magic categories – to be uplifting like Where the Hell is Matt? or funny like the Evolution of Dance, or cute like Charlie Bit My Finger (330 million views) and even then it is more than likely not to get views by the million. 

One company we worked with, Bounce did create a viral video and got 15 million views for their Michael Jackson flashmob tribute, but that is unusual. Most video we produce is not created to be a viral hit.

But whatever views you get for your video it is worth thinking about this. A whole new generation is growing up that are used to watching video on their computers and increasingly their phones. People who might walk past your theatre everyday and never look; who don’t read a broadsheet newspaper; who don’t pick up leaflets from a rack will look at video. Especially if it is passed to them by someone else. 

The question is in the future where will people go to see that video. In two years referrals from Facebook to our site have increased  by 450%. At the same time video sharing through Facebook has increased enormously. And Facebook offers a one stop location where you can target users, create groups, and increasingly sell your product.

So where does that leave us? Online video has opened up new opportunities. For example the Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest which is now in its third year. We have had entries from over 40 countries over the three years. The judges pick a shortlist of 10 and the public vote with the winner coming to London to perform here. Using video in this way introduces us to new work and engages the public.

We can create an online learning resource through outlets like the iTunes University. It is worth remembering that the video we create can have value in five or fifty years time for students and historians. We could stream our rehearsals or performances for free using a site like UStream allowing people around the world to share the experience live. We have added QR codes to our marketing materials so people can access video from a poster, leaflet or advert.

Once you have invested time and energy into creating your video it can be used in so many ways, new distribution routes are opening up all the time. The boundary between online video and television broadcasting is breaking down as more people get internet enabled televisions or get used to using web based catch up services.

Certainly New technology is moving in our favour. Cameras get cheaper, editing software is freely available. Also sites like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Foursquare are constantly developing, adding new features and functionality that you could never hope to develop on your own and allowing you access to a huge growing audience at no significant cost.

And most importantly we have content – thrilling, exciting stuff happens in our rehearsal rooms and on our stages.

But the move towards video and the move towards digital raises questions.

An effective video strategy often depends on flexibility and speed – who approves the video? How quickly can you react to opportunities? And what about artist rights? Are you dealing with this at contract stage? What about music rights? In the future we will be expected to become content producers. How do we manage that on limited resources? Do we continue to turn out leaflets and posters? How do we embrace new opportunities without jeopardising what works well for us already? As digital gets bigger who decides and controls what is produced? Where does video content sit within your organisational structure? And finally once we have made this content how do we make it visible to people outside our own existing audience?

Hopefully today's event will answer some of those questions.

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