Beyond HumanBig PictureCatalystsConnected WorldExchangeMarketing MixNew MoneyNew SchoolPeople SciencePulse

Why are we seeing the explosion of video now?

rise of video rise of video
Photo credit:

Steven Straiton

How are consumers, brands and advertisers contributing to the rise of video content? And why now?

The rise of video is taking over the internet. Look everywhere and you’ll see it. It’s all over Facebook, to the extent that in just one year, the number of video posts per person increased 75% globally and 94% in the US.

It’s all over advertising. Over two-thirds of marketers and agencies say they’ll increase their video ad spend over the next year. And the rise of video is all over mobile advertising, with mobile video ad spend set to reach $6 billion in 2018, at which point it will rival desktop video ad spend.

Brands who want to know why this is happening should have already learned their lessons last time around with social media. We saw it then, and we’re seeing it again now. It’s a simple case of removing barriers to reveal behavior.

The unseen barriers

It used to be a common question: how do I get online? It was actually a valid one too.

If you wanted to set up a website you needed considerable expertise, from putting together a server, building a firewall, installing and maintaining software, and that’s quite apart from learning how to code HTML, maybe script of some description, maybe stylesheets, and so on.

Social media came along and today, it’s as simple as filling in your email and password.

But why the rise of video now? We’ve been happy with the written word for thousands of years, and the printed word for several hundred.

Somewhere along the line, the questions stopped. The barriers had been removed, and suddenly a whole host of behaviors were enabled online. Whenever people could share, they did share, because it’s a basic human instinct.

It helps us, as gregarious creatures, to develop relationships. We will elevate people who share more, even penalize people who cheat at the sharing game. And the rest is social media – particularly Facebook – history.

The same is happening with the rise of video on mobile. Remove barriers, and people show their preference for the video format.

Just from the hardware perspective, we’ve moved from small, underpowered devices that could barely display lines of text, to extremely powerful, yet affordable mobile models. They contain technology specifically developed to drive video, and stunning, large, bright displays that can render at high definition and beyond.

This isn’t just tablets either. New form factors such as the iPhone 6 Plus are leading the way with the ‘phablets’ category (either a large phone or a small tablet, depending on how you view them) that represent something of a sweet spot for mobility and display.

Broadband is also enabling the rise of video on mobile.

It’s becoming ubiquitous and affordable – even free – whether as WiFi or 4G. If you want anecdotal evidence, simply walk down a street in most cities or towns, and you’ll be able to get either a strong mobile data signal, or log on to a free WiFi network.

So consumers are nearly ‘always on’, connected to a fast, stable connection capable of streaming video – and that’s before we even start seeing the impact of initiatives from the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon aimed at extending the broadband reach.

The attraction of video

But why the rise of video now? We’ve been happy with the written word for thousands of years, and the printed word for several hundred.

The reason is that, as with sharing, it’s basic to what we are as human beings. Remove the barriers, and the behavior emerges.

According to Dr Simon Hampton, resident psychologist at the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), just because we’ve been using written words for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean we like them.

We have to spend many hundreds of hours of hard work to learn how to read and write. And yet, because of the way our brains are wired, we immediately recognize and react to images.

In short, babies don’t need to be taught to paint with their fingers.

Another Ph. D., Susan Weinschenk, offers her perspective on video in particular. She says that we are pre-programmed to focus on faces and voices, and respond to emotion and movement.

No wonder then that the active, multimedia video trumps the static word – or, in advertising, the boring banner ad.


It would be disingenuous however to imply that there isn’t a push, alongside the instinctual pull.

In this case it happens to be that brands and agencies like video too.

They’ve been developing video content for over 50 years, since the first TV ad appeared for Bulova watches, so they have experience which they would like to bring to mobile, rather than have to relearn tools and techniques.

They also like to tell joined-up stories across channels, so the more they can show the same – or equivalent – video promotion on a mobile phone as, say, TV or even cinema, the better.

Brands have also had barriers removed. The cost of production has gone down and technology is now in place to support the rise of video at critical mass stacking up alongside TV audiences.

Again anecdotally, think of how many people you see playing Candy Crush during the commute. Or, factually, consider that mobile web access has usurped fixed access, and mobile ad spend is predicted to overtake TV ad spend.

A future without barriers

Some barriers remain. For example, people still have ‘banner blindness’ which means they ignore video ads that are in ‘standard’ positions or sizes on the screen, no matter how engaging or compelling they are.

The solution here is native video, which is a lot less off-putting and intrusive to the user experience because it is designed to slot into the interface.

Native advertising works, with studies showing two-thirds of respondents finding native more interesting and informative, and a third more likely to trust native than traditional advertising.

So consumers are driving the video explosion. We’re doing this because we like video, and that’s not going to change any time soon.
So here’s to the rise of video – until something more intuitive comes along anyway.