Smart videos for Smart Nations

Video (a combination of moving images and/or sound) is probably the best media form to entertain, inform, and influence people. It’s because biologically, our human eyes and brain are wired to detect moving elements. For nearly 90 percent of human history, our ancestors need to continuously scan their environment to detect danger, hunt and gather foods. Human can also process visual images incredibly fast (around 13-50 milliseconds per image, measured by MIT neuroscientists in 2014), much faster than processing text (around 200-300 milliseconds per word). Therefore, even without sound, video with its moving images is very effective in attracting people attention and increasing their memory retention. With sound, which directly affects our mood and emotion, video influence is even stronger.

Due to its effectiveness, video is widely used for entertainment, marketing, advertising, and public communications. Disney and Lego are among the best corporations that actively produce and use movies for both entertainment and marketing. Most of their movies have been successfully generating demand and promoting their own/licensed products for years. James Bond movies are famous with product placements from big brands like Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolex. For public communications, the video address during Covid-19 outbreak in Singapore by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong effectively calmed down the public and substantially reduced panic buying.

While analogue videos have been around for decades, smart videos are new. Because most videos are in digital format now, we can apply various techniques to analyse and extract useful information from videos. For example, applying facial recognition on CCTV videos can help to detect criminals, trace Covid-19 patients, find lost children, etc. Some retailers can analyse videos to understand their visitor traffic (e.g., genders, age, interests). These smart video solutions are normally used by governments (video surveillance) and large businesses (video analytics), not by normal consumers.

On consumer side, smart videos are normally associated with interactive, clickable videos. For example, a few movies are produced and showed in a way that audiences can choose different storylines and endings. On some YouTube videos, people can click on a fixed link/image/logo to visit sponsor websites. On certain interactive video ads, audiences can also share ads with their social networks, fill a form or survey within the ads. These interactive video ads are standardized by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in various documents, e.g., Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) 1.0 in 2009, VPAID 2.0 in 2012, Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) 4.0 in 2016, and Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID) 1.0 in June 2019.

There is a major problem with video ads: no one like ads. For many people, most ads are interrupting and annoying. People can tolerate the interruption of 30-second ads when we only have TV and not much choice on contents, time to watch, and where to watch. However, with the growth of digital video content on YouTube, Netflix, Apple, etc., people have much more freedom to choose what to watch, when and where to get their favourite contents. Many people move away from TV to Netflix and Apple (where there’s no ads) and Internet channels (where they can easily block majority of advertising).

Share of U.S. ad spending by medium (Zenith, Dec 2019)

These trends are reflected in the decrease in TV ad spending and the increase of ad-blocking users. In the United States, during their peak decades of TV advertising, annual TV ad spending had always taken the highest percentage (more than 30%) of total business advertising budget. However, since 2016, spending on Internet advertising surpassed TV ad spending. Internet ad spending is growing to more than 330 billion USD, capturing nearly 60% of total US ad spending in 2022, according to Zenith. Meanwhile, according to Statista, the number of U.S. ad-blocking users are increasing from 21.5% of U.S. Internet users in 2016 to around 27% in 2021. According to research from ComScore and University of Wisconsin in 2016, the numbers of ad-blocking users in Germany and France are even higher, estimated around 23-47% of their national Internet users.

Consequently, smart businesses and nations are investing on video content that entertain, inform, and subtly promote their products and services. For example, Mercedes-Benz are using videos to talk about the lifestyle of their customers and how Mercedes-Benz cars fit in their customers’ live. Hewlett-Packard are using smart videos to showcase how their printers help designers in their work, and how their laptops bring joy to people in Christmas. Singapore Tourism Board, Economics Development Board also actively use videos to tell unique Singapore stories to businesses and people. Standard Chartered Bank are using smart videos in their 115-year anniversary campaign in Vietnam to allow people learn about the bank history, their products and contact their teams directly from the videos.

In smart videos, people can click anywhere, anytime to get relevant information or ask/discuss about anything they like (e.g., a product, a product feature, an interesting hotel, a unique attraction). People can book a hotel room, get discount voucher, buy products, etc. directly from our smart videos. Of course, they can bookmark these smart video objects, share, and further discuss with their social networks via email, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, LINE, Pinterest, etc. Through all these anonymous interactions, we can gain valuable intelligence and insights, e.g., what product features that people really like, which messages are getting attractions in what regions, what media channels are bringing most sales and conversions.

While tourism is probably the first industry that widely apply smart, interactive videos to promote and sales, other industries like real estate and retail will likely follow soon. Currently, most real-estate developers rely on agents to promote and sell their product. This high human-touch approach is costly and ineffective for both developers and buyers. Using smart videos, real-estate developers can promote, measure customer feedbacks, adapt their plans and marketing messages all along the way. For example, during the conceptual phase, real-estate developers can highlight their property location, concept designs, special features using smart videos to ignite and measure customer interests. During the architecture & planning phase, more details on room layouts, interior designs and materials could be shared through smart videos to receive customer feedbacks. Marketing messages can be adjusted for different customer segments and media channels (e.g., overseas or locals, family, or single buyers). Therefore, even before visiting showroom, interested buyers may already have most necessary information and be in contact with sales team. In this case, visiting the showroom or meeting sales team physically could be the final step in their buying process. Similarly, retail buyers will only need to visit retail malls for actual experiencing their interested products before buying.

According to Gartner, besides driving external sales, videos are also effective in corporate executive messaging, internal collaboration, and internal training. This is especially true in the remote, distributed working environment post-COVID. Using smart videos, employees can click on any point that they want to clarify, post questions, and discuss among their teams. In high-stake scenarios, executives can get immediate feedbacks, address any concern from their stakeholders and employees. In these cases, our smart videos can ignite and drive internal collaboration. Similarly, for internal training, smart videos can increase engagement and 2-way feedbacks between instructors and learners.

In the future, smart videos can also bring substantial changes in education. Nowadays, children watch lots of videos, but it is mostly a passive, one-way experience. With smart videos, video-based learning will become an active experience, where children can click anywhere to get relevant, educational info, to share and discuss with their friends and teachers. From their discussions and comments, teachers can understand their students’ interests, their strong and weak points, to drive their discussion and guide them accordingly. After all, only when people, businesses and organizations are learning and doing smarter, then we can build smarter nations.

Note: This is an update version of thought-leadership article in The Smart Nation Navigator 2020/2021, published by SGTech and supported by the Singapore Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

We’re honored to participate in this first Global Innovation Alliance program in the Philippines, where 80-98% Internet users are spending 4.25 hours per day to interact, shop, watch video online. We’re hope to bring more useful and joyful experience to people, while helping businesses/government agencies to gain a deeper understanding of people interests and their PR-marketing channels with smart videos.




Dr. Tony Nguyen is the Director of is a part of our Global Innovation Alliance Manila Program. To find out more about our programs in Manila, click here.

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