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Yesterday I was invited to the UK launch of a new personalised video platform, created by Dutch company Rednun.

Rednun claims that if you want the biggest impact possible for the maximum number of people, you can’t do it by producing just one video and uploading it on a shared video platform. You need to personally tailor each video for every individual viewer.

The user provides their personal information to a company, the company provides that database of customer information to a production company. The production company creates a video specifically for every customer, providing maximum relevance and complete personalisation.

Rednun claims the rewards are higher conversion rates, brand loyalty, visibility and engagement rates.

I'm naturally skeptical of most things, especially in terms of the technology needed to achieve mass personalisation and the above goals promised by the company, so here's a rundown of the presentation with a few of my own thoughts peppered throughout for balance.

To make things a little clearer, here’s one of Rednun’s examples:

A customer receives a text message or email stating that they’ve received a personalised video. The customer clicks on the link, taking them directly to a landing page. The video plays, it’s an animation that welcomes them by name, then proceeds to explain the current state of their pension using bright graphics and music.

To ensure high open-rates, the subject line of the email is personalised, and states the nature of the video. The embedded video would use a key piece of personalisation as the still image to further entice the viewer. The fact that the email is sent from a company who you have custom with and expect communication from will also ensure a good level of trust.

This level of personalisation is only likely to be achieved by working with clients who maintain large customer databases. Banks, travel agents, companies with loyalty schemes.

Here’s another example, produced for Air France and KLM:

It’s a happy birthday video (apologies for the lack of embedding here). You’ll just have to imagine your name is Kurt for it to work... and that woman is your secretary, and that you actually have a secretary, anyway… it’s a fairly light and fluffy example, but it's primarily impressive that it features live action, rather than animation.

Smart scripting has to be used to make the videos look good. If you watched the above video, you'll notice the name fits the banner perfectly. A customer’s name can be any length, so if the name has to appear within a template on an animated or live image, that template needs to be entirely adaptable.

In order for a personalised video to be taken seriously; to move beyond the gimmick, the video must look good. Like the video was MEANT for that individual, nobody else. Again, if the banner for the name is the wrong size, nobody will bother watching it further.

Big data

Yes I just deployed the term 'big data'. I've restrained myself since writing this article on how there's no such thing as 'big data', so please forgive me. I of course mean the sheer volume of data on offer to companies from their vast customer databases. Rednun is using this... sheer amount of data in order to provide accurate personalisation.

This use of data and accurate personalisation can also lead to the next biggest advertising buzzword of 2013: ‘storytelling’.

Storytelling means taking your customer or viewer on a journey, using emotional integrity, scriptwriting and a strong narrative. 

It seems that the ultimate goal for personalised video, and for Rednun in particular, is to take something as wildly successful as this year’s John Lewis advert and somehow make that personally tailored to every individual viewer.

The future?

At the moment, this is still very embryonic technology. The examples I’ve been shown have yet to really explore the true potential of personalisation. 

Happy birthday messages, the ability to see your street in a targeted advert for the lottery, a holiday advert beckoning you by name to come visit soon; these all sound like gimmicks that I fear will soon grow old. There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between this and the personalised greeting cards of Moonpig, just a leap in technology.

The other example explored earlier, dry financial information delivered in a bright animated video, just seems a little pointless. It would take me less than a second to read my current pension balance once I’ve logged in. Why do I need a bespoke video to reveal this private information? I am attracted to bright, moving objects, sure, but I also hate to be patronised.

This brings up another question. Security? How safe is the video containing my financial data, currently being hosted on Amazon’s cloud service? How many people beyond myself and my financial services provider have access to this information? 

I would imagine I’m just being needlessly paranoid here, but it would still be a legitimate concern for a lot of companies.

To move away from its gimmicky nature and the possible security worries, I would suggest personalised video might have a future in marketing for ecommerce. Videos could be sent to customers who searched for a particular product on a site, highlighting the product and somehow tying the customer’s information into that video. "Yes I would look nice in that cardigan I abandoned in a shopping basket earlier".

Aside from the criticism, it's an impressive technological achievement, and back home in the Netherlands, the results are paying off: for its current clients, mainly leisure companies, the conversion rates are 8-12 times higher.

Let's see how the UK takes to it.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 29 November, 2013 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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