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9th April 2015

Madonna and the Meerkat

I felt a little underwhelmed after hanging about at the studio to watch Meerkat’s exclusive premier of Madonna’s “Ghosttown”. It wasn’t down to the content. It just didn’t work for mobile, and that’s the fundamental issue that video promotion could face if wrongly executed.

It’s the second time Madonna has used a native social media app to premier songs from her new album Rebel Heart. A few months ago, Madonna used Snapchat’s new Discover feature to premier “Living For Love.” It was a smart move by Madonna. It’s a strategy expected to be seen by the new wave of tech-saavy artists. But Madonna was the first, using Discover just a week into it’s launch.

By being an early adopter, you have to expect unpredictability. Some things work, some things don’t. “Ghosttown” was a beta-test for both Meerkat and the music industry. Did it work? Not really. And here’s the simple reason why…

It was the full-length video. I don’t know the facts, but I am probably right in saying that very few people watch music videos on their phone. Even less people watch them on the move as soon as they get a notification that one is now live. Snapchat is different. Teens can use it on the fly, but can also sit in bed at night watching the longer videos. A daily episode of YesJulz isn’t something you watch on the move. It’s the same thing with the Madonna video. It requires time. It requires an environment where you can play audio, laugh, cry, and interact.

It’s also a bit of a contradiction. A fair few comments on the video included ones like “I thought this was going to be live.” And why wouldn’t it be? It’s on Meerkat, a live stream application. But imagine if it was. Imagine if they created a live-streamed music video. Now that would be exciting.

Or, what if they just showed a preview of the video and put a code in it that gave something exclusive to the people who watched. Or a secret message. Or just something that rewarded the loyal fans who bothered. Time is important, and viewers are rewarded for their loyalty by getting a shitty ‘download now’ message at the end. One that didn’t even display on my iPhone properly.

I wonder if Meerkat are working on a way to give brands insights into the users who watch their videos. 8,221 people watched “Ghosttown”. Does Madonna know who those people are? Or who the first person was? Or who commented the most? This selling point is so crucial to the success of apps like Meerkat.

Aside from the shortfall of this particular promotion, there is huge potential here. This is a new wave of advertising. It could be incredibly effective. But right now, brands need to get smarter. They need a way of making live video work. Maybe the future is making live video not so live. Snapchat has the best of both worlds here, and that’s going to be hard to compete with.

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