How Top Gun inspired Wootag founder to put ‘human touch’ into video marketing

An engineer-turned-ad tech developer has spoken of his hope to restore “the power of human touch” in online retail by allowing users to directly interact with – and purchase from – a video they’re watching

Raj Sunder founded the Singaporean-based start-up Wootag two years ago after becoming inspired while watching Tony Scott’s Top Gun and wanting to learn more about the iconic aviator sunglasses worn by lead actors Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer.

After pausing the film to Google the sunglasses, Sunder had a Eureka moment and was inspired to create a tool that would allow users to be able to click on an item without interrupting the video’s play.

The technology works through brands or agencies uploading their videos to a self-serve platform, which allows them to single out specific items in the clip where users can click a call-to-action such as ‘Buy Now’.

The video will continue playing while users can either decide to keep watching or click through to the retailer’s site.

Taking advantage of brands’ increasing demand to see greater return on investment from their online marketing efforts, Sundar persuaded Unilever to test out the tool on toothpaste brand Pepsodent’s Facebook page.

Following the trial, Pepsodent signed up Wootag for a year. Its early success helped draw the attention of marketers from Johnson Johnson, L’Oreal and Zalora and Wootag has since rolled out the business across six markets in Asia-Pacific.

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia, Sundar said: “The first idea is to create a human touch when you watch a video. If you like something in the video, you should be able to ‘grab’ it and maybe buy it. You are driving human touch within a video, finding out who is touching and making it personalised. The touch leading towards a business objective: a retail sale or the drive to an offline store.”

So far the technology is available on Facebook videos, Google Display Network and a number of brands’ own websites. However, YouTube and Instagram currently have their own interactive technology. Sundar said he learned “a lot” from the latter platform.

Concerns related to investing in digital advertising have escalated over recent months after Procter Gamble publicly cut US$140 million from their digital budget due to concerns over ineffective ads and bot fraud. In a recent report published by NewBase, marketers in Asia-Pacific said that ROI and accountability was the second most important priority for 2017. 

Digital video viewership  is also expected to grow by 10.3 per cent and half of the world’s 1.10 billion is expected to come from APAC this year. With that in mind, Sundar said marketers have become more stringent when it comes examining metrics beyond just ad impressions.

“A video may have got thousands of impression, but of those 90 per cent may not have really consumed it. One of the metrics we track is how many watch the full video and when people ‘drop off’ the video. What duration does the product show up in the content? And how many people watched that point? Marketers here are looking beyond just the number of impressions being served. They’re really starting to get this now.”

Meanwhile, Omnicom Media Group chief innovation officer for APAC Guy Hearn argued that it was too early days to say whether clickable videos was the next big marketing step. However, e-commerce players in China have already adopted such approaches and ground currently remains “fertile” for innovation in this region, he said.

“As with all new approaches, the ROI or impact on consumer perception of the brand can’t be known without trial, so a test and learn approach is needed to determine this and also the impact on the consumer experience. But it seems certain that giving the consumer the power to purchase directly from content will become an expectation,” Hearn added.

Wootag itself has seen significant growth since it first launched. Sundar said the company achieved S$50,000 revenue in the first year and S$200,000 in the second. He added: “Right now I would say we are growing 15 per cent in terms of month-on-month revenues.”

However, due to what Sundar described as a “contraction” in the South-East Asian market, the company will now be exploring more opportunities in the United States.

He added: “There is a good enough in-bound traction for now; we just need to start aggressively scaling.”

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