What Can Video Marketers Learn from a Provincial Capital of Ancient Rome?

In Ancient Rome, enter­tain­ment was mer­cy to the will of the crowd. What can video mar­keters learn from the Ancient Romans about using the right for­mats, and pro­vid­ing what the audi­ence wants?

Greg Jarboe By Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Some­times you need to step back – way back – to get a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on the chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties fac­ing mar­keters today. That’s how I recent­ly dis­cov­ered some strate­gic insights about desk­top and mobile video, 360-degree video and vir­tu­al real­i­ty (VR), as well as live video from a provin­cial cap­i­tal of ancient Rome.

Here’s the back­sto­ry: Last month, my wife and I spent a cou­ple of weeks in South­ern France. One of the places that we vis­it­ed was Arles, a city on the Rhone Riv­er that inspired more than 300 paint­ings and draw­ings by Vin­cent Van Gogh. But, Arles was also a provin­cial cap­i­tal of ancient Rome, and we vis­it­ed a cou­ple of sites from that era, includ­ing a the­ater, an amphithe­ater, and a cir­cus.


The Arles Roman The­ater, which fea­tured come­dies and dra­mas, had seat­ing for 8,000. The Arles Amphithe­ater, which fea­tured vio­lent con­fronta­tions between wild ani­mals as well as glad­i­a­tors, had seat­ing for more than 20,000 spec­ta­tors. And the Roman cir­cus in Arles, which fea­tured char­i­ot races, also had a seat­ing capac­i­ty for 20,000 spec­ta­tors. And this was for a rel­a­tive­ly small, provin­cial cap­i­tal of Gaul, not the big city of Rome!

Audiences appreciate variety

What’s sig­nif­i­cant is that all three of these Roman venues of ancient enter­tain­ment exist­ed at rough­ly the same time. New­er set­tings didn’t replace old­er loca­tions. In oth­er words, dif­fer­ent for­mats con­tin­ued to be suit­able for dif­fer­ent types of enter­tain­ment — or, at least, what passed for enter­tain­ment 2,000 years ago.

Today, the the­ater, which was built back around the time when Augus­tus was the Roman Empire’s first emper­or (from 27 BC until AD 14), is still used in the sum­mer for plays. The amphithe­ater, which was built in the first cen­tu­ry BC, is still used for bull­fight­ing. And the cir­cus is now the loca­tion of a muse­um, but one can eas­i­ly imag­ine it still being one of the For­mu­la One cir­cuits.

In oth­er words, peo­ple still go to dif­fer­ent places to watch dif­fer­ent types of enter­tain­ment. And no one expects to see Grand Prix motor rac­ing or a bull­fight on a theater’s stage. Nor do they expect to see a group of actors or bull­fight­ers run­ning around a For­mu­la One cir­cuit. So, peo­ple under­stand what each type of enter­tain­ment is best suit­ed for and which ones to watch in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions.

So, what lessons can marketers learn from this provincial capital of ancient Rome?

Most of us start­ed cre­at­ing con­tent for audi­ences that watched our videos on their desk­tops or lap­tops. Now, our audi­ences are watch­ing our edit­ed videos or live streams on smart­phones, tablets, game con­soles, smart TVs, Card­board view­ers, or even vir­tu­al real­i­ty sys­tems such as Ocu­lus Rift.

And after Twit­ter announced that it was going to kill off Vine, I can’t tell you the num­ber of times I’ve been asked: Which one of these oth­er types of video will even­tu­al­ly replace all the oth­ers?

Well, let’s check out which one of the var­i­ous types of enter­tain­ment even­tu­al­ly won out in Arles. Oh, wait, all the enter­tain­ment options of that era co-exist­ed simul­ta­ne­ous­ly for close to 500 years. So, maybe this assump­tion that one new form of video con­tent will even­tu­al­ly replace all the oth­ers is what real­ly needs to be re-exam­ined.

The ancient Romans didn’t stop going to the the­ater when glad­i­a­to­r­i­al con­tests and char­i­ot races came along. And that was true out there in the provin­cial cap­i­tal of Gaul as well as in Rome, which was the largest city in the world cir­ca 100 BC to 400 AD.

Flexible formats

So, fig­ure out what sto­ry you plan to tell, the spec­ta­cle you plan to cre­ate, or event you plan to hold. Then, rec­og­nize that some types of video are more appro­pri­ate for dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. For exam­ple, con­sid­er what NBC did for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games…

For a great sto­ry, with a begin­ning, a mid­dle, and an end, then an edit­ed video — which can be watched on a desk­top, mobile, or tablet device — is per­fect. For exam­ple, the video with the most views BEFORE the Rio Olympics began was “Sam­sung Offi­cial TVC: ‘The Anthem’ — Rio 2016 Olympic Games.” Uploaded on Thurs­day, July 21, it cur­rent­ly has 29.0 mil­lion views and 38,800 engage­ments.


For live events, where out­comes are in doubt, then live video is per­fect. For exam­ple, NBC pro­vid­ed 4,500 hours of live stream­ing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. And, NBC’s dig­i­tal pre­sen­ta­tion of the 2016 Rio Olympics broke pre­vi­ous con­sump­tion records.

  • Across NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, there were a record 3.3 bil­lion total stream­ing min­utes – (Live + Full Event Replays + High­lights)
  • View­ers live streamed 2.71 bil­lion min­utes of Olympic cov­er­age – a new record for event cov­er­age.
  • The 2.71 Bil­lion live min­utes near­ly dou­bled the COMBINED live streamed min­utes of ALL pri­or Games (1.48 Bil­lion).
  • NBC Olympics dig­i­tal cov­er­age amassed 100 mil­lion unique users – 29% more than the 2012 Lon­don Olympics.
  • More than 50% of view­ers live stream­ing Olympic events on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app were under 35 years old.

And even if you don’t have a spec­ta­cle like a cou­ple of wild ani­mals or glad­i­a­tors try­ing to kill each oth­er, you can still lever­age 360-degree video, which lets view­ers see a video from every angle just by swip­ing or mov­ing the phone or tablet around – with­out a head­set. You can also lever­age VR, which takes the 360-degree video expe­ri­ence a step fur­ther by adding the feel­ing of immer­sive­ness – when viewed with a VR head­set. NBC gave peo­ple a hint of things to come by let­ting them expe­ri­ence the Rio Olympics in vir­tu­al real­i­ty as well as by let­ting them watch 360-degree bas­ket­ball high­lights or 360-degree clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny high­lights.

Now, before you fol­low suit by invest­ing in this tech­nol­o­gy, here are some ques­tions to con­sid­er:

  • Will 360-degree video or VR give view­ers an expe­ri­ence that they oth­er­wise could­n’t have?
  • Could you give shop­pers a bet­ter feel for your prod­uct?
  • Will your record­ing envi­ron­ment be rich with things to see?
  • Will view­ers want to con­tin­ue watch­ing beyond the ini­tial “That’s cool” moment?

The net-net: In the world of online video, dif­fer­ent plat­forms can co-exist quite com­fort­ably for a long, long time. Who knows, some could even co-exist for hun­dreds of years.

Greg Jarboe

Written by Greg Jarboe

President, SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe is President and co-founder of SEO-PR, an award-winning content marketing agency that was founded in 2003. He’s the author of YouTube and Video Marketing and also a contributor to The Art of SEO, Strategic Digital Marketing, Complete B2B Online Marketing, and Enchantment. He’s profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes, a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and writes for Tubular Insights and The SEM Post. He’s an executive education instructor at the Rutgers Business School and the Video and Content Marketing faculty chair at Simplilearn.

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