This past January, TechCrunch staged its 4th annual Hardware Battlefield, a startup competition focused on hardware startups, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
TechCrunch built a high-tech stage on the mezzanine of the Sands Expo, which is where the startups exhibit during CES, and hosted 12 Hardware Battlefield contestants as well as a variety of prominent speakers and Battlefield judges over three days.
A ten-member TechCrunch editorial team produced dozens of stories and videos from the show, and TechCrunch livestreamed the proceedings on stage. The winner of Battlefield was Siren, a company that makes socks from “smart” textiles that can track a diabetic’s health.
From a media standpoint, this Hardware Battlefield was by far TechCrunch’s most successful to date in terms of media reach and the breadth of our brand partnerships with Toyota and Verizon.
How Off-Platform Video Stole the Show
The headliner statistic for TechCrunch at CES 2017: total video views from the show reached 6.2 million across all platforms, including TechCrunch proper, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. That was an 83% increase over 2016, and more than a 10x improvement over 2014. That strong growth is partly attributable to year-over-year improvements in our video production, including short-form videos with text overlays for social mobile applications, but no less important is the huge growth of off-platform video distribution.
A year ago, for example, we live-streamed only on TechCrunch.com, but this year we did so on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook as well, thanks to new “live” capabilities on those platforms. As a result, we saw a four-fold increase in live-stream views, reaching almost 400,000.
When it came to overall video distribution, both live and VOD, Facebook was overwhelmingly dominant. Video views live or VOD reached 4.2 million, or 67% of our total. Instagram is also worth a shout out—jumping from next-to-nothing at CES 2016 to 345,000 views this year.
How TechCrunch’s Brand Partners Benefited
Toyota and Verizon were the two exclusive partners for TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield and CES coverage. Both bought conventional media plans on the site, which included a site-wide takeover of both websites during the first half of January, as well as supporting meeting throughout Q1. Media formats included cross-screen premium formats (the 300×1050 “devil” unit) and pre-roll on both websites, as well as standard display units and pre-roll in Facebook Instant Articles.
Toyota, in partnership with its agency Saatchi & Saatchi, took its campaign a step further by extending its brand alignment into custom video content and off-platform media, both online and on the CES stages.
- Branding on Off-Platform Video: The Toyota brand appeared as a watermark in all CES videos posted on TechCrunch’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram accounts. TechCrunch worked closely with a Facebook-approved vendor to ensure the watermarks followed Facebook’s rules. Check out this example.
- Brand Integration in Crunch Report: Toyota was the exclusive sponsor of TechCrunch’s daily news show in January, which included an in-show mention by the show host and a prominent Toyota logo. Unlike traditional pre-roll, this type of integrations appears across all platforms. See this example at 1:33.
- On-Stage Innovation Breaks: Toyota also took advantage of TechCrunch’s live Innovation Breaks on the TechCrunch stage. Each day Toyota owned 15 minutes of stage time in front of the live CES audience as well as the live audience online. The LED backdrop to the stage made it simple to convert stage graphics from TechCrunch to Toyota for the duration of the break.
For the first two days, a guest moderator interviewed two distinguished Toyota innovators:
- Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, about Toyota’s Concept-i car, which Toyota unveiled for the first time in public at CES
- Ian Cartabiano, Chief Studio Designer at Calty, which designed Toyota’s Concept-i car
On the third day, Toyota featured a custom video, filmed and produced by AOL’s Partner Studio, about the Toyota’s Concept-i unveiling at CES. Subsequently, TechCrunch’s media team made social cut-downs of the Innovation Break videos and promoted it through sponsored dark posts on Facebook, helping Toyota reach a broader audience.
- Custom-Built Video Content: Toyota collaborated with AOL’s Partner Studio team to film, produce and distribute three pieces of custom video content on TechCrunch, like this one.
What TechCrunch and Its Partners Learned at CES 2017
TechCrunch provided a very substantial jump in audience and distribution to its partners this year through an aggressive and successful off-platform strategy.
On TechCrunch’s side, this required a very nimble approach from our media, social, video and product teams, who work closely together every day to size up new developments off-platform that TechCrunch can use to its advantage.
For our partners, the keys to great outcomes were a willingness to experiment with off-platform approaches and to trust that TechCrunch would execute well.