How Video Interactivity Is Transforming Content

Phil Henken
Phil Henken
Updated August 2 2021
Organizing an interactive virtual event
Phil Henken
Phil Henken
Updated August 2 2021

Interactive video is a new spin on old media that’s gaining popularity among top brands and is increasingly relevant in the digital video space. Video interactivity is a surefire way to engage your audience, for one, but it’s also a way to unlock the untapped potential of video in many uses—education, entertainment, or marketing.


While right now interactive might feel like a bit of a marketing showpiece, “interactive” aspects have previously been used in TV on game shows and reality shows; the advent of the internet and digital video have just turbo-charged the possibilities for interactivity and content delivery. So expect to see a lot more video interactivity on the horizon. Interactive video, or interactive options at least, also generally prove popular with viewers and consumers by sharing the power to create a narrative with the audience. This makes the video experience less passive; the audience participates rather than simply sits back to watch.


If you’ve heard of interactive video but don’t know exactly how it works, or how you can use it in your own content or marketing strategy, this guide is meant to help you get up to speed.


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What is Video Interactivity?

In the simplest sense, video interactivity is providing meaningful control and decision-making to the viewer of a digital video. OK, technically someone watching a video already has some “meaningful control” over it as far as start, stop, rewind, cue up—however, for the most part, the viewer was purely a spectator other than deciding when and what parts of the video to watch, but whatever narrative or information contained in the video was still experienced passively. The more current definition of “interactivity” means to provide a much deeper type of engagement with the video. Viewers will be able to make meaningful choices during the run time through different functionalities. The possibility might even extend all the way to fully branching storylines, as has been seen in some of Netflix’s interactive movies.


To get a better handle on video interactivity, it’s useful to consider interactive video vs traditional video, or linear video. The limits of interactivity in a linear video are as we described above: you can start and stop, fast forward and restart, but beyond those limited control functions you’re along for the ride.


With an interactive video, different types of tools and functions can be included to give the viewer the ability to interact with the video content itself. Depending on the type of device, users can gesture, click and drag, hover, and complete other actions to interact with video content similarly to interacting with a web page.



Some of the different interactive functionalities that can be built into a video include:


Data Inputs: Form fields where users can enter information. This is like fillable forms on a standard webpage for personal info or billing information—except the viewer’s information might also be incorporated into the video’s content.


Hotspots: Hotspots are clickable buttons or areas in a video. They can reveal additional content, link to an outside webpage, move to another section of the video, or otherwise give a viewer an opportunity to engage with and direct the experience.


Overlays: Overlays are the actual information and annotations that may appear on the screen once a hotspot is clicked on. (Have you ever seen a movie come up on the side of your screen when watching a movie on Amazon Video? It’s like that.)


360 Views: Viewers can drag the screen inside the video to see a different perspective or camera angle, getting a full 360-degree view of the scene. It’s a lot like going to “Street View” on Google Maps, except with full motion as well.


Quizzes: Quizzes put questions on the screen and can gather information from data inputs or choices of hotspot buttons and create an assessment, score, or another personalized result at the end, or before moving on to another section, of the video. Obviously, this is invaluable for educational video, but marketers can also reap real benefits from provided data.


Interactive Video Paths: This is the “choose your own adventure” type of functionality that allows users to customize and control the content they see and make decisions affecting the story or path that unfolds in the video.


Additionally, in ambitious projects, any or all these functionalities could be combined in creative ways! Hotspots or quizzes can lead to interactive video path content, overlays might include additional information on 360 views, and so on. The possibilities are endless!



How Interactivity Contributes to Users’ Video Experiences

Interactive video is full of new opportunities: content can be tailored for different audiences using Data Inputs, entertainment can go off in bold new directions with branching choices. Further, audiences seem to love it; it routinely outperforms linear video with higher engagement, longer watch times, higher click-through rates, and generally more success at grabbing audience attention. Additionally, investment in interactions can make the content far more memorable. With generations now growing up on incredibly popular AAA video game titles with selling points that include branching story choices, interactive video is also set to provide these budding consumers a familiar media experience.


In short, the benefits from using an interactive form include:


Engagement Personalizing an experience will just tend to draw your audience in more.


Data Video interactivity can really open up your options. Previously the only data a video could generate was “How many times has it been watched?” which then evolved (but only a bit) to “From where, and for how long, was it watched?” Interactive videos are a whole new ballgame that can provide much more granular data. Your ability to track metrics will be much more powerful: track clicks in the video, analyze different branching paths, collect data from inputs, and generally be able to analyze most aspects of user behavior in the interactive environment.


Conversion Relating to the point about Engagement, if you have your viewer’s attention, you’re much more likely to make an effective call to action, increasing click-throughs.


User Enjoyment As was also pointed out above, when your goal is to create awareness, something people enjoy is going to be far more effective than something your prospective audience might tune out.


Who has the coolest education video tools?


Engage and Entertain Using Video Interactivity

The key to video interactivity is the ability of interactive video to entertain while it also drives engagement (“entergagement” as some marketing folks have put it). There are a few specific things to keep in mind when making interactive video to deliver quality content.


Apply interaction thoughtfully, and design it well. Interactive video can have a few different applications, so first of all keep in mind the aim of your content and do your best to know the audience.


Education: Video interactivity is a huge advantage in the education sphere. By the same token, if you need to get across crucial information about computer science, medical processes, basic chemistry, job-specific training, or the like, you want to lean towards informative content rather than a highly entertaining thrill ride with exotic environments and Fast and Furious car chases. (Well maybe we’d give that a shot?) Nonetheless, interactivity can play a strong role here, particularly features like quizzes, which can measure comprehension, and hotspots and overlays that can enrich and supplement the information being taught. Similarly, gamification can still be used to pose dilemmas and create branching storylines that involve the viewer more deeply in the experience. For example, in teaching medical processes, which one of the following is more immediately engaging: A dry list of procedures to follow in a book or text? Or “virtually” dropping the aspiring doctor or medical technician into a simulated situation where they can make choices and see the results?


Outreach: Outreach is a much more fertile area for purely entertaining your audience, depending on what kind of results you’re looking for. Most of the examples of interactive videos we’re listing as examples below were created for some type of outreach—either direct customer appeals and awareness or a novel experience directed towards recruiting talent. Another terrific application of interactive engagement is for campaigns and donation-based appeals, where success can be based on the emotional engagement generated by the content. Being able to fully involve the audience in your content by influencing choice and reflection on their part will only strengthen your appeal.


interactive video


Successful Examples of Video Interactivity

Looking for some additional inspiration? Here are a few exemplary instances of interactive video from around the web that you should know about:


  • Aardman Animations – Dead Lonely (A Zombie Romance)

Academy award-winning animation studio Aardman Animations collaborated with interactive video company Rapt Media to create this highly entertaining, if slightly grim, interactive short film where you the viewer help Fred the zombie find his long-lost love Barbara in a post-apocalyptic world. If Night of the Living Dead is not your thing, rest assured this is only the cartoon version, and it’s still well worth a look for the cleverly implemented story and problem-solving choices afforded the viewer.


  • Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” Interactive Music Video

A classic interactive entertainment piece created as a promotion for Bob Dylan’s “complete works” CD boxed set in 2013, this digital music video from Sony created 16 television channels where different characters lip-synch the Dylan classic “Like a Rolling Stone.” The content ranges from the obvious, like rappers’ videos and performance clips of Dylan himself, to the absurd, such as home shopping channel hosts lip-synching while displaying a dustbuster vacuum, Marc Maron lip-synching on his talk show, and Anime-influenced cartoons with hyper cute animals. We dare you to not at least crack a smile while navigating through this video.


  • Coldplay – “Ink” Interactive Music Video

Let’s reel it back a little bit (pun maybe intended): while music videos have come to be seen as an art form and content in themselves, their initial purpose was as a promotional clip for the musicians’ songs, which in turn would drive fans to purchase their albums… or if you go far enough back in history, analog cassette, or vinyl record “singles.” So, it’s not surprising to see another music video on the cutting edge of next-gen marketing via video interactivity.


Coldplay’s music video, similar in plot but differing in tone and content to Aardman’s Dead Lonely, embarks a protagonist on a quest to find his lost love. The audience gets to make key decisions on the character’s journey, and like some high-end video game titles, can travel through unique and beautiful environments where there were 300 potential story outcomes! Not only did it get fans talking about the new Coldplay release, but the video also gained a lot of attention for itself.


  • Deloitte – “Will You Fit Into Deloitte?”

In some circles now a classic of video interactivity, this gamified recruitment video lets viewers choose their action through a branching storyline with meaningful consequences. The video is meant to introduce a job candidate to the work culture of Deloitte, which prides itself on being a welcoming environment. Users are presented with a series of situations and must make decisions to direct the course of the story. “A gust of wind blows your presentation notes away, what do you do?” The video helps convey the organizational values that Deloitte holds in high esteem.


Looking to create engaging video with interactive features? Kaltura can help!

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