Making Sense of Video Advertising “Anarchy”

June 10, 2007

In ancient video history (pre-2006, before “video” displaced “television” as the default term), advertising meant buying time for placing television commercials and, occasionally, infomercials. The only variables were the length of the spot, and where and when they were placed.

Then YouTube came along and dumped all the apples out of the cart. Today, we have anarchy and uncertainty. Or maybe we should consider the expanding options to be more like a smorgasbord of new opportunities. If so, here are some of marketers’ choices:

Sponsored videos, produced for a fee by semi-professional usertainers, and spread via their fan bases.

Video usertising contests, such as those mounted by Doritos and others that were hits at February’s Super Bowl. 

Contextual, Google-style text ads displayed next to videos (just beginning to emerge, but certain to be HUGE).

Product placements — a specific form of sponsored videos.

Subversive campaigns — deliberate “viral mysteries,” inspired by the success of lonelygirl15.

How-to videos — a form of sponsored videos or product placements.

Emerging mobile formats, which presumably will include associating videos with Twitter postings.

Widgetized video — and it’s worth mentioning that associating such videos with abbreviated text ads looks like a good bet.

Proliferation of web-only video networks — ranging from content-development plays such as Michael Eisner’s Vuguru, to a host of well-financed YouTube clones and variations (such as Joost) waiting in the wings.

Online initiatives undertaken by traditional television networks and channels.

Re-invention of POTS (plain-old television service) as TV and TV advertising adapt to online innovations.

Half a dozen other options I haven’t thought of.

Did I say smorgasbord?


BusinessWeek Proposal: Video’s Limits, or Infancy?

June 2, 2007

bw_255×65.gifThis week’s reports that BusinessWeek is considering launching its own YouTube-style video channel points to an interesting question: Does such an initiative strain the limits of where user-generated video can go, or does it instead just scratch the surface?

Some aspects of the proposed BusinessWeek program struck me as perhaps pushing the limit. A user-generated business-ideas contest, on a mainstream business website? For that matter, is a buttoned-down brand like BusinessWeek suitable to UGC video at all, given that the form thus far tends to be dominated largely by humor and assorted oddities? And then there’s the matter of unruly commenters and irreverant response videos. Oh, and what about the tendency of users to hijack a UGC site (as Digg recently learned) if it shows the least tendency to attempt to “control” their behavior?   

Granted, the emergence of Internet video as a platform opens huge opportunities for BusinessWeek and other established business-media outlets. The question is, would they be better off taking a more conventional approach — or if unconventional, something (I have no idea what) that doesn’t even remotely resemble YouTube?

If nothing else, we’re full-bore into experimentation. Who knows, this proposed initiative by BusinessWeek may soon end up looking tame.

Is Vidmetrix Your Next Key Metrics Source?

May 23, 2007

Marketers definitely should check out Vidmeter’s new video analytics service, Vidmetrix.

Vidmeter/Vidmetrix intends to be a “go-to” source for marketing metrics on Internet video, and it’s showing strong progress toward achieving that goal. Though he launched Vidmeter just a few months ago, founder Bri Holt brings relevant expertise to the task and he and his team are building it out quickly.

Vidmetrix, Vidmeter’s new service, “is designed for marketing firms to track their online video campaigns, see how much exposure they’re getting, and see consumer feedback,” Holt says.

That means tracking views and comments across 44 (“and counting”) video sites, and generating a rich suite of reports and tracking. Vidmetrix also enables tracking videos hosted at a business’s own site, and for integrating that data with activity from distributed channels (YouTube, etc.).

Needless to say, tracking and metrics that can bring visibility to the rather chaotic world of online video is invaluable to marketers. If you haven’t done so yet, check out Vidmetrix.

Product-Placement “Controversy” Overblown

May 20, 2007

Marketers should not let recent media reports about a video product-placement “sellout” scare them off from sponsoring videos or dropping products in.

The concerns, first raised in the the Los Angeles Times a few days ago and likely to spread further (I received a call from a reporter in Virginia on the issue after the Times story appeared), are overblown.

YouTube has been covered in the media so exhaustively that reporters are searching for new and juicy angles. I’m sorry, but seeking controversy in product placements isn’t going to win any Pulitzers. The concerns could continue to circulate in the media for awhile, but they’re essentially meaningless.

Far more important for marketers is to execute product placements and sponsored videos correctly, in order to get optimum bang for your advertising dollar.

What Contest Sponsors Can Learn from Hollywood

May 13, 2007

What made “American Idol,” “Survivor” and “Dancing With the Stars” so successful?

These hit contest franchises have three important things in common:

First, they create an emotional tug by portraying the contestants’ personalities and individual stories.

Second, they pull us in deeper with close-up studies of how the contestants react to pressure.

Third, they inject these elements into a competitive scenario that reveals clear winners and losers in a nail-biting crescendo.

It boils down to an intense human drama involving real people that viewers have grown to care about deeply.

And it’s all totally manufactured and orchestrated, for effect.

Video contest sponsors should consider the techniques Hollywood has perfected with these hit shows.

Blockbuster Contest Idea: A $1 Million Prize

May 8, 2007

If you’re looking to sponsor a video contest that gets lots of media exposure and a slew of great entries featuring your brand, here’s an idea: Offer a $1 million prize.

I would contend that apart from buying spots for the Super Bowl, a strategy that proved successful back in February, a $1 million prize is the best way to ensure that your contest stands out. (Then again, a $1 million prize and a Super Bowl spot could be the perfect contest combo.)

Of course, $1 million is just the starting point. A contest putting this much on the line also would need plenty of conventional advertising to back it up, as well as investment in online and broadcast venues to showcase the top contestants and their entries.

(By the way, I predicted that someone would offer a $1 million prize this year over at sister blog Usertainment Watch, which is written for producers. I’m still waiting — and so are all those producers out there!)

Are Video Contests Wagging the Dog?

May 5, 2007

One of the really strange things about video contests, if you think about it, is their inward-facing nature.

Consider: Marketers are trying to get amateur video producers to make advertisements in exchange for a prize. But in order to solicit entries, substantial sums are spent publicizing the contest. Ostensibly this creates “buzz,” but more realistically it’s simply a necessity, given the difficulty of acquiring quality entries.

If you don’t believe this, look at the ads promoting contests — typically, they’re targeted not at the mass market, but at the infintesimally small group of people who might possibly submit a decent video. The tail, in other words, begins to wag the dog.

Where, in this expensive messaging, is the consumer benefit? Does the consumer care about a contest in which she has zero stake?

Marketers need to consider these questions.