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?

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How to Do Product Placements Right

May 22, 2007

With video product placements at YouTube and other sites getting more attention in the media, including a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, marketers should be examining their practices.

The issue is not whether product placements make sense — they do (see previous post). What marketers need to focus on is how to do them right, so they’re effective.

The first emphasis, which should be obvious, must be on entertainment value. Remember, videos distributed primarily through YouTube and other websites rely almost entirely on popularity in order to gain viewers. This is completely different from buying your way in front of an audience, as with conventional television advertising. A video that lacks strong entertainment value simply won’t get played, won’t get positive ratings, and won’t pick up comments — whether it’s sponsored or not.

Certainly, “over-the-top” product-placement videos can succeed. So can poking fun at your own brand or your own mainstream advertising campaigns (within limits, of course). Blatantly subversive approaches, such as the initial “mystery” that surrounded lonelygirl15, also can work.

The products themselves can be placed in videos, promoted with a post-roll citation, or both. With subversive campaigns, the rules are entirely different and both media interest and the “reveal” must be carefully orchestrated.

Either way, keep the time element in mind. The pacing and plotting of a video clip that runs two or three minutes are more like a mini television show or movie than a commercial.


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.


Nalty’s 10 Tips for Running a Successful Contest

May 16, 2007

Marketers who have been following the ongoing series on video contests here at User-Generated Nation should check out a recent post at Will Video for Food.

“Viral Video Genius” Kevin Nalty offers 10 great ideas for running a successful contest.

As Nalty cautions, “Video contests continue to roll out, often ignoring some of the basics for attracting good entries.”

I’ve heard the same from marketers, who have advised that acquiring entries can be surprisingly difficult. User-Generated Nation’s recent series on contests has offered some suggestions for remedying the problem.

Nalty brings the perspectives of both content creator and marketer to the issue. His post should be considered essential reading by anyone who plans to sponsor video contests.


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.