It seems like barely a week goes by these days without a new online-only original video series or new distribution agreement being announced. But even as content creators' enthusiasm for the new medium grows, there's one constant reality: if major advertising dollars don't flow into online video, these projects will not survive. Content creators, distributors and agencies need to make a coordinated, concerted effort to educate advertisers about these new opportunities in order to help drive spending.
That's why the recently announced "Digital Content NewFronts" (DCNF) are a step in the right direction. Recognizing that a rising tide lifts all boats, five of the top ten online video destinations have banded together with ad agency Digitas to host two weeks of targeted events. But as Mark Beeching, Chief Global Creative and Strategy Director for Digitas explains in the following interview, the DCNF isn't as much an event as it is part of an ongoing, inclusive dialogue between brands and content creators/distributors looking to tap into completely new customer engagement opportunities.
Five of the top 10 online video destinations - AOL, Hulu, Microsoft, Yahoo and YouTube - are joining with ad agency Digitas to launch the first-ever "Digital Content NewFronts" (DCNF). The DCNF's goal is to "shape a new and practical marketplace for connecting the wealth of native digital content with brand marketers and their media and marketing agencies." From April 19th to May 2nd, each of the 6 companies will host a day-long event in NYC showcasing their programming and ad opportunities. The DCNF actually builds on the 1-day NewFront event Digitas has been holding for the last 3 years.
I think the combined approach of the DCNF is the right idea at the right time. Given the wealth of premium original online video that each of the 5 destinations is pursuing - all of which is ad-supported - the DCNF could become an important catalyst in educating advertisers and agencies about these new opportunities and therefore why they should shift some of their spending. As I've recently written, a bevy of Hollywood A-listers and others are getting involved in original online video productions, helping create a "virtuous cycle" of anticipated growth.
Below is the 19th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for June 5, 2009.
Daisy was in New York this week for the "NewFronts," a day-long meeting that Digitas sponsored, mainly for independent online video creators and media buyers/agencies. The goals were to educate the market and fuel advertiser interest. Daisy reports that despite the mixed news coming out of the independent video world this year, it was an upbeat gathering.
I provide additional detail on Microsoft's announcement this year of new entertainment-oriented features for XBox 360. The gaming console continues to take on more of a convergence positioning, with new instant-on 1080p video, live streams, Zune integration, etc. With an installed base of 30 million users, Microsoft has a prime opportunity to drive convergence and get a video foothold. The new Xbox 360 features coincide with last week's Hulu Desktop announcement and this week's YouTube XL unveiling.
Click here to listen to the podcast (14 minutes, 47 seconds)
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At the OMMA Video Summit yesterday in NYC, I moderated a panel entitled "Branded Entertainment." Readers of VideoNuze know that I have been tracking brand marketers' varied broadband initiatives which are whittling away traditional demarcations between advertising and content. Broadband is opening up a whole new frontier for brands to engage their audiences.
We had a stellar group of panelists who have been on the front lines of branded entertainment, including three from agencies (Jeremy Lockhorn from Avenue A Razorfish, Joe Frydl from Ogilvy Entertainment and John McCarus from Digitas/The Third Act) and two from independent video sites making a strong push into this area (Rob Barnett from MyDamnChannel and Peter Hoskins from ManiaTV).
The whole area of branded entertainment is still in its infancy, meaning different things to different people. The panel's consensus was that these projects must provide "entertaining consumer experiences in which brands receive 'permission' to market their products." Joe, who's produced the Hellmann's "Real Food" campaign (now back for its second season on Yahoo), emphasized the importance of presenting content that's authentic to the brand while also finding partners who can deliver big audiences.
Those partners can vary as John mentioned that in a recent 45 webisode series it created for Holiday Inn Express, 90% of the series' views came from 10% of its overall distribution sites and that these were mainly smaller outlets. That sparked a consensus that when picking distribution partners, those with narrower but more passionate audiences were preferred to larger, but less focused outlets. Peter and Rob both noted that there smaller size and focused audiences allow them work more closely with brands to tailor content for their audiences' interests.
That synched up with advice from Jeremy (and seconded by others) that when it comes to branded entertainment, brands must be involved from the start of the creative process. Content companies still tend to look upon brands as little more than checkbooks, with products to be written into scenes after the creative is essentially complete. That bias needs to change fast if branded entertainment is to succeed. To increase the odds of success, Peter noted that ManiaTV focuses on episodic content, as consumer relationships build slowly over time.
The role of agencies is certain to change as branded entertainment gets more traction. Since it's still so early, panelists concurred that agencies need to "embrace ambiguity" and focus on "earning attention, not buying attention" for their clients. Listening to the panelists, it seemed to me that agencies looking to operate successfully in this area will also need significant business development/partnership skills as pulling distribution into these campaigns is quite important.
Branded entertainment is yet another greenfield opportunity that broadband is opening up. Given how many agencies and others are setting up branded entertainment specialty units, it's certain to get more priority by brands.