Sharethrough, the social video ad platform and distribution network, is on a roll as brands of all sizes are shifting some of their focus to creating their own immersive video experiences that go far beyond traditional 15 and 30-second TV spots. Sharethrough's role is to help get branded content into the social media slipstream, to be viewed and shared by target audiences. Earlier this week Sharethrough's CEO and founder Dan Greenberg brought me up to speed on the company's progress and also the changes he's seeing in the market.
Dan reports that in 2010 Sharethrough grew its agency client base by 43%, adding to its roster firms such as Pereira & O'Dell, Universal McCann, Evolution Bureau and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. As Dan explained, agencies are increasingly being called upon by their brand clients to create distinctive video campaigns that capitalize on the trends toward online video and social media. In this way brands themselves are becoming content creators, moving from an "interrupter mindset" to an "entertainment mindset." For the agency creative teams, this shift is extremely liberating; the expanded format lets them flex their creative muscles to a much greater extent. A terrific recent example of this is the gorgeous 2-minute Chrysler "Imported from Detroit" spot with Eminem that aired during the Super Bowl (already with 4.5 million YouTube views). It feels totally different than any car ad and much more like a short film.
But as anyone in the content business knows, it's not enough just to create great content, it's critical to build an audience. And that's why Dan says when his phone rings from an agency (or in some cases brands themselves) the caller often says something like, "we've created this amazing video, but help, my neck is on the line if I can't deliver x number of views."
To address this, Sharethrough has created a distribution network of publisher sites where social engagement is strong. Importantly, the company has aligned its business model with the publishers and the agency/brand. Like Google's AdWords model, Sharethrough gets paid only when views or shares occur, then passing on a share of the payment to its publisher partners. In this way, the agency/brand can set a budget for itself of how many views it's looking to achieve and then have Sharethrough work against it. Sharethrough is also able to target parts of its network, so for example, if the agency/brand wants just men, age 18-24 it can pursue just them. Dan also said that as with AdWords, Sharethrough is striving to have its partners integrate its code on their sites, so that ongoing campaigns can roll out seamlessly.
Dan said 2010 revenues grew 236% and its team increased to 24 people. In 2011 its success is continuing. Last month Sharethrough worked with LEGO's creative agency when it created a 2-minute stop action movie called "The LEGO Brick Thief." The video is a fun, humorous illustration of how highly creative objects can be made out of a random pile of pieces, something that all LEGO users can relate to. Sharethrough helped the video generate 1.5 million views in its first two weeks after launch and nab the #5 spot on AdAge's Viral Video chart.
Dan believes his closest competitors include TubeMogul, Visible Measures and Jun Group. I think of 5Min, Grab Networks and the big video ad networks as also circling these same waters. Sharethrough's ability to deliver success-based targeted views to the right audience, while getting them engaged, will be the key to its success. The good news for Sharethrough and others in this space is that as agencies and brands realize the power of online video and social media to expand their messaging and increase interactivity, there's no question that more of them are going to shift their budgets in this direction.
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