Less than a half dozen years ago, there was considerable agitation about the indiscriminate use of video news releases. Those provided-for-free video treatments that could easily pass as news footage on local TV newscasts if viewers weren’t told. And often, viewers weren’t told.
Now, news and information Websites are the places to put sponsored video releases.
A new survey by D.S. Simon Productions says the use of sponsored videos on news-like Websites has grown by a third just since 2009, and that 80% use unedited video. It’s an “enormous opportunity” to get a message across, Simon says.
A sponsored video is least likely to be shown on TV station Website without editing, apparently because TV stations are better equipped to do the trimming. But all in all, a lot of them are show unedited. (It appears that “unedited” is not the same as saying “in full.” )
Many Websites, like those run by newspapers, are open for business, too. In 2009, only 53% of newspapers Web sites used video; now 87% do. And if a industry as stodgy as newspapers do it, well, then, online sponsored video is solidly entrenched.
It is hard to say viewers are being fooled by who’s behind some of the video they see online. It usually seems pretty obvious. Because a lot of the video that is being used is on the silly side, it just seems like a Website has fallen for a stupid publicity stunt, which is exactly what happened.
And people visiting the Website want to see something silly, so…
Mike Bibiglia, who often walks in his sleep, wrote the best-selling (naturally!) book Sleep Walk With Me, and then consented to sleep for a week in a display window at Macy’s in Manhattan. This was sponsored by National Sleep Foundation, which found in its bedroom poll that seven out of 10 of us like to sleep on clean sheets with “a fresh scent.”
And Huffington Post went with video of that “story” for one minute and twenty seconds.
Football star Deion Branch was featured on a TMZ.com video. He was show in a barn, pulling milking a cow. The video was titled (by TMZ, apparently) “Like Pulling Teat.” A longer version was shown on USA Today’s Website, without the juvenile teat headline. The video was sponsored by Lactaid, though whether Lactaid got its money’s worth—especially in the TMZ spot—is questionable.
In 2011, after years of deliberation, the FCC began the process of fining two TV stations for , for neglecting to provide "sponsorship identification announcements" before it showed “news segments” on a cold remedy called Zicam and on a line of General Motors cars.
But because the FCC doesn’t oversee the Internet, its Web sites operate under no such restrictions except the ones their own management provide.
Because Websites are often delighted to have footage of something wacky, or someone famous, or someone famous doing something wacky —even if the wacky footage is in itself a commercial--the sponsored video will continue to have a happy home on Websites and on Twitter and Facebook, where we can all get the latest buzz about a video that you just must see.