The service, which is available for between $39 and $79 per month, aims to lure business owners that don't have the time or the budget to develop full-length spots for TV or the Web. The clips also help drive increased search traffic to a merchant's Web page, since the engines typically index and rank video content favorably in the search results.
Los Altos, Calif.-based MerchantCircle spent about 18 months testing online video models for its network of more than 600,000 small businesses--but according to Darren Waddell, the company's vice president of marketing, none of the previous approaches gained traction. "A lot of folks offering online video ads run on the same model as TV," Waddell said. "Which means you pay for a lot of production up front with no guarantee that it will work. A majority of our merchants can't even afford to spend $1,000 on one ad--let alone the rights over time, or the media space to run it. Spotzer's solution appealed to us because it was both cost-effective and scalable."
Amsterdam-based Spotzer's model pairs businesses with professional-quality, ready-made clips created in a "virtual studio." A basic video features stock footage, voice and music tracks, and ends with a merchant's name, address and contact details. Merchants can customize clips with their own logos, photos, scripted voiceovers and other elements for an extra fee, while the standard fees include rights management--which ensure that no two merchants in the same geographical region or vertical end up with a video that features the same elements.
Spotzer CEO Andrew Klein said the company spent the last two and a half years trying to develop an automated online video advertising platform, and had been largely working with Yellow Pages providers that had sales forces savvy enough to pitch the product to their clients. "They helped business owners understand that they didn't have to hire a media coach, a set designer to make their office look inviting, a videographer to shoot it all, and then wait eight weeks for the result," Klein said. "It eliminates many of the costs and unnecessary processes."
Klein said the company produced a library of more than 1,000 "ready-to-wear" videos across multiple verticals, although he acknowledged that some business owners would likely need more customized clips. "Our system works superbly for some categories, but there are creative challenges with others," he said. "It would do no good to show the warehouse where a swimming pool company keeps their parts, so we can do better by showing clips of kids playing in a pool. For a restaurant, though, people likely want to see what the space looks like and how it's unique. In that case, we'd show something like a testimonial or a creative way of highlighting food without the scenery."
Currently, the clips are only available on a business' MerchantCircle page, although Waddell said the company was exploring whether to allow users to port them to other properties. "About 75% of our merchants have no other Web presence," Waddell said. "So this is where they would want to drive traffic, and what they'd want to show up in the search results anyway." Business owners can register for and customize a video directly on the MerchantCircle Website, which Klein said could be uploaded "instantly."