At this evening's OMMA Awards Hitviews' founder Walter Sabo will be hoping to see his project in advertising via viral video celebrity pay off with industry recognition of a novel model. Nominated in the Viral Video category, his campaign for Fox's Glee TV series last year engaged some of the top YouTube personalities to promote the show in their own way. While that approach has been going on all year in a number of ad hoc efforts, Sabo started Hitviews as a way to systematize the process of matching brand marketers with just the right video celebrities for any number of campaigns. "We encourage the brands to take advantage of Web stars' expertise, which is to attract an audience. That has eluded the brands whenever they try to make their own videos. No one watches."
Several years ago he enlisted the help of one of the most successful Web stars, Caitlin Hill, who now serves as the main liaison between marketers and the 50 or so video celebs Hitviews recruits for campaigns. "We develop copy points and product points and they have a creative meeting on the phone to figure out how to make the most of it," says Sabo. From there the Web star is on his or her own to craft a message and figure out how best to integrate it with their usual programming. This is not an approach for brands that want to have creative control. The marketer can accept or reject the final product, but there is no tinkering.
When it comes to targeting, Sabo says that the demographics for online video have become so broad there is a good sized footprint within which marketers can now work. Often the demo of the Web star is not the same as that of the audience. Older online celebs often have a young audience. And the pool of Web stars is remarkably stable he has found. "Ninety-percent fo the starts from three years ago are still stars," he says.
And the message integrations within beloved Web shows that generate millions of views are not resented by the viewers, Sabo contends. "I was worried about this myself," he says. The stars always disclose the sponsorship and generally it has not proven to be an issue for the viewers. "When the brands get involved it validates the audience's choice," he says.
Sabo says that this is only the beginning of a more substantial shift in the way that marketers will need to leverage individuals, not media companies, to get their message through. "We are entering the time of the personal media entrepreneur. If I can sit with a PC in my lap and make a video that a million people will love, I have done better than any cable network. I think what you will see is [marketers] will put media money into the hands of individuals and say 'go to it.'" They just need to do the basic math. These vidcam celebrities are gathering mutliple more audience on a regular basis that the polished network video the advertisers now crave. "They have parties at MSNBC when they hit 300,000 viewers, and these stars can do that in no time," he says. "If we have a video with 300,000 views, that is a bad day. We don't have a party."