Commentary

Photobucket, Born Way Back in 2003, Is Still Making a Splash

You remember Photobucket, right? It’s been around since something like 2003, a photo Web sharing and storage site before there was a Instagram or a Vine or a Flickr, and so old hat that well, maybe it seems like old hat.

“It’s the first objection we have to answer all the time,” says Brad Davis, the EVP of sales. “We have to show them the continuing relevance of the product, because it’s not some new shiny thing on the market.”

But Photobucket, say Davis and David Toner, the vice president of marketing , still has a very strong, and very large use base, the benefit of a secure back end for users that, they say is something other photo-based platforms cannot  say quite as confidently.

Photobucket lost its place in the most glaring area of the media sun, but, apparently, not its place altogether. In August, it had 17.7 million unique visitors, versus 21 million for Flickr, and 64 million total visits versus 48 millon for Flickr. Worldwide it had 47 million Web uniques and 24 million on mobile devices. So it still has a pretty nice tan going. 

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In a media world where video or photography is an integral part of the social networking scenes, Photobucket tools work well for a Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter user. “Photos are at the core of the true social environment, and we help enable that environment,” Davis says. Currently, he says, 40% of video uploads come from mobile users and Photobucket claims to be trying to stake a claim with a more robust and better app for storage and viewership.     

But Photobucket, even more aggressively, it seems to me, is selling itself as an ad tool and a social media-type Website. That makes its major business thread a little hard to discern. Consumer site or business tool?  Davis and Toner, as nicely as possible, suggest that maybe it’s not so difficult to be both. (And when Facebook starts showing videos advertising, we shall see how all that plays out.)  

As for the ad part, its new Stories format has been designed to grab advertisers with a multimedia approach that also allows its message to go over and back from Facebook and other social sites pretty easily. It’s like that date you can take to the Met, or to see the Mets.  As long as you’re paying...

The Stories format combines photos, videos and printed content that can appear as a separate place on the Photobucket site. Toner likes another approach: An advertiser can use the Photobucket elements on it own site, blogs or social space using Photobucket’s editing tools solutions and expertise but branded using its own mark. To the user, it’s just part of the sponsor’s marketing development.    

The mash-up of advertising forms within one unit, as in its promotion for Fox Studios’ Billy Crystal comedy, “Parental Guidance” shows a combination of still photos, witty asides and video clips. It’s a little different, which obviously, is what Photobucket is looking for. Toner claims people who clicked on it stayed on the ad site for an amazing 2 minutes and 47 seconds.

Now Photobucket is  working with Fox again on a holiday film release that will include a “making of” trailer from the studio and, a  curated collection of related holiday-themed videos and stills from its users.

Its Belvedere vodka campaign included banner ads in standard IAB sizes, links to Facebook, user contributions, video and recipes. In a little email Q&A with Brian Cox, VP for Belvedere, he said the brand liked the Photobucket Stories approach because it was a different way to show off the drink  “without intruding on or inconveniencing the consumer via annoying pop ups or needing click through to other site or open another window. It’s incredibly intuitive.” 

 Belvedere was a sponsor of the PGA Championship this summer and opted for the Stories format mainly because it contains...well, stories, and Belvedere was advertising heavily on the Golf Digest site. The format fit, Cox says. That's the bucket that Photobucket is selling these days.

pj@mediapost.com

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