Commentary

Goodbye Banners, Hello Webisodes!

Recently I was lunching with a friend who is high up on the ladder at a Fortune 100. We started talking about the changing business of advertising. In the middle of telling him about how we're producing and distributing branded original content across a network of sites online, he asked me a very simple question: "Why video content?"

Admittedly, he's not in the marketing side of things, but he went on to say that he knows who he is (and who his company is), "I'm the producer and seller of Product X, which does A, B and C," he said, "not the producer of great video content."

So I said that that was great -- and then explained that unfortunately, no one outside of his company knows who he is. I gave him a textbook speech on "brand" and how no one knows if he's high-end or low-end, all about quality or all about convenience. Then I explained that the worst part is that when he does tell people who he is (mostly via banner advertising), fewer and fewer people tend to trust him. In fact, Don Tapscott's book "Grown Up Digital" points to a whole generation that is amazingly adept at detecting, filtering, skipping and blocking ad messages all together.

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The old screenwriter adage "don't tell me, show me," is extremely relevant, and branded entertainment is something advertisers have been doing successfully for years. Just as they embraced running TV spots online, advertisers find it a natural progression to embrace other proven "offline" tactics like product integration and show sponsorship, and bring them online.

Unlike ads, branded content engages people with good story-telling, while at the same time showing your product in action. Rather than telling people the features of Product X, you get to illustrate authentically, without heavy sales spin, how Product X fits into a particular lifestyle.

I pointed out that Honda, which recently produced a "Dream the Impossible" documentary series, states in one of its videos: "Honda is an engine company." But even as an engine company, Honda strategists saw the potential of tapping into the power of story-telling and communicating personal narratives that correlate with their brand.

Where banner ads simply flash a message, and rich-media ads only invite interaction, good content and Webisodic series hold the customers' attention for minutes at a time, lure them back for repeat exposure, and communicate much more than the often forgettable "buy me" messaging of a traditional 30-second spot.

In today's digital environment, where empowered consumers dictate their media schedule and only flock to brands they can relate to and connect with, offering your client base quality and entertaining content is a better way to connect and stick out from the clutter. What's more, the best of traditional Web advertising still applies. In terms of distribution, content can be super-targeted to the right eyeballs, significantly reducing waste. Could you imagine if television networks, rather than shooting a number of shows out to a diverse audience and crossing their fingers for big pockets of success, could target each of their shows to the people who wanted to watch and enjoy them?

As an example, I pointed out that Honda could easily distribute full episodes of their documentary series around the Web and target them using contextual and behavior methods to get in front of their core target; 25-to-49-year-olds with a youthful spirit and who are comfortable with technology.

Finally, I pointed out that unlike banner ads, whose success is often judged by how many clicks a unit got (a metric that has yet to correlate to brand lift), content can be tracked on a whole new set of much more in-depth metrics.

"You can see how long people are engaged with content, where they rewind or fast-forward, how many times they watch and re-watch content, as well as where and when the pass the content to friends or re-post the content to their own social media sites," I noted.

I would have continued -- but my friend stopped me at that point by yelling over me, "I get it! Goodbye banners, hello Webisodes."

"Exactly," I said. "Exactly."

12 comments about "Goodbye Banners, Hello Webisodes!".
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  1. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media, January 27, 2009 at 4:58 p.m.

    So now they can see that the average person spent 7 seconds watching the 'webisode'. No stats on 'rewind' or 'fast forward', just 'stop' cause that's how interested consumers are in stuff they don't care about.

  2. Scott Broomfield from Veeple, Inc., January 27, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.

    A picture is worth a 1,000 words - Here's why video:

    www.lehdmedia.com

    You are looking at a video web site that can travel. The site is a video, not flash. It was made to look like a site.

  3. Colin Kimball from Small Screen Network, January 27, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.

    I would also add that with solutions like Videoclix (www.videoclix.tv) a solution we (www.smallscreennetwork.com) are using right now, you can see how many times a viewer clicked on an object WITHIN the video they were interested in. The resulting click throughs are also through the roof.

  4. Chris Stinson from Non-Given, January 27, 2009 at 5:10 p.m.

    Many will tune them out to over time if they are not relevent to the site that they are on.

  5. Robert Gourley, January 27, 2009 at 5:18 p.m.

    I couldn't agree more, that's why I left the big agency world to start Mojave for this very reason. We work to create branded content that consumers WANT to consume.

    There are still a lot of growing pains in the industry though, analytics is one and managing distribution through very segmented online and digital out of home networks.

    But with all the choice customers have these days, what's the alternative? Customers are sick of being interrupted and banners ads have been on a slow decline for years.

    http://www.mojaveinteractive.com/

  6. Richard Deligter from Real Productions, January 27, 2009 at 5:43 p.m.

    More and more projects have broadcast level concepts with “new media” budgets.

    Regardless, the challenge remains developing compelling projects that people want to watch.

    www.realprod.com

  7. Bob Kiger from Videography Lab, January 27, 2009 at 5:46 p.m.

    A "Webisode" is one example of purposeful content delivery in "the Age of Videography". [Miller Freeeman -1996].

    The CEA says we have a "digital" president. See Videography Lab Comment and the story at www.vidiots.us

    Bob Kiger - seminal author of "videography"
    OCT 1972 AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER

  8. Bill Caspare from OggiFinogi, INC, January 27, 2009 at 7:12 p.m.

    couldn't agree more with you Chris

  9. Mike Kelly from LIN Media, January 27, 2009 at 9:37 p.m.

    I cannot agree. Yes, video is more engaging and video pre-roll has proven to have higher click through than banner. Banner ads have over and over proven their efffectiveness in creating exposure via view-through and action via click through. Headlines about the demise of core products of our business based on conversations with un-named higher ups at Fortune 100 companies who know nothing about marketing are as tabloid as The National Enquirer. Here's similar one: "Blogs are going away"...just as ridiculous as yours.

    New products and developments in more effective marketing are always welcome.

    In the meantime why don't you try to talk your publisher into stopping the banner ads on their sites.

    Good Luck.

  10. David Shor from Prove, January 28, 2009 at 12:48 a.m.

    Online video and, to a lesser extend, mobile video, like television, continues to be probably the most compelling means of communicating and instilling emotion on a broad scale. I think we'd all agree with that.

    I might suggest that you should be clear that video found "in the wild" has a very different objective than video found on a website (or should at least).

    So, the advice we give to clients about what a video should contain is entirely different depending upon where it will live. Getting back to basics, video on-site should be considered a foundational element whereas off-site video living on vidsites for video search optimization or viral opportunities is clearly a lower priority.

    At my company, Quillion, we deliver marketing results on a performance basis so we're very cautious about the opportunities we pursue. On-site video improves conversions (if well done)--that much is clear. But I don't know that creating webisode "shows" for Youtube is a good solution for the 90% of businesses that just don't have that interesting a story and, with pay-for-performance media more available than ever for cool niche products/services, perhaps there are opportunities to explore first that have a higher promise for ROI.

    To be sure, we're exploring video in-banner delivered on a pay-for-performance basis.

    David Shor
    Principal
    Quillion - a WONGDOODY company

  11. Brian Stemmler from Stemmler Productions, January 28, 2009 at 12:55 p.m.

    Video content online can be multipurpose...I think that viral video/branded content/tweet vids/scripted series/online vid ads should all be considered as separate campaigns. What's great is all of these combined can fit into the same budget as one broadcast commercial campaign. Personally my specialty is with branded news magazine video content...this area I think is a sure bet for brands to embrace. Ex: http://www.hm.com/us/inspiration__fashion.nhtml#/fv/

  12. Richard Monihan, February 4, 2009 at 5:41 p.m.

    Webisodes are an interesting concept, but poorly designed. I have tried to get my user base interested in them for viewing purposes, and they tend to flop. The only one that succeeded did so for 2 reasons:
    1. HEAVY banner promotion directing to the webisode, helping to extend brand message in the banners, but drive viewing.
    2. Webisode was designed to appeal DIRECTLY to my audience - it was a video game that had extended itself and done a movie short.

    The others have largely failed to attract an audience. All were great, truly excellent content. But regardless of whether the content is good, you have to drive the traffic, which means the banners and buttons are STILL your best friend.

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