Can Video Ads Act Like Content?

This week the advertising world takes over Manhattan for Advertising Week. Digiday editors are moderating several sessions during the week. We will also cover the highlights, lowlights and key personalities. Our coverage is made possible by Specific Media.

Online video is often viewed as TV’s little brother when it comes to ad spend. The medium has long been treated as another place for brands to dump their 30-second spots.

For all the growth forecasts for standard Web video advertising, the real money for producers might lie in custom content. Unlike television, the Web hasn’t been a good vehicle for solid brand integration or content. However, brands and content producers are starting to bring TV’s sensibilities to the Web. It’s not an easy solution, as online video doesn’t attract the same amount of viewers, but the foundation is being built for Web video to attract big brand money. Online video companies are slowly but surely building out their audiences, which leads to conversations with advertisers about how to integrate a brand’s content into a Web series.

“It took two to three years to agree on phrase, branded entertainment, and all the words surrounding that are key to success,” said Rob Barnett, founder and CEO of My Damn Channel, an original content video channel. “When done right, the audience comes away with entertainment first, branded content second.”

This is not dissimilar to what other online publishers — most notably Buzzfeed and Gawker — are doing to bring brand dollars to outlets and to move beyond the banner. For online video, it’s less about the content and more about having advertisers integrating their messages into the content.

David Rubin, brand director for U.S. hair at Unilever sees branded entertainment as an important aspect to not just connecting with online viewers, but also selling product.  Rubin pointed to Tresemme, the women’s hair brand, as an example. Tresemme offered backstage access during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week to look at how models get their hair done for the runway and then how any woman can do it herself at home. The company produced short videos where it married things it believes women care about with the Tresemme story.

“For the 135 million women who aren’t in New York City when it’s happening, we give access to that, and they reward Tresemme by watching the content,” Rubin said.

As for translating video views to offline sales, Rubin mentioned that Tresemme is the fastest growing brand in mass hair care, indicating women were in fact buying Tresemme products. Rubin also said there were 20 million interactions with the videos and there was growth of its social presence, particularly on Facebook, from 100,000 fans to more than a million.

It also seems that video ads are working. CBS Interactive Entertainment’s svp, Marc Devevoise believes that way the industry has been monetizing online video for the last seven years will be the same for the next few years.

“Video advertising is the great equalizer between the three screen sizes — mobile, desktop, tablet,” Devevoise said. “Video advertising does work. Integrations also work. It’s different than display that’s transitioning.”

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