Video Ads for People without TVs

TWO MAJOR THEMES IN ANY discussion of online video are advertising and CGM (consumer-generated content, or whatever you want to call it). Some of the questions we’re asking: What kind of ads will work best in short-form content? What should these ads look like? And, how are we as marketers going to produce the many different executions necessary for all the geographic, demographic, and use-based targeting that’s just around the corner? CGM campaigns run through managed brand communities provide one coming answer.

Well-known examples of CGM ads are big splashy contests like the Superbowl Doritos spot, or failures like the Chevy Tahoe mix-your-own ad ploy. But many smart marketers today are managing (or having managed for them) communities of citizen marketers and brand loyalists, people who are interested in helping out the brands they love — and these communities are slowly being empowered with video sharing tools. Some of this activity is behind firewalls, some is in the open, and whether you want to call it “advertising” or not, it’s often enthusiastic brand content that communicates well to others.

On platforms like Ning and Kickapps, marketers are building spaces where niche audiences of brand lovers share video content about their lives, their creative endeavors, and their brands. And marketers are sharing back, releasing professionally produced insider video, setting up private events, joining the conversation and creating excitement as well as excuses for community members to post more CGM video. And unlike YouTube, marketers have control over what gets posted; though as with blogging, marketers have to have the right voice and tread lightly when it comes to censorship.

But, wait! you say. Who wants to watch a bunch of crappy home videos? Here’s where mixing CGM and pro ad content and packaging comes in. Many managed communities give marketers access to the source CGM material. Are you an auto marketer with a new model on tour? Show it off first to community members in your major markets. Encourage them to shoot video and upload it to your site. Pull out the good stuff and edit it together with a clip from the lead engineer or head designer. Do this in each market, and voila! A number of different, low-budget executions you can place wherever video advertising lives. Play the San Francisco clip in San Francisco. Play the design clip for design audiences, the engineer clip for gear-heads. Maybe you luck out and something funny happened during the tour: there’s your YouTube viral. This is do-able now.

I don’t own a TV. I couldn’t care less about the demise of high-dollar :30 spots. If I’m watching short vids on a site like BeBo or Blip.tv, I want to see relevant ads (brand content) that have a similar look and feel to what I’m watching. I want them to be made by people like me, in my city. I want those ads to be user-activated (“bugs” or “tickers”) because I want an experience that I can either skip entirely or that draws me in, shows me something I didn’t know about a brand. I want an invitation to go deeper, to hear from my peers, and to join the community myself. And I don’t think I’m alone.

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