Online video: Today's to-do list


By Eric Druckenmiller

August 7, 2007 – In the exciting storehouse of online video opportunities, some strategies are essential, and some just provide empty calories. Deep Focus' media director reveals key tactics for a satisfying video campaign.

For many a marketer, the world of online video is akin to a trip to Costco: an exciting warehouse of opportunity and choice that guarantees you’ll walk away forgetting what you went there for but still having that feeling of contentment from the chaise-lounge-sized pretzel barrel that barely fit in the trunk.

Last month’s Promax/BDA conference, at which I participated in a “Future of Online Media” panel, confirmed this imperfect exuberance about online video and the need for many entertainment marketers to begin with a basic grocery list.

Here are six items to consider before your next trip to market:

  1. Develop an online video roadmap

    Seems obvious, but are marketers developing them?

    Being charged with finding and motivating audiences to watch, download or purchase content in the new digital frontier requires knowing who does what, when and how (i.e., creating a framework all concerned parties can follow).

    This roadmap should clarify an overall media planning/buying strategy, a digital distribution solution (including how to track and measure), budget allocation and how offline and online efforts can and should work together.

    A way to jump-start this roadmap creation for entertainment marketers may be to form a cross-agency, multi-disciplinary task force with vested individuals representing their respective discipline.
  2. Create online video experiences for an open syndication world

    Fundamentally shaping the online video landscape has been the rise of social media, Web 2.0 technology (especially embeddable/sharable video) and episodic made-for-web video content (for example, Next New Networks, BlipTV, Superdeluxe, The Onion News Network and others). This trend may be the most important in terms of shifting tastes/expectations, signaling a growing demand for legitimate alternatives to the lackluster repurposed TV content by major networks and the randomized cluttered clip culture nurtured by the likes of YouTube.

    As a result of these trends, entertainment marketers will need to create rich online experiences that will travel well across platforms and within consumer’s social circles. There is also a wide-open opportunity to create quality programming specifically for the online experience and community, with the benefit that such content can often be monetized. But more on that later.
  3. Develop methodologies for serving and measuring in a super distributed landscape

    Staying on top of the methods for digital video distribution online can seem daunting. Just some of these include creating video-enabled web sites (,,, establishing distribution partnerships (iTunes, Joost, Veoh) and leveraging video ad networks (Broadband Enterprises, VideoEgg) or rich media units (DoubleClick, Motif). Video can also appear informally on sites or pages where users choose to embed a widget with branded content or unique video players.

    Such a range of options can make standardization of serving and measurement quite a challenge. The good news is that online remains infinitely more measurable than traditional media, with little that can’t be tracked, tagged or reported on. This gives marketers -- and their digital agencies -- a unique opportunity to build measures of success from the ground level. Start by defining “success” and build the metrics from there.

  4. Be willing to take a risk

    Mainstream entertainment has been slow overall in exploiting online as a marketing vehicle, let alone leveraging it as a sandbox for taking risks on new ideas or technologies.

    But it is just such calculated risks that are required to stay ahead in a fragmented and consumer-controlled mediascape. As a contrast, look at the web’s most pioneering and profitable entertainment businesses: pornography. Like it or not, these entrepreneurs represent just such a trailblazing spirit that Hollywood would be wise to emulate in the digital space (within reason, of course).
    • Below are some risks worth taking:
    • Opt-in overlays and clickable video
      • A number of publishers and networks (VideoEgg, ScanScout, Digitalsmiths) are offering solutions that involve opt-in messaging overtop video that is currently running on a publishers site. This can come in the form of flash overlays -- or watermarks -- that users can click on (pausing existing video play). This enhanced opt-in interaction can provide marketers with a much richer and arguably more consumer friendly solution than pre- or post-roll. Overlays can also be served in a highly targeted manner, being triggered by quality of the video (professionally produced vs. UGC), keywords and demographic information.
      • Also in the nascent stage, clickable video -- or hotspotting -- is a solution that allows users to click on elements in a marketer’s video for more information. Companies such as Vimation and Avant Interactive are some of the frontrunners developing this space. With the amount of product tie-ins/placements in entertainment nowadays, clickable video could provide a healthy solution for marketers looking to further monetize video assets online – as well as simply differentiating advertisers as online video becomes increasingly ubiquitous.
    • Non-video engagement
      • Competing with the choices consumers have for entertainment, marketers need to create differentiated “brands” within a relatively short window of time. This is a particular challenge in the linear offline world, where options for deeper engagement don't exist at scale. Online, however, the options are plenty for marketers: alternate reality games (Halo 2's "I love bees," Court TV's 'Save My Husband'), user-generated content (YouTube's Democratic Debate, Bourne Mash-up), widgets (Superbad, Universal Music) and other forms of advertainment (Ice Truck TV, Night Gig) scratch the surface in an entertainment marketer’s arsenal, assuming there's a willingness to risk time and money. (Money, by the way, can also be had by partnering with relevant brands to bring these experiences to life.)
    • Rich media/video distribution solutions
      • Achieving scale and targeting with online video distribution has been a challenge to date, with only a few publishers bringing affordable solutions to the table with enough reach to make an impact. The landscape is changing fast, though, with publishers such as Google and Broadband Enterprises bringing affordable solutions to the table that will guarantee targeted scale for the video wares of many an entertainment marketer. Establishing deeper distribution and advertising relationships with these frontrunner publishers should be a certain stop on that roadmap.
  5. Optimize all assets for search

    The launch of Google’s Universal Search in late May brought into focus the need for entertainment marketers to ensure ALL assets -- from images and video, to websites or viral efforts -- be optimized for search engines.

    While video search remains in its hopeful stage, it will continue to be the case in a cluttered environment that video content is only as good as consumer’s ability to find it. Marketers looking to stand out and break through must consider search optimization with every online effort.
  6. Make money

    Embracing online hyper-syndication and community broadcasting can translate into more than “brand-building” and driving offline tune-in and ticket sales. Many of these efforts can be monetized by either having other advertisers surrounding the content (pre- or post-roll; overlays), as partners of the content (sponsorships, et cetera), or advertisers on a destination site (banner inventory).

    By producing quality programming specifically for the online experience and online communities, or even repurposing existing video/assets that users would want to consume online (trailers, behind the scenes, et cetera), entertainment marketers can realize a healthy new revenue stream.

    While everyone’s grocery list will be unique to their objectives and point of view, the above should at least provide some of the staples all entertainment marketers can reference. It’s the milk, eggs, toilet paper and, yes, even the giant pretzel barrel, of online video marketing, as well as a list that will ensure (for the next few months) you will be ahead of the competition and following your consumer's lead.

Eric Druckenmiller is media director at Deep Focus.