VidSense and Replacing Eyeballs for Engagers

I recently read an article entitled: Who Owns The Eyeball by Seana Mulcahy, who writes the Monday column in Media Posts’ Online Spin Newsletter (subscribe here). She is a relative legend in IM and her articles are always insightful and thought provoking (at least to me).

This particular article actually got me to post up a reply. I have posted it below, and would like your comments on where you think advertisers should go with online video. What direction do you see vieo being pulled in now, and maybe in 5 to 7 years from now.

Here is my comment (read Seana Mulcahy’s article first and it will make more sense):

“There was a time (years ago) when the brand owned the eyeball rather than rented it.”

This is an astute observation and one that I feel is coming full circle with advertisers developing their own content and using the Web as their in-home distribution channel (more on that below).

VidSense (an obvious play on Google’s AdSense) is a brilliant use of recognizable mainstream content that will surely draw in users to watch. Coupled with the omnipresent display advertising on the advertiser’s site they are taken to, it is hard for the user to escape engaging.

I am assuming from the articles tone, that the Brands the author is working for are measuring success by views. Which I am assuming equates to brand awareness. But if you measure success by what actions the user takes when done viewing or while in the process of viewing, this would seem to produce a more accurate picture of the campaign’s effectiveness and ROI. What it should not be is not simply a 2 minute or less diversion from the site they were on.

If they take no action, they are simply an eyeball. So I propose a new term: Engagers. This would go beyond simply viewing metrics and reach further into the consumer’s mindset. To discover what the end user feels they can connect with emotionally about this brand.

It may be subscribing to a newsletter, or downloading a coupon, or directly buying the product online, or playing a game that is featured on the website or in the video itself. I agree that VidSense is a very good idea and one that publishers will adopt IF they can match the VidSense videos to their own content tightly enough to make it look as if it is an integrated part of their website’s presentation.

If I put on my media buyers hat for a minute, I have to ask myself one tough question: If they are coming to my site because of a random video choice (a blind link) on a site that is unrelated to my brand, product or service – are they really the target audience I am looking to attract? With banner/text placements, while far from perfect, at least the advertiser knows the end user MEANT to click on their link (assuming it was branded or at least told them about a topic they wanted to explore more) and discover something about the advertiser.

What I meant by “full circle” at the beginning of this post, is the trend that advertiser’s are returning to an “own the eyeball” 1950’s TV model. Multiple advertisers Like BMW and Converse have created their own content libraries and essentially their own TV networks online. As the media fragmentation that was ushered in by the growth of cable TV continues to spiral, advertiser generated content will become a part of the regular mix of viewing choices as convergence looms (defined as your living room TV displaying content released over the Internet as seamlessly as if it were delivered by your cable/satellite provider as well as an increase in computer users who watch their monitors much in the same fashion they watch TV).

These “owned” shows (and the advertiser’s own network – imagine the Ford Channel – all things automotive, or the Jenny Craig Channel – all things diet and lifestyle), if they are polished enough can and probably will attract their own organic following, in some cases more than some cable networks. And as in-video-ad-serving technology gets better, when the archived show is viewed the advertiser can control the messaging dynamically, even to the point of integrating behavioral and demographical data (garnered from the cable TV provider, ISP or third party software) to personalize the message even more.

VidSense as a revolution, maybe not so much. Advertiser’s not only owning their own shows but creating their own content networks, now that is where you have taken Eyeballs into Engager’s turf.

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