Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Storybids Product Placement Marketplace Launches!

I've been real quiet lately. I haven't blogged. I've missed the last three major Internet marketing conferences that I'm normally known to be a fixture at. I resigned as the SES party director. My travel schedule, while still fairly consistent, now includes more meetings than conferences. I've dropped 95% of my SEO clients and now just refer new inquiries over to my Partner at Boost Search Marketing - Aaron Shear.

I've been busy.

Other than working with Brett Tabke on the upcoming PubCon this coming November (yes, no conflicts this year), the majority of my time has been spent working on my newest venture - Storybids. What Storybids does is provide a marketplace for product placement advertising within user generated as well as professionally scripted online video. Not so much the kids at a skate park videos as much as the serial mini dramas, the episodic webisodes that are garnering a following. Television programming is moving online and the traditional ways of monetizing video content is changing. Online viewers don't like sitting through 15 or 30 second pre-roll ads. They really don't. Yet there has to be a way to offset production and bandwidth costs. As consumers we have learned to accept banner advertising and even contextual ads near the video content, but don't make us wait while we are also dealing with buffering and jittery playback.

Product placement works. If done correctly where its not blatant and done in a way where the brand is integrated into the storyline. A recent Mindshare study shows that viewers react negatively to interruptive TV style ads and attempt to skip them whenever possible suggesting that consumers are far more receptive to product placement in online video programming than pre- and post-roll advertising. PQ Media released a study in February, 2007 that showed spending on branded entertainment marketing grew 14.7% to an all time high of $22.3 billion in 2007 and is projected to increase by another 13.9% in 2008 to $25.41 billion driven by product placement, event sponsorship/marketing, and advergaming/webisodes.

This is why the idea came to me to incorporate a proven business model in the offline world to the online advertising world except the pricing gets better and it can literally get to the point where anyone will be able to advertise in this fashion. Remember GoTo? Before Yahoo Search and Overture, GoTo brought Internet advertising to small business advertisers. In the early days of the internet before GoTo, if you wanted to advertise online you had to cut portal deals with Netscape, AOL or Doubleclick which priced out small business owners. The same scenario exists today with product placement advertising in traditional television. In order to effectively get your brand messaging out there, a brand needs to forge alliances with a television network via a product placement agency and that agency typically represents one brand in an industry (a product placement agency couldn't represent both Nike and Reebok in attempting to secure a product placement deal for instance).

In a marketplace setting, both Nike and Reebok may bid for the same branding opportunity and the true value proposition may be realized as markets dictate the true value of a placement. In an online marketplace, the placement takes on a new life since any company may bid on the opportunity, not just the agency that the studio happens to have a relationship with. In addition, just as when GoTo brought Internet advertising to the masses, an online marketplace like Storybids can bring product placement advertising to the masses and can be done with tracking, analytics and dashboard reporting and also have distribution channels built in and video search optimization techniques built in for increased viewership.

So my Storybids business partner Juan Prado and I learned all this while developing the business model and realized that this was not a whole lot different than search advertising and that we could apply the lessons and metrics we had learned doing enterprise level search optimization over the past several years. We landed a 'Series A' round of venture capital financing last August from STN Labs in Toronto and began to put the vision to reality. Which brings us to our launch this week. While it may be a bit of a departure from organic search optimization, it really isn't a whole lot different since we're applying a different twist to some proven business models and hoping to capture an entirely new market while showing video content creators how to get product placement advertising in their videos.

Here is a little bit more about our launch as reported on by my good friend and colleague at WebmasterWorld, the very sweet Vanessa Zamora.