In Depth

Column: Investment Tip for 2009: Branded Video

It may not be as catchy as Year of the Rat or Year of the Dragon, but I’m declaring 2009 the year of branded Web video.

I’m not just talking about brand integration—i.e., product placement—in a Web series, though I think that category will continue to thrive as online video spending keeps rising next year.

(Remember, eMarketer predicts 45% growth in online video advertising dollars in 2009. Not too shabby, as Adam Sandler says in “The Chanukah Song.”)

I’m specifically talking about videos that are actually created by brands.

Already we’ve seen a number of brands experiment with brand-driven series, such as Crocs’ “Cities by Foot” and Holiday Inn Express’ “The Smart Show.” Those are shows started by brands, funded by brands.

There are other examples of marketers taking the lead on a show. Southern Comfort developed a music-related show in conjunction with MyDamnChannel called “Music Nights Presented by SoCo.”

We’ve also seen efforts from technology-centric companies such as Adobe and Embarq to create videos about their products. Telecom firm Embarq produces both how-to videos on its services and quirky videos. Adobe has even developed Adobe TV, a section of its Web site with videos on how to use Adobe’s products including Photoshop and Acrobat. The software maker also teamed with Web producer Big Fat Brain, creator of the mega-popular “You Suck at Photoshop,” to back the team’s latest creative effort, “Agency of Record.”

The show takes place at a creative agency and Adobe software is integrated directly into the storyline.

Even book publishers are getting into the act. Little, Brown & Co, for instance, posts short videos on its Web site from its authors, including Stephenie Meyer, who penned the “Twilight” series.

Smaller brands also are starting Web programs. This month, tea maker Adagio Teas plans to launch a weekly Web show about its different tea blends. The show will be hosted by Zack Luye, who’s already fronting the Revision3 Web show “Bottles, Blends and Brews.”

Look for more brands to lean on Web video in 2009, both the creative sort of “Agency of Record” and the more direct approach of the Adagio Teas show, the Adobe instructional videos and the Little, Brown author videos.

Here’s why:

“The production costs and ease of distribution for online video make it attractive for brand marketers looking to save precious marketing dollars while allowing them to engage their customers with sight, sound, motion and emotion—all the elements that make for compelling brand messages,” said eMarketer in a recent white paper detailing seven strategies to survive the downturn.

One of those strategies is to lean heavily on Web video, because bringing existing video assets like TV commercials, sales demos and customer testimonials to the Web is easy and cost-effective.

Video also makes a site sticky and improves the relationship between the company and the customer, said Alex Lindsay, chief architect at Pixel Corps, which produces online videos for a number of brands. “The more they know about you, the more likely they are to come back,” he said.

But don’t expect branded series to promote brand awareness, warned Jamison Tilsner, founder of Web video review site Tilzy.TV. There will be more branded series, he said, but their primary function will be to engage existing consumers.

If that’s all a video or a series does, it’s a good investment. And we are all looking for a good investment these days.