February 02, 2009

Brand integration is a hot, hot topic online and it seems to be driving significant success for advertisers.

In the last week I must have read at least six articles talking about the benefits of brand integration. According to a study from eMarketer, 66.8% of online marketers are looking at online video in 2009 and brand integration is surely on their minds. According to a similar study from Permission TV, 71.4% of marketers anticipate online video will raise engagement and awareness while 47.2% look for lead generation in online video. These numbers all tell a story of why marketers are looking at online video, but they don't break down the "how" and they don't get into the details. I would argue that brand integration is a strong part of that story.

The "how" of online video is simple; it's either online display or branded integration. Display is simple and integration into content is nothing new, but in the online world where the costs for production are less and the barrier for entry is lower, marketers can get into the action more quickly and less expensively.

In the old paradigm of marketing, the idea of integrating into content was a highly expensive and costly concept, from a monetary as well as a time perspective. To integrate into TV content you'd be looking at upwards of $200,000 and a lead time of weeks and possibly months. In the online world, there are many outlets for brand integration that can be tested for as little as $10,000 and require a lead time of two to five business days. The opportunity is no less effective, though, assuming the audience generated is loyal and valuable to the marketer exploring these opportunities.

There are lots of companies that will take your dollars and create branded content, but you need to keep in mind a few considerations when determining a partner to work with:

Distribution. Just because a partner can build you a great piece of content doesn't mean that an audience will see it. You need a partner that has distribution, either in the form of a successful destination site, a network of syndication partnerships or a significant single partnership with someone who has a lot of eyeballs. These deals can come in the form of a stand-alone destination site or an ad network, or they can come in the form of a portal relationship. You need to know there is an audience who will see this content -- as well as a cross-promotional opportunity where they can promote your content to the audience of other programs. These two tactics in tandem can drive reach as well as impact.

Quality. The quality of production is absolutely still a consideration, though easier to achieve these days. You want a partner that is experienced in developing quality, consistent content. You need to review their past work and you need to see the data on how long these shows were live, what type of audience they drew and what type of metrics they were evaluated on. The best metric to judge success here is time spent, or some other measure of engagement. Time spent is the easiest to track and best due to its simplicity. There are many other, more complex metrics that people are using to measure engagement, but time spent is just as strong.

Audience loyaty. You want a partner that has demonstrated the ability to create content that drives a loyal audience. A number of partners create one-off content, which does not provide the opportunity for audience loyalty; loyalty to a show or a series can have a positive effect on the advertising associated. A loyal audience will see the advertising as an implied endorsement, which can translate to effectiveness. If your partner has not created a show with a loyal audience, then work with them to try and do so. One-off advertising is never as effective either, so maybe you can benefit from that type of deeper, longer-term relationship as well.

There are a number of other elements to consider when evaluating to measure brand integration, but the fact is that it's working. More marketers are looking at brand integration as a solution in 2009. You should be checking it out, too!

By Cory Treffiletti
Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.

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