The Onion Lampoons Viral. Tide Runs With It.

Last week, The Onion ran a wonderfully fictitious article by “Fred Hammond, Director of Digital Video and Social-Media Ad Integration, Tide Detergent.” Onion, you had me at hello. The desperately hipster editorial promotes his own low-involvement brand, and all of the cool (yet faux) social-media programs that try to engage Tide customers. Clearly Fred has read my “Stupidest Article on Social Media Ever.”

My absolute favorite line: “Go to Tide’s website and hang there for a while. It’s a totally awesome place to go and play online games and meet other cool fans of Tide products.” Because we always want to hang out with fellow customers of our brands.

The article opens by making reference to an “awesome new web video by Tide detergent.” A video that “everyone is discussing it on popular blogs and linking to it from social media platforms.” Sadly, there is no such video.

But in a self-deprecating and timely display, Tide and Digitas filled that void. Embedded below, please find Tide’s very own lampoon, which has already gotten some industry trade magazine attention (MediaPost). Per The Onion, Tide provides a hip rocker, puppets and groovy 80s music. Just 10K views so far, but that beats the ExpoTV product reviews littering Tide’s YouTube channel with views as low as 15. Even more notable is the sheer number of positive “likes” the video has so far (even though we know where some of those are coming from). And the video ends well like those rare SNL skits. Meet the bird in the laundry basket who tweets the finale.


Some brands have cringed from The Onion satire. Others would have ignored it and moved on. Tide and Digitas get credit for embracing it, and riding it fairly quickly — especially by P&G standards. Despite my temporary Twitter hiatus, I couldn’t help but notice an @nalts tweet by Digitas’ John McCarus (who I met while working on a different P&G brand). His self congratulatory tweet just fits the whole thing beautifully.

Now for the learning for brands and social media folks:

  • Laugh at yourself. It makes others laugh with you, instead of at you.
  • Humanize the brand as being self deprecating
  • Move quickly (this wouldn’t have worked as well if it took one more week to post)
And the final lesson is revealed in this priceless quote by the fake author: “Everybody in my office has been going crazy for this video. It’s practically all we’ve been talking about.” Do everything you can to avoid drinking your own Koolaid and thinking/communicating that your brand is way cooler than it is. Let other people tell me how cool your brand is. 
In appreciation of this campaign I promise to: a) buy Tide, b) give Digitas props, c) not sue P&G for infringing on my Nalts logo.


Why Companies Don’t Need Social-Media Experts

Let’s face it. Social media, like digital marketing initially, has been overhyped. We don’t even need any more “social media” gurus in 2011. We just need executives and marketers who understand the channel well enough to be realistic, patient and smart. We’ve been asking “what?” and “why?” for several years now, and the big questions for 2011 are “who?” and “how?”

It’s time to get back to the basics this year, and recognize that when a CEO or marketer says “I want a popular Facebook or YouTube account,” what she probably means is this:

She wants to increase sales by: a) making her company appear contemporary, b) capitalizing on a new and efficient way to market, and c) engaging more meaningfully with her customers than is possible through advertising. But the operative word in that last sentence is “grow,” because the rest is a means to an end. Even if she’s using a very soft, educational and entertaining approach to social media, her goal is to sell. Her goal is to sell. And that’s okay.

Consider for a moment the evolution of advertising and marketing agencies (dates/credit to Big Fuel, the creators of the embedded video:

  1. Advertising Agency: The first traditional advertising agencies were established in the 1850s to help brands drive awareness through newspapers, then later radio and television. They distinguished many otherwise undifferentiated products, and taught the business community that the medium works.
  2. Direct Marketing Firm: In the 1960s through 1980s we saw direct marketing proliferate. DM or DR (direct response) agencies focused less on driving awareness, and more on generating measurable sales through accountable channels like telemarketing, direct-response mail and catalogs.
  3. Digital Agencies: From 1993 to 1999, we saw the emergence of digital agencies helping optimize the emergence of the Internet. It was the ultimate direct-response playground, a place to conduct more targeted advertising, and most importantly… an efficient way to target buyers while they were looking (searching), then engage them in custom ways that were cost-prohibitive before.
  4. Stagnation: After the bubble burst, and before web 2.0 became vogue, consumers began to protect themselves from ads through spam filters, ad blockers and simply ignoring what they could. Forced homepage takeovers and prerolls, while breaking through ad fatigue, has brought back the corporate desperation of dinner-time telemarketers and junk mail.
  5. Social Media Experts: Now we’ve got thousands of people claiming to be “social media marketing” experts, and that annoys me as a former Product Director. I want someone who understands my product, category and customers above all… and I hope they’ll come with some common sense and experience about the workings of social media. But a channel-specific “guru” can be very difficult to weave into a brand team.

Meanwhile, where does online-video marketing fit in? It has been sometimes dangerously isolated from social media, which is odd to me. Even more tragically, online-video has been buried in the “black hole” of digital media advertising. I hope a marketer can appreciate that oline-video marketing is a broader discipline than simply buying display ads (pre-rolls) or “going viral.” So where does online-video and social-media belong? And why are so few brands achieving their social media and/or online-video marketing goals?

First, some goals are unrealistic (going “viral”). More commonly, however, brands are “pushing too hard,” by trying to marry prospects before a proper courtship. Although less common, some brands have fallen to the opposite extreme. Soft, charitable education and entertainment comes at the expense of any meaningful business return.

The balance (being a “social” company or brand but also selling products or services) is difficult, hence the explosion of social-media experts that understand the medium and how marketing can play nicely. This balancing act impacts online-video as much as any other component of online-marketing or social media. Is a video designed to capture the hearts, minds, and wallets of the largest possible audience? Or is it built to capture the attention of prospects, and propel them from awareness to sale (and even loyalty and advocacy)?

The answer, of course, is yes. Video can and should do all of those things. Although that requires a strategy, and different video content for various stages of the “funnel.”

This video below (an oldie but goodie) speaks to the need of a “customer engagement” (CE) agency or specialist, and I would contend that the CE term is more fitting than social media. Customer engagement what companies want and need, and online video (as well as social media) is a way to do it. Companies don’t need a “social media” guru, they simply need marketers and agencies who know what’s appropriate for these mediums and how to tap them efficiently and effectively.

Again, social media is just another place to market with some new and unique nuances. It’s certainly different from traditional “reach and frequency” media or the “hyper targeting” Internet as we’ve known it. While social-media marketing can complement those other forms of advertising, it’s risky to bring best-in-class advertising approaches to social media without refining them.

The bottom line is that we can be “social” and savvy about online video… without adding a lick of value to customers or the business. We can also add tremendous customer and business value without being so damned social or “viral.” So what’s the answer?

  • First, let’s remember what we’re really trying to do. We want to use social media to achieve justifiable goals: target, find, help, educate, court, convince and engage new customers.
  • This means we’re creating a social-media presence not just to “hang out and be cool” or go “wicked viral,” but to add value to both customers/prospects and our company/brand.
  • A lot of social media and online-video fits nicely into a public relations agency, even if most of them are more familiar with media influence than customers. And it’s everyone’s job not a guru, specialty agency or department (for instance, even the traditional media buyer needs to know social so they don’t turd drop in a medium where people are far less interested in “boast and push” advertising).
  • If we’re offering a really good product or service, customers will voluntarily use social media to help others find us. We can encourage that, but ultimately it’s something they’ll do to reward us, not just because we ask them to “like” on Facebook or “subscribe” to our YouTube channel.
  • Finally, there are a lot of things best-in-class “social” brands are NOT doing. They aren’t simply trying to become “popular” via social media or “viral” on YouTube. And they’re certainly avoiding the temptation to become a content creator or publisher unless it’s a necessary “means to an end.” Entertainment is not job of a brand, can’t be done well by most sales/marketing teams, and can severely detract a team from great marketing strategy and execution.
  • Great brands aren’t pimping themselves on social media. They’re trying to earn the right to introduce products or services appropriately.

I’ll get off my soap box now, and let you enjoy this animation. If you’re not careful, it might just give you ideas on how to attack the two big 2011 questions: “who” and “how.”

Best Agency Holiday Card Celebrates Viral Memes

Well we did a recap on the worst corporate egreeting cards, so it’s only fair to share the winner of the 2010 WillVideoForFood Best Agency Holiday Greeting Video Award. I just made that award up, but it does come with a trophy and a piece of cheese.

Courtesy of CNN I give you the Klick! “SHOUT” holiday video greeting. What makes it special is that it celebrates memes new and old. I was thrilled to see the return of the Melbourn sunglasses guy (Cory Worthington).

Klick’s website. Beware of sound effects by a European unladen swallow.

Klick's Suit Guys

Can Google Sell Online Video Ads?

There’s been a lively debate recently among online-video enthusiasts about Google/YouTube’s capacity to sell display advertising. Sales people need different skill sets selling paid-search (automated, measurable, bid-based) versus display advertising (which is less measurable and more like selling television or print). To understand the distinction, see Google’s video; this is something we’ve been exploring at WillVideoForFood since Google bought YouTube in 2007. While Google has deep relationships with top companies and industries, it has only recently put emphasis behind non-search advertising.

YouTube’s display team (a few dozen) is rather small, and most YouTube ads are sold via Google Adwords not the dedicated team. While the display team sometimes lands some comprehensive ad buys with advertising agencies and brands, most monetization on YouTube is marginalized. The CPMs (cost per thousand) are so disappointing to some creators and online-video studios that some (from Next New Network and Revision3 to TheStation) have begun to sell their own inventory, or partner with ad networks that can attract better monetization for their views. Increasingly YouTube has provided creators and intermediaries tools to sell their inventory directly.

That said, there was some encouraging news from Jonathon Rosenberg, Google’s SVP for product management. According to this eWeek piece titled “Google YouTube, Android Drive $3.5B in Ads.”

Google’s display ad business… operating at an annualized run-rate of $2.5 billion. That’s counting YouTube ads, and all non-text ads running on Google’s network and DoubleClick networks, Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s senior vice president of product management, said on the Q3 earnings call. “You guys always ask me (referring to analysts)… where’s your next multi-billion dollar business after search,” Rosenberg said. “There’s your answer.”

Small Businesses May Soon Place YouTube InVideo Ads

Thanks to Tim Street and the good folks at NewTeeVee for this gossip alert via GoRumors. Soon, according to a patent filing, you may not need a big budget and advertising agency to place Google/YouTube “InVideo” ads (the ones that pop-up over the bottom 1/5 of the video). Today small folks can buy text ads, but InVideo ads are more captivating obviously.

Self-serve InVideo ads. Better than text overlays or search-result ads, but a bit more expensive and less targeted than paid search. Still, a nice way to reach the tech savvy voracious video consumers without breaking the bank (presumably far less than the $25 CPM that YouTube launched with).

From the patent entry, I’d call it “Powerpoint meets text ads.” You’ll have some color and image options, but no eye-popping flash you might get from an agency.

Try some out. Start with the Nalts inventory.

Worst Corporate eCard of Holidays

Let’s work together here, people, and see if we can find the worst-ever eCards from corporations. Agencies are especially gifted at providing cheesy holiday eGreetings that damage their brand. Now this one gets some credit for the script and cast, but the awkward direction, editing, and B-grade acting help land itself on the “WVFF Worst Holiday eCard” list.

Anyone else care to nominate one?

How to Implement Social Media Despite Agency Limits & Stakeholder Fears

This Content-to-Commerce post revealed some interesting social-media statistics, and prompted me to answer two questions:

  • “Why aren’t digital agencies bringing social-media to clients?”
  • “Why can’t brands seem to overcome their internal inertia?”

I have the somewhat rare experience of having seen social media strategy and tactics in various roles: as a marketer (client), client stakeholder (legal, PR, web), agency and even as a vendor to agencies.

afraid of social media

The agencies will tell you that their marketing and PR clients WANT it, but the marketing client’s attorneys and bureaucracy is preventing it. The marketer may blame delays or failures on the digital or PR agency or more likely internal stakeholders. The reality is that all three (brand team, client stakeholders and partners) need to be aligned, or face months of nonsense for a tactic that may not yet be proven.

Here are some additional excuses and some ways to snuff them:

1) Agencies aren’t profiting on social-media like they do on web development and media buying. This, I believe, is the real reason agencies have been tentative about social media. Solution: give your agency an incentive by allowing them to conduct projects that aren’t specific to web development. Allow fees (project or retainer) to cover social-media strategists and monitoring. Sure it’s free to create many accounts (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) but doing it well requires expertise.

2) My PR agency, AOR and web firm are telling me different things. Solution: Find one agency to lead social media, because it’s not easy to share it. Typically this would be your digital agency, although some are not driving social media as a progressive PR firm. I would not expect much out of an offline agency of record.

3) My internal stakeholders are “questioning it to death.” Solution: This is common, and your agency should help you develop the business case based on what you’re hearing as inevitable internal obstacles (which aren’t usually new, and were used to stop marketers from embracing the web). Attorneys are legitimately worried about legal ramifications, but a well-managed social-media strategy will address those risks and minimize them. Most problems attorneys fear are extremely rare. Public relations leaders are terrified about a negative Wall Street Journal resulting from a social-media error. Again, rare, but there are certainly enough examples to substantiate their fear.

There are two ways to address irrational stakeholder fears: first, make the business case to offset the risk. Second, put the risk in perspective. If you don’t do both, your chances of realizing the benefit of social-media are reduced by 80%.

4) My agency is clueless about Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Solution: Demand expertise, and drop the agency if they can’t respond. Often the client is underwhelmed because his/her account team is not well informed. Sometimes there’s a social-media expert that’s cross accounts. Give your account team a reason to engage that person and learn from him/her.

5) The final excuse may require some self examination. It’s quite possible the marketer is the obstacle. If you haven’t been convinced social-media can drive sales, you’re probably sending your agencies mixed messages. Solution: Tell your agency you believe social-media may be important, but need to be convinced. Give them an opportunity to challenge some of your preconceived notions, like:

  • My target customer doesn’t use social media.
  • I don’t want my brand on the wild-west of YouTube (we said that about the web a decade ago).
  • It’s going to be too difficult to implement — too many internal barriers. The “return on hassle” isn’t there.
  • The ROI isn’t evident.
  • Even if I did something, I’m not sure it would scale enough to impact sales.

These are legitimate concerns, but be open to facts that may convince you otherwise. Keep in mind that some of the highest performing levers of the marketing mix (paid search and websites) faced similar scrutiny when they were new.

Schweet & Sad: Advertising Week’s Battle of the Bands

YouTube AdvertisingWeek Battle of Bands

It’s schweet & sad… You’ve got a week to vote for the best band on Advertising Week’s “Battle of the Bands” (see AdvertisingWeek or visit YouTube “Battle of Ad Bands” channel). The assortment of videos, featuring modern Mad Men (and woman), in the past week have seen about 200-500 views per video. Perhaps mostly from fellow agency pals.

Maybe YouTube Business Blog’s pandering “We Salute You” blog post will fetch them another dozen views…

Just watch PHD’s “Say What,” and you get mixed feelings. On one hand, you’re thinking “how cool, this agency has such soul!” But you’re simultaneously transported back to that sad happy hour in 1992 when you were interning at Earl Palmer Brown, and the chief creative guy answered your question, “what’s the best advice you can give me to succeed in advertising.”

And he looks at you, pauses to sip his Jack Daniels, and you can see in his eyes as he instantly releases his dream of being a great painter… like a helium balloon.” Then he says with great conviction, “choose another career… I’m serious.”

Is this a celebration of the fact that we can have it all: lucrative advertising careers and the pursuit of our artistic passions? Or is this a tragic collection of would-be artists who sadly missed the fame bus for lack of talent or timing?

Why Agencies Are Killing Social Media & What You Can Do About It

Rapport-building anecdote to engage you: Around 1999, I worked as an account manager at a website-development company called Frontier Media Group. It was a company that specialized in production of online-properties and kiosks. My biggest client (which became the company’s second largest) began treating us like its “Internet Agency of Record,” and that took us far beyond project work. It was a vote of trust, and suddenly we were being asked to evaluate media buys and pilots. “What should the ratio of my Internet budget be in terms of web build versus online advertising?” they’d ask. I rushed back to the shop and pleaded my agency’s senior leadership to develop online media-buying services to handle display advertising and paid search… they resisted for more than a year, finally compelled less by duty and more by the incremental revenue it could snatch. “Hmmmm. A chance to snatch five percent of digital spending that was increasingly going online.” They hired a media guy whose job it was to battle offline media agencies who, of course, saw this internet-advertising fad as a horrific waste of money (which only coincidentally cannibalized their billings, but I digress).

we put the no in innovation

Now, a decade later, social media is facing a similar fate. As a marketer and independent consultant I see great opportunities that brands may not realize for years. As a former Internet agency guy, I understand why. It’s simply not yet profitable for an agency to engage in social media. Some account managers recommend social media, either because they know it’s in the brand’s best interest or they want to show they’re innovative. If the marketer appreciates the value, they’ll be heroes to the brand… even if they’re likely to be perceived as “going native” on their own agency. Why? Most savvy internet agencies haven’t figured out how to capitalize on emerging forms of social media, and urge clients to do things in their self interest. agency martini

Interactive agencies — and their big ol’ parental full-service agencies, to which I shall refer as Big Agency — are typically made up of account teams, production people, planners, media buyers and creative. They shout “teamwork and synergy” when they pitch, and they despise each other secretly. Each of these silos has its hands full managing such mundane tasks as updating a website or doing insertion orders for a fat & juicy digital media spend. These tasks are profitable. The account team, often the only one who may directly benefit from a social-media pilot because they’ll look progressive to their client, have precious few resources to actually manage even a simple social-media campaign. Who at the agency has done a video contest, a YouTube promotion, a Facebook or Twitter campaign? Who can help substantiate much less manage something new? Oh- there’s someone who did it… but he’s busy with new-business pitch.


Meanwhile, Big Agency has very little incentive to partner with firms that specialize in social media (instead deferring to a full utilization of all agency personal before considering “outsourcing”). That’s consulting or agency-management 101… keep people “off the beach” even if their skills aren’t a good fit this particular decade. The specialist firms are, therefore, unable to get a seat at the table. “We don’t need them for that,” says the Big Agency chief creative officer or senior media buying executive. “We can do that ourselves!”

The result is that the “social media” campaigns are often a failure. And so, it seems, the medium is too. But to paraphrase British Author G.K. Chesterton (and Bruce Grant, who paraphrased him in his own way):

Social media has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.


  • Bloated destinations on Facebook or Twitter that lack any relevant consumer engagement.
  • Little appreciation for “earned” engagements (not paid) because media buyers aren’t media engagers. They’re buyers.
  • Dismissive reactions to leveraging popular social-media “stars” because the agency sees that as a creative threat. The turtleneck-wearing, cigarette-holding creative director is insulted by letting their brand near an amateur YouTube star even if that chump has a bigger and more vibrant audience than will any professionally produced ad.

If an Internet firm or Big Agency can’t profit from social media (and sees it as a risk), how hard will they push it? Does an account guy want to take a risk for his client, only to be slapped around by 5 departments at his own employer? Will that Big Agency junior social-media advocate with skill and experience ever have an opportunity to help the agency, much less a client, tap the medium?

Meanwhile, the PR firms (who are instinctively appreciative of “earned” media that is so valuable in social media) are often not invited to contribute. These guys can’t spell HTML and didn’t have a Twitter account until it was all over the Wall Street Journal and NBC. If they do employ a social-media expert, the poor sap has the same fate that “web monkeys” held in PR and traditional agencies in 1999. They lack access to the clients, are not participating at a strategic level, and don’t even play nice in the agency sandbox.

This is a sad post, so let’s cheer it up and make it actionable. What can Big Agency (and even the nimbler ones) do to avoid these legitimate traps?


  1. 101 course for every department. Just like everyone at a traditional agency should have a basic understanding of the Internet, so too should they appreciate new forms of media. Not everyone needs to “tweet,” but they should be able to describe a successful case study related to each major media form (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, and whatever else comes along). They may discover that “social media” can help their department instead of threaten its existence.
  2. Senior champion required. Every agency needs a senior advocate for these innovative new solutions that might otherwise die. His or her job should be to champion these and determine how the agency handles them. Should the media department handle social media, or does it fit better in the strategic, research, or planning group? I’ll give you a hint- this decision is the most vital.
  3. Take small innovation team off billable clock. Someone or a small group should be relieved of billable-hour pressure to identify emerging models — some that may not yet have a profit model, but can help a client’s business. This person or team should share best practices, and know what firms, vendors, consultants solve various problems. In some cases, they can simply educate account teams and connect them with these experts. But if it’s a first-attempt at what may be a high-maintenance project, this team might “run point” to manage the initiative from setting goals to collecting metrics. In many cases, it should educate account teams (and not just those pitching a new assignment), hand the project over, and return to collect the performance… ensuring it’s not redundant to other departments. Some of this work may have already been done on billable time, but if it’s buried in an account team it’s not going to help the new pitch or other client.
  4. Mutual profitability. Niche social-media players (startups and specialty firms) and the large agencies need to figure out how to partner in a mutually beneficial way, and that takes more than driving great results for a client. The “vendor” and the agency both need to have a clear role and profitability. For instance, if Buzzmetrics is better than the agency’s homegrown “web monitoring” solution, than outsource and mark it up (by adding value on the output). If some weird Twitter guru freelance consulting can offer some guidance, give them a seat early and define their boundaries. The freak’s input may help optimize a program, kill it justifiably, or save it from becoming an embarrassing headline.
  5. Pick wisely. Social-media startups (and especially consultants) are sometimes brilliant solo players, but don’t know how to do the jazz ensemble. Others have decided to pursue a niche passion, and have no interest in doing things outside that realm. If Big Agency senses a specialist firm or company wants to be a full-service agency, then one can understand why Big Agency wants them far from their clients.
  6. Make a black & white list. In emerging forms of advertising, there will be winners and losers related to both the medium and the people that executed a program. An agency needs to keep tabs on vendors and programs that succeed and fail. That means tracking both the performance of the medium (YouTube) AND the partner (an online-video specialist) that managed the assignment. A success is probably indicative that both are solid. But a failure could mean one or the other, and knowing the right answer will be important to determine if another attempt is made.
  7. Timing is everything. On one hand, few want to be the first to pilot something new, where it’s hard to predict outcomes much less scope time it will take. When an agency has trouble and a simple project gets bloated, it either needs to reevaluate how it did it… or determine that it’s a cost-prohibitive tactic because of the manpower it consumes. On the other hand, by the time it’s 100% clear that a social-media tactic will work, it’s probably an antiquated one. There’s an old African proverb: “if you wait for the whole beast to appear before throwing the spear, you’re already too late”).

Now I invite you, dear agency and brand readers, to provide your own thoughts (anonymously if you choose, as WordPress can’t track your ISP). You’re so very quiet on this blog that I sometimes worry you’re not reading. Please share! Otherwise I’m only writing for the fun regular commenters I call the WVFF back row.”

SEM Plus Video = Gold in ‘Dem Hills

Pay attention now, online-video and advertising peeps. This lil’ blog post is going to be on the final exam. It might even spawn a trade article and a new business.

  • Paid Search Video Gold DiggerSearch engine marketing (SEM) is big business today, with agencies charging retainers to help websites rank high on search engines (increasing qualified traffic) and help manage paid advertising. Paid search (text ads on Google, Yahoo and MSN) already is annually around a $10 billion industry. Maybe more, maybe less.
  • Online video will likely be a billion plus industryin 2009 and growing at a rate of between 50-70 percent annually for the foreseeable future (see roundup of online-video industry projections).

Would you like Uncle Nalts to tell you where the gold is in ‘dem hills?

Kay, first let’s get into our time machine and go back 7-8 years. Around 2000, Nalts got nervous about the impending bubble burst and took shelter with Big 5 Consulting (KPMG). Turns out the Big 5 was no better poised than Internet marketing agencies and eventually Nalts would camp-out on client side so he could see his kids grow up. But that’s besides the point. Nalts got some good training on consultative selling and how to solve problems for C-level (that’s CEO, CIO, CFO) folks. Seems the VITO (very important top executive) loses sleep sometimes, and if you can help him/her sleep better they don’t mind giving you money. They sleep better when they can measure a marketing spend especially in a tight economy.

Hi. I\'m full of shit. I\'m going to manage your paid search campaignBut I’m getting ahead of myself… before Uncle Nalts left his interactive agency (Qwest), he pitched The Big Guy on building a paid-search practice. Brand teams were happy to spend $300-$500 thousand dollars on a big ass website, but it was equally important getting customers to actually visit those big-ass websites. Eventually the interactive agencies figured this out, but not before screwing it up with big-mouth idiots who promised to handle paid-search campaigns like “day traders”… and then ran off to the next pitch and left the campaign unoptimized and in autopilot. I can smell these people before they enter our building.

Even today agencies suck at SEM with a few exceptions, and most acquired their way there. Of course as a Product Director, I’m reluctant to hire a specialist SEM firm because they’ll only get into a pissing war with my interactive agency and media buyer. My peers at other companies consolidate paid-search spending even though the media spend is bid-based (so you don’t exactly garner spending/scale efficiencies except on campaign and analytic fees). So I hire an independent consultant to fill giant gap between my brand team, internal groups (promotions/Internet), agencies and analytics.

The best way to predict *some* of video’s future is to look at the past.Online video will follow the route of the SEM field in 2008-2011. Sure other things will grow and die along the way (from Hulu and eFoof to Revver and Vloggerheads).

But trust me that online video will eventually be managed the way we manage all other promotional content and media:

  1. Brands spend a fortune telling their story and making persuasive content (and sometimes even serve customers along the way). This stuff will become less important with time unless it is engaging and, dare I say, entertaining.
  2. We work like hell to get high organic (unpaid) placements on The Orb called Google- that means optimizing our content and getting it distributed on credible third parties. In video, of course, this translates to tagging, seeding, moving quickly, and leveraging popular amateurs– even little Uncle Nalts gets about 1.6 MM uniques per month on his videos.
  3. Finally, we buy ads on Google for relevant keywords- I’ll speak for myself but there’s NO OTHER SPEND that’s directly as measurable as paid search. It’s bending over the rest of the marketing mix and has it squeeling like a pig. Its only weakness  is scale, but I like the pay-for-performance accountability.

Now Uncle Nalts was going to hoard these powerful insights, but he’s sharing them here on his blog for the low, low price of nothing. Nalts will even confess that this is the space in which he wants to play (not marketing drugs until he retires).

You gotta do what you love, which for me is entertaining and marketing via emerging media. How fun to help brands get their good content seen via existing video sites and search engines, then supplant that “organic” play with targeted advertising buys (ideally at a cost-per-click and keyword targeting level). Okay it doesn’t sound as fun as blowing bubbles or eating Captain Crunch, but it’s fun to me. And if the video content sucks, then let’s create new videos without exhaustive, bloated production shoots. Even more good news: you don’t have to spend $250K MM on YouTube to get paid (promoted) views.

If you’re interested in financing a startup around this, just send me cash. I think I need about $500K, but no pesky venture capitalists please. You VCs creep me out, even if you’re still investing in video like drunken sailers.

Honestly, here’s why I don’t mind sharing this powerful insight (which some of you will find obvious now that I’ve said it, and others will be only mildly amused because the significance is lost on them). Because few are poised to tackle this issue yet. How many have experience with the mix of marketing, Internet advertising, and video? And the magic is in the implementation unless you’re the fat, smelly guy who pitches “SEM dashboard” full time.

The agencies will make a mess of this. I think it goes without saying that large full-serve “integrated” agencies (don’t laugh when I say integrated please) will wait until 2012 until they trip over this space by accident. Picture the dinosaurs that used to chew their tails raw before they even felt the pain. 

Even the interactive agencies will make a mess of it. Remember when the interactive firms tried to get into paid search and search engine marketing in the early 2000’s? It was embarassing. And most interactive agency people don’t know online video, much less know what a social media and online-video marketing plan might look like. Heck a woman at an agency last week told me she hadn’t heard of Twitter (but YouTube sounded familiar). And of course information management is still using terms like “portal” while PR firms spew about “blog and social media strategy,” and wouldn’t know a viral video if it urinated on their leg or licked them on the face.

While the agencies are ignoring it or screwing it up, a few bright people will build up an offering that helps brands place content organically (and seed it), and conduct efficient media spends to promote the content.  Again- I think the magical stool has three legs: marketing, digital advertising and online video. Yeah- like my old Drunk Uncle Jim used to say- when there’s a gold rush, sell shovels.

After all… it’s hard to sleep when your videos, like $500K bad-ass websites, are “billboards in the back yard.”  

Billboard in backyard