Online-Video Marketing That… Doesn’t Feel Like Advertising

GE launched a health campaign today on YouTube that is part of trend toward softer advertising that, I believe, will have better long-term dividends even if it’s hard to measure.

GE is taking a lightly branded approach to promoting health and wellness by sponsoring a “Healthymagination” challenge among people on YouTube. There’s very subtle branding from GE, and no “drive to healthymagination.com” play. In fact the company is not trying to build a microsite, and is aggregating commissioned videos on Howcast’s YouTube channel. Now millions of people will watch and participate in health-challenge videos by iJustine, Alphacat, Rhett & Link, Smosh, me and other YouTube people with large followings.

This is about as far from an intrusive yet measurable pre-roll advertisement as you can get, but GE’s brand will now be associated with health — broadly across a number of demographics.

Okay I doctored this banner with the faces of YouTubers. But click to see real channel.

As someone participating in this health challenge, I am certainly biased. So let’s look instead at Pfizer’s YouTube homepage advertising “takeover” in January, which was centered around videos the company commissioned about health and fitness. The promoted brand (Chantix for smoking cessation) was present but not “in your face.” The insight that may have spawned this approach? Smokers aren’t exactly going to dive into a video channel about quitting.

In a current campaign with a similar “hands off” approach, Rhett and Link’s I Love Local Commercials campaign was sponsored by Microbilt. But the video series is a celebration of cheesy local ads for small business (Microbilt’s target). There’s no forced messages about how Microbilt offers credit, debt collection or background screening to small businesses. People can get excited about cheesy commercials or health (especially when a charity benefits). But it’s hard to get jazzed about debt collection, smoking cessation or light bulbs. It’s the same reason I used Mr. Complicated to promote Clear Point (who cares about staffing technology?).

Brian Bradley, MicroBilt’s EVP of Strategy & Emerging Markets, acknowledges it’s hard to put an ROI on programs like this (parenthetically I addressed this topic on Tuesday at a marketing conference, and here’s the deck).

“Although the initial work that lead to “I Love Local Commercials” was very spontaneous, it is part of a body of work at MicroBilt focused on building awareness and establishing thought leadership across market segments, ” Bradley told me via e-mail. “So that our traditional marketing and sales efforts are more successful.” Bradley said, for example, that if his sales people call a business prospect who hasn’t heard of MicroBilt, they can quickly find out it’s a real company.

It’s tempting for us marketers to force our brand so we can realize (or assume) a near-term ROI. But sometimes the most effective long-term strategy is to have a gentle presence while something bigger, more interesting, and more entertaining takes center stage. This is more instinctive to corporate communication or public-relations people, but they’re generally without budgets to sustain even small pilots like these.

The results may not show up in website visits, instant purchase, and awareness/recall studies. But I would argue that test/control or pre/post qualitative studies (while being cost prohibitive for these case studies), would indicate that target customers have higher favorability of these brands. I don’t think pre-rolls and banners could do that alone.

And isn’t that what separates the AIGs from the Disneys?

Video Case Study: Efficient Logitech & Hitviews Challenge

PRWeek ran a story titled “Logitech Finds Value in Campaign Video Strategy,” and here are the highlights (the story requires login, but it’s here).

You may remember the video (below) called “Amazing Kitten.” Congratulations to the 5 randomly-selected commenters, and the 5 winners of the video replies (who I just finally contacted).

Client: Logitech (Freemont, CA)
Agency: Ruder Finn (San Francisco, CA)
Campaign: Logitech DVS YouTube campaign
Duration: September – October 2009
Budget: $25,000 – $30,000 –no, I didn’t get all of this… prizes, Ruder Finn, Hitviews

Situation

After Logitech acquired WiLife in 2007, home digital video security cameras (DVS) became a part of its portfolio. Logitech PR manager Ha Thai explains that general awareness is low in this category, and the team hoped to change that fact.

Ruder Finn (RF) was hired to work on a broad DVS promotional effort. HitViews helped the team identify a popular YouTube content producer who could integrate DVS into one of its videos.

“We wanted to spread the word in an efficient and budget conscious way,” says Andy Pray, VP with RF. “YouTube provides a good audience with existing affinity— they create content and are used to webcams.”

Strategy
The idea was to create a video that highlighted the DVS system’s ease and positioned it as valuable for families. YouTube “star” Kevin “Nalts” Nalty, whose videos often involve pranks on his kids and wife, was chosen. Pray says Nalty’s large audience reach and family focus made him a great fit. An online challenge was designed to maximize engagement. The team also employed social media and blogger outreach.

Tactics
In his “Amazing Kitten!” video (launched October 13), Nalty used the DVS system to catch a kitten in outrageous acts. Pray says it was important that the video feel authentic to Nalty’s audience so it kept with typical tone.

For the contest, audiences could submit a response video to Nalty’s YouTube page or leave a text comment. Contest information and a coupon code were shown at the bottom of Nalty’s video. All entrants were eligible to win a DVS system.

Nalty also created a making of the video clip (“How Kitten Defied Gravity”), which Thai says was a surprise and bonus. Nalty used his Twitter and Facebook pages to spread the word to YouTube influentials and others. The team promoted the video and contest on Logitech’s existing Twitter page, its blog, and their personal social media pages.

Other outreach focused on cat and content enthusiast bloggers. Pray adds that messaging was based on the video (rather than DVS) to maintain authenticity.

Results
As of January 18, “Amazing Kitten!” has garnered more than 160,000 views (more than 2,000 five-star ratings) on YouTube and 38,369 views on Yahoo Video. Pray says it was a top 50 video on YouTube the week of October 13. The making of video drew another 14,200 views. The contest yielded 42 video and 2,270 text entries.

The team reports thousands of tweets from online influencers. Though Logitech won’t disclose sales, Thai says there was a “strong surge” on Logitech’s Web site around the campaign and coupon codes drove sales increases.

Future
Thai says plans include expanding on getting top-tier media coverage of customers’ DVS stories. RF will continue to work with Logitech on DVS promotion.

(Nalts Extra)

I have to thank Hitviews, Andy from Ruder Finn, and Logitech. But I’m also grateful for DavideoDesign, who helped with the concept and special effects. Thanks so much to all of the video replies. It was very hard to select the winners! See them all here. Parenthetically, while using the Logitech System I happened to bust my children with a fight, and was able to find the guilty party!

To purchase a Logitech system:
http://www.logitech.com/dvs
(enter code Nalty20 to get a 20% discount)

Even Pharmaceutical Companies are on YouTube Now

The pharmaceutical industry best known for mass-market advertising and relentless sales representatives chasing down doctors. But FDA promotional restrictions have caused pharma firms to fear and loath Internet marketing. But Sanofi Aventis’s promotion via YouTube gives us pause and hope.

The Sanofi ad below, which mentions no product or benefits, but has full “fair balance” of risks (odd), leads us to a YouTube channel that educates consumers on insulin… via the most visceral form of media (video).  Presumably the initiative is “unbranded” promotion for the newly launched Apidra (although I didn’t see any evidence of the product except for its risks).

 The branded channel shows that YouTube is providing ways for highly-regulated pharmaceutical marketers to balance content on what YouTube calls “branded channels.” There’s full fair balance, and links to Sanofi’s websites.

Side effects but no product
Side effects but no product from Sanofi?
What I like about this campaign is that the YouTube advertisements don’t try to take people away from YouTube (recent studies show that YouTubers watch exponentially more videos than those making brief visits to other video sites). Furthermore, Sanofi’s unbranded website (GoInsulin) has a “callout” back to the YouTube site, where consumers are far more likely to engage for longer.
One interesting advantage pharmaceutical marketers have over their consumer-product goods counterparts is that the FDA restrictions placed on pharma brands are consistant with social media rules. The FDA limits promotion, so pharmaceutical brands “soft sell” online (no clear guidelines exist), and use education and unbranded promotion. That approach is far more appropriate than the “mass market” television ads and pushy sales reps that did not help the Rx industry reputation.