11/3/11 Reinventing online ads - latimes.com2/4www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ct-vimb-20111019,0,5378340.stor
"American Idol"and"Celebrity Apprentice."Before
"Survivor," brands got promotional placements in exchangefor use of a prop, such as a car, or as a bonus for buyingcommercial time.Burnett is now trying to bring that formula to the Webthrough his investment in the Vimby digital productionstudio. The Van Nuys venture launched in 2005 with anetwork of filmmakers around the country who createoriginal, short-form videos for Vimby's website that now alsomay find a home on other sites including YouTubeandMyspace. As part of Burnett's investment in 2010, Vimby began rubbing elbows with such major advertisers as Aflac,General Mills,Macy's,McDonald's, Pepsi and Puma helping
these brands create their own content for distribution on YouTube or on a company'sFacebook page."Mark Burnett said, 'Guys, we need to build an arsenal, a bigger toolbox, working with General Mills, with Pepsi, doingstuff in a way that's consistent, authentic and involves greatstory-telling,'" Vimby founder and Chief Executive Dean Waters said of the digital studio's expanded focus.Under Burnett's influence, Vimby's filmmakers have widenedthe lens, creating stories not only for the Web but also for TV,as was the case with an MTV special that followed five young women to New York, where they competed to become aSeventeen Magazine cover model. On other occasions, brandspay Vimby to create content that the advertiser can use to build an online community or cultivate greater affinity withits consumers. Macy's Million Dollar Makeover promotiondrew 20,000 applicants from around the country, eight of whom were selected as finalists to participate in a reality-TV-styled competition that attracted 1 million new fans to theretailer's Facebook page.Burnett isn't the first television producer whom brands havesought out to create high-quality, low-cost entertainment forthe Web and beyond. Several other veterans from the traditional media world, including former topnetwork executives such as ABC'sLloyd Braun,NBC's Ben Silverman and the WB's Jordan Levin and
independent producers like Jak Severson, also are looking to capture audiences as they move tothese digital platforms. Big brands are tagging along, in hopes that such proven players can find theirfooting online. A significant portion of the U.S. population goes online to check out YouTube videos, update theirFacebook status or watch music videos and TV shows through services including Vevo andHulu.Some 182 million Internet users spent an average of five hours a week on the Web in September and watched nearly 40 billion videos, according to ComScore Inc. Advertisers predictably are following the viewers online, with spending projected to reach $31.3 billion this year in the U.S. an increase of 20% over 2010, researcher EMarketer predicts. As new gadgets and services deliver entertainment to young, digitally savvy viewers, advertisers arescrambling to respond. Initially, brands took a direct marketing approach, focusing on buying searchterms to spur sales of particular products. Although search advertising remains the single largestsegment of spending on the Web, its growth has slowed as brands look for new ways to connect withconsumers."Brands are starting to think more about, 'How do we become the destination?'" said Jason Deal,digital director at the Initiative ad agency. "How do we create advertising that draws consumers to us,instead of solely interrupting people" through banners and search ads?The breadth of online experimentation is wide, from traditional sponsorships and productplacements to "branded content" in which advertisers use entertainment to communicate withaudiences in an original way.
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