Advertising As Content Sites Proliferate, But Viewers Might Skip Altogether

Most online video sites continue to struggle with finding the right way to balance advertising and entertainment. That debate aside, a NYT piece and one on Adweek finds marketers are attempting to avoid the issue altogether by creating ads that are meant to attract viewers as entertaining content in their own right. For example, Interpublic Group agency MRM has been getting attention for its series of musical webisodes for Intel, directed by the comedian Christopher Guest (in the past three weeks, YouTube users have viewed this example over 24,000 times.)

And with the willingness of consumers to opt-in in such numbers, a few websites have sprung up showing nothing but ads-as-content. Since its launch last August by cable network TBS, claims that its clips have been viewed more than 63 million times. In a similar vein, NBC Universal’s USA Network plans to launch a portal for new and classic commercials called next year. And next month, Publicis Groupe and Droga5 will raise the curtain on a broadband channel that runs nothing but branded entertainment, Honeyshed. The site, being promoted as “QVC meets MTV,” will showcase clips that run about 2 or 3 minutes in length. David Droga, creative chairman at the Droga5, said that the videos will be introduced by individuals who are considered experts in the categories the ads find themselves, such as cars, computing and fashion.

While great ads will certainly attract online viewers, there’s reason to doubt whether these video sites will be able to sustain an audience. As Jupiter Research analyst Joseph Lazlo notes on his blog, only 8 percent of consumers said commercials were a genre of video they watched online in the past year.