A Bright Spot in Opt-In Advertising?

My feelings about advertising are often mixed. As an ad agency person dependent on advertising as a source of revenue, the output of my industry fascinates, intrigues, frustrates, appalls, and enchants me. As a consumer, however, I can be as disgusted, bored, or entertained as the next person. Perhaps wearing both these hats amplifies my concern about how consumers view (or don’t view) and accept (or reject) ads. We consumers extol the virtues of our TiVos to skip the very commercials that support the free TV programming we’ve come to take for granted. We decry or just plain ignore online ads as annoying and interruptive.

For advertisers, and particularly their agencies, the stakes are higher than ever. Ads can’t be expected to work like they used to, and advertising surely isn’t as easy as it used to be. Advertisers have dollars set aside for advertising they don’t have the confidence to even know what to do with. Perhaps more concerning, they worry their ad spends are providing significant value to continue spending at the same levels. This, dear reader, is what keeps me up at night.

More than once I’ve thought, “There’s got to be a solution whereby consumers choose to accept ads, whether that’s watching them, reading them, or listening to them. It’s the only way to assure advertisers they’re getting their money’s worth, and it’s almost a necessity to ensure the future of advertising, isn’t it?”

Along comes BrightSpot.TV.

Still in beta and not really set to launch until Q1 2007 (the Web site still has some kinks to work through), BrightSpot.TV puts control of ad viewing into consumers’ hands while charging advertisers only for those ads consumers actually view. A wholly opt-in system, BrightSpot trades in the currency of video advertising. In exchange for viewing ads in a queue and answering market research questions for each one, consumers (“members”) receive a reward of special offers or $0.50 credits they can redeem against items of value chosen by each member (e.g., video game subscription service fees). BrightSpot calls companies ponying up redemption items “providers.”

Providers will play an integral role in the BrightSpot model. BrightSpot is soliciting providers that have their own member database to which it can market the BrightSpot.TV concept. Providers can air their own video ads on BrightSpot.TV, which in effect subsidizes the cost of their redemptions. Current providers include the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and GameFly. As such, its initial member target will be the younger male audience, but as more providers and advertisers come on board, BrightSpot will expand its focus.

Is this a viable business model? Will consumers really be willing to sit through an up-to three-minute ad for a few measly credits? Are the credits the only motivating factor for watching the ads?

BrightSpot’s position is it’s an entertainment portal. Banking on the fact people are already spending hours watching videos on YouTube, MySpace, and the like with no incentives, BrightSpot feels if the ad spots are both entertaining and relevant, watching will be perceived more as amusement for pay, less like a chore. Since the act of member registration and the subsequent answering of market research questions builds such a robust member profile, BrightSpot will be able to serve extremely relevant ads to members, which has the added value of eliminating wasted ad impressions for advertisers.

BrightSpot provides additional value to advertisers in the form of ad controls such as frequency and dayparting, plus robust automatic campaign optimization, tracking, and measuring of the consumer engagement with the ads shown on its site. BrightSpot can even accommodate video ads that offer in-ad consumer engagement. And the BrightSpot system of member log-in and video validation helps curtail potential system abuses. Unless the advertiser stipulates otherwise, a member can only receive credit for watching a video once.

I asked BrightSpot CEO and cofounder Aaron Martens if he saw a place for consumer-generated media on his site. “Not yet, but that’s the future vision,” fulfilling the goal of making BrightSpot.TV truly an entertainment destination and community. If such a destination can come to fruition and makes my advertisers happy, I say bring it on!

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