Cast Your Campaigns Into a Webcast?

Picture it: A notorious celebrity flat on his back on an operating table while an osteopath prepares the surgery. He’s about to repair a broken bone. Thousands of Internet users are about to watch it happen — online.

This scene unfolded earlier this week when comedian and actor Tom Green broadcast footage of the surgery to repair his leg, broken during a skateboarding accident. Portions of the operation aired on his online talk show “Tom Green Live” and on Internet television network ManiaTV.

It wasn’t the first time Green shared his personal anguish with the world; in 2000, he allowed cameras to film his testicular cancer surgery and aired it on MTV. This time, though, the video appeared exclusively online and generated some major press for both the first live Internet TV talk show and the first Internet TV network.

This event is just one of the many things I love about interactive media. Cutting-edge technology such as online video attracts cutting-edge material. It also attracts cutting-edge players, from media publishers to personalities. We’re working with a very liberal medium, and that’s bound to produce some very singular content.

This isn’t, of course, limited to content that might be mistaken for scenes from “Grey’s Anatomy.” Many publishers are pushing the envelope, and they’re doing it with Webcasts. They use material meant to be educational, such as broadcasts of corporate conference events, and stuff with redeeming qualities in its exclusivity and entertainment value.

Earlier this year, “Vanity Fair” invited Internet users to go behind the scenes of its famous Academy Awards after party by watching live exclusive footage of the event at VanityFair.com. Similarly, MSN offered users far and wide access to the New Year’s Eve festivities in Times Square, streaming live footage of the event for six hours straight.

Last year, Amazon.com broadcast a concert featuring musicians Norah Jones and Bob Dylan to celebrate 10 years of selling books online. Then of course there are AOL’s Live 8 concerts.

Many years ago, one of the first media plans I worked on involved a placement with EMI Music. At the time it was experimenting with concert Webcasts to promote new artists and boost record sales. Now, portals like AOL dominate this arena; its Sessions section features frequently updated music videos and live concerts.

All this makes media buying very interesting. As a group, planners and buyers are both creatures of habit and adventurous types. It’s this combination that makes the campaigns so effective. We’re always on the lookout for intriguing new opportunities to complement our tried-and-true favorites. Webcasts combine a popular, proven medium (video) with exciting event concepts that have a broad range of appeal.

So how does one use such special content to her client’s advantage? First, understand Webcast advertising isn’t a cookie-cutter deal. Though some publishers offer pre-, mid-, and post-roll commercials, along with in-video ad units and logos within the video player, others prefer to handpick partners and customize sponsorship placements. As such, even Webcasts based on the most brilliant concepts must be individually assessed for their potential value.

Next, I’ll address some of the more interesting Webcast advertising opportunities I’ve come across and analyze what makes them so robust. In the meantime, I’ll be watching to see what Tom Green broadcasts next.

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