GE’s Live Video Ad Made Healthcare Technology Conversational

GE has positioned itself at the forefront of technological innovation in its environmentally-sound product development, so it comes as no surprise the firm has embraced online ad innovations too. In its latest effort, the company used live, in-banner video to announce the launch of its health-related initiative. For GE, the live, comments-enabled video ad allowed the firm to reach a large audience in its target markets, while fulfilling its mission to incorporate conversational marketing in its overall strategy.

GE aims to help reduce the cost of healthcare using its technologies and services. Its “Healthymagination” campaign launched last week to get the word out to business executives, investors, and consumers interested in healthcare. The company does, of course, have a vested interest. It offers medical products such as heart disease diagnostic equipment, medical imagery technology, and an electronic medical records system.

To kick-off the campaign, GE CEO Jeff Immelt spoke Thursday in Washington, D.C., and his entire hour-long talk was presented live within expandable display units seen on a variety of business, news, and health destinations.

“Part of our strategy is…taking content and raising it out of branded Web sites into the general media consumption stream,” said Michael Clark, principal of digital marketing agency Beeby Clark + Meyler, which handles GE’s digital media buying and planning, in addition to some creative work. “Trying to drive the viewer to Web site destinations to view content is a much greater task than asking them to view content at the media level,” he said.

Though the video ads, enabled by EyeWonder, were placed on some consumer-aimed health sites such as Yahoo Health and WebMD, the main targets of the campaign are business decision-makers and investors. To reach them, ads ran on sites like CNN Money, BBC, Bloomberg, and Forbes. The campaign also bought placements on BBC, AOL News, US News and World Report, MSNBC, Yahoo News, MSN Money, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Washington Post, and Weather.com.

“Our media plan was focused on sites where business executives gather,” said Clark, noting that all ads were day-parted to run only during business hours.

“What we found is that the initial engagement rate as well as the viewing time of the audience is much greater than other types of ads that we utilize,” said Clark. Eight percent of people served the ad initiated the video, he said. The firm also tracked things like viewing length, and is conducting brand impact studies with Insight Express.

In addition to watching the event within the banners, viewers were able to post comments within the ad unit. During Immelt’s speech, around 4,000 comments were submitted via the banners, and around 1,200 of those were displayed in the ads during the live event. According to Clark, the comments were filtered to ensure a balanced set of opinions were presented.

Though some video watchers called Immelt’s presentation, “cool,” “amazing” and a “great idea,” many comments centered around the broader healthcare debate, rather than on GE specifically. And, not surprising, there was a variety of negative and cynical comments. “GE Healthcare’s products are overpriced and under functional,” wrote one viewer. “Do you think a company is still going to give healthcare when they can push people off to inferior Gov care?” asked another.

“All of our clients are continuing to talk about conversational marketing,” said Clark. “What was unique here was using the display media space as a conversation platform.”

GE was an early adopter of in-banner live video advertising. Last year, the firm used similar EyeWonder units to distribute Immelt’s discussion of GE’s annual report. The company was also recognized for Web marketing innovation in conjunction with its “Ecomagination” campaign, a similar effort intended to promote its green-friendly products such as desalination technologies and windmills. That campaign centered on short films created for the Web.

EyeWonder says live in-banner video is becoming a hot topic among its advertiser clients, though there aren’t any campaigns employing the technology expected in the near future. While Beeby Clark + Meyler also aims to push its clients towards experimenting with such formats, Clark recognizes the challenges of implementing them.

“It’s a non-standard execution… It was easier to work with the properties directly,” he said, noting the agency purchased ad space directly from the sites. For one thing, publishers worry about having enough bandwidth to enable the ads to download quickly without harming user experience. “There’s always a concern whether the unit interferes with the consumer experience on those pages,” continued Clark, who said there were alternate creatives in place to accommodate 15 different contingencies. For instance, if the event started late, a message stating that the event would begin momentarily was set to appear. However, according to Clark, everything went off without a hitch.

To promote it, GE ran ads before the live video event, allowing users to submit their e-mail addresses to receive reminders. “We needed to make sure that we were operating within the privacy guidelines of each of the sites,” said Clark. Over 1,100 reminders were requested, and according to Clark, those e-mail addresses are no longer being stored since they were collected for that single use.

The campaign is still running, but has since switched ad creative to focus on specific GE healthcare products.

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