Go, Go Empowerment Rangers!


Earlier this week, I discovered Revver, a video-sharing site currently in beta. With Revver, you can put personal videos, home movies, digitally captured kicks to the groin online — and make money doing so.

Revver’s goal seems to be to tag every consumer-generated piece of video content with a call to its ad server and allow consumers to reap the financial benefits. After an exhaustive 60-day review period to determine authenticity and original source, each video is approved or denied, and ads are targeted to the video’s content. But here’s the kicker: consumers actually control what kinds of video are, or are not, wrapped around their content.

Whether this works in practice economically, or on a large scale, is yet to be determined. Yet it marks a great step forward in consumer empowerment. In this case, consumers are empowered not only as content producers but also as ad managers, deciding who advertises around their content.

Too much control? Perhaps. But I think we’re onto something here.

Imagine a world where people watch and consume multiple forms of audio/video content and the advertising is targeted not only to the content they view but also to consumers’ interests — without the use of adware or spyware.

As consumers take more control of their various media experiences and we move closer to a truly on-demand entertainment culture, it’s time to stop resisting. It’s time advertisers played along. We must develop ways for consumers to customize their rich advertising experiences and support their free audio and video programming.

Branded entertainment integrates ad messages so deeply within content that they’re tolerated by consumers and create a strong brand association with programming. How much more effective would advertising be if it were welcomed by consumers because they’re the ones who let it in?

This theory has been a goal for advertisers for decades. Now, we’re finally taking great strides toward making it a reality.

Companies such as Revver give consumers a taste of what it’s like to dictate the advertising experience. Soon (I hope) publishers will give audiences that opportunity around their content as well.

Just within the last few years, we’ve seen this empowerment grow from a twinkle in Doc Searls‘ eye into the full-blown potential of maturity.

A few developments to keep a very close eye on in the near future:

  • The Creative Commons license. Freedom of distribution plus freedom of expression eventually yields freedom of fair use. Advertisers must let down their guard and give in, even with limitations, to this desire for empowerment.
  • Handheld/mobile devices. Though I firmly believe they won’t be viable for long-form entertainment, these devices may prove very efficient at delivering the short-form experience consumers want in transit. Advertisers must find a way to get in there, without ruining the short experience consumers briefly opted into.
  • Bandwidth/storage. Whether storage takes the form of online repositories (hard disk space), high-density external storage (e.g., Blu-ray, HD DVD), or Flash memory, more storage room means we can deliver higher-quality advertising. If you have HDTV, you’ll wonder why more (if any) commercials aren’t in high definition. The same applies to portable and desktop devices. Advertising quality can and should be equal to or greater than the content it surrounds. That would be a great step toward encouraging consumers to want more.

Keep a close eye on new developments in the consumer empowerment arena. If we forget (or, worse, don’t care) who we’re talking to, the message may be heard but not heeded.


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