In its own halting way, online video took another series of big-boy steps on its way to being taken seriously by creatives, advertisers, and marketers it so desperately needs to have on its side. (And, no, I’m not talking about Saturday night’s Streamy Awards in Los Angeles, but mad props to Brady Brim-DeForest, Tubefilter cofounder, and the rest of his crew for pulling it together.)
Rather, the last few weeks witnessed two very different ways the online world and the more traditional TV world worked together. Typically, the two channels have had adversarial relationships. That’s apparently changing. Take “In the Motherhood,” which debuted on ABC after its initial run on MSN. Or “Harper’s Globe,” the prequel and interactive complement to the CBS summer series “Harper’s Island,” which highlights a new form of narrative collaboration between a mini (EQAL) and a major (CBS).
Both of these developments are of great import for marketers as we think about how to reach our audience. It’s no longer a question of ensuring they see the message. More important, it’s a question of whether the message is delivered in a forum in which they are engaged. Understanding how the new creative is evolving is of greater urgency than ever.
Regardless of how you feel about the format of “In the Motherhood,” this sitcom’s move from an online-only format to a network TV debut, albeit reformatted with a new slate of stars, is a major development. It also underscores how, as my boss Rishad Tobaccowala says, “The future comes from the slime.”
In this case, the slime is the morass of creativity currently bubbling up from online. In addition to being a success story for its creators who now get a network TV show notch on their belts, it speaks volumes toward the development of online itself as a viable launching pad. Like comic books, print articles, and other forms of media that are fodder for mainstream TV, online video is finding itself on equal footing. Sprint and Suave, the early online sponsors of “In the Motherhood,” are still featured on the ABC site. The fact that they’re staying along for the ride can become something of a case study for online video creators pitching brands on the value of online programming. It’s still a hit business, but where it works once, it’s bound to work again.
Moreover, we need only look back at the less-than-successful launch of “Quarterlife” in its transition from MySpace to NBC to see how many lessons were learned this time. As opposed to simply being taken from MSN and put on ABC, “In the Motherhood” was retooled, new stars (Megan Mullally, Cheryl Hines, and Jessica St. Clair) were slotted in, and, perhaps sadly, due to Writer’s Guild of America bylaws the entire conceit of the show, real mothers writing in with real stories, had to be ditched, according to a “New York Times” report. To wit, one step forward (online to TV), two steps back (strip it of all that made it successful in an effort to make it mainstream).
On the flip side of this journey from online to TV is “Harper’s Globe,” ostensibly the debut of the creative marriage between EQAL and CBS and their multiplatform deal signed last year. More than just a companion site like so many online corollaries are, “Harper’s Globe” was crafted at the onset of the TV show’s creative process. As opposed to slapping it onto the creative, the online is a part of the creative. This gets back to my quasi-rant about TNT’s “Trust Me,” which missed the opportunity to have multiplatform ads across TV and online.
As more creative is blended, the dividing line between online and traditional TV will increasingly blur. Understand how people consume their media across these different channels and craft messages that integrate and travel alongside them, and you’ll find your messages heard. So networks prepping upfronts for early May: think about how to engage the new media marketers. If you do that successfully, you’ll engage with your audience, and all those brands you want to sponsor your content just may come along for the ride.
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