Music to Advertisers’ Ears: Webcasts

Recently, I received a message from media software company RealNetworks. It was the kind of desktop “alert” that pops up on your screen if you have RealPlayer installed for video viewing. It touted a U2 and Green Day concert that could be heard on RealNetworks’ Rhapsody product Web site.

The concert was part of Music Rising, a campaign created to replace musical instruments lost during Hurricane Katrina and to rebuild the Gulf Coast’s musical culture. It took place during a recent ESPN Monday Night Football pre-game show that marked the reopening of the Louisiana Superdome.

Online, the concert Webcast was sponsored by Energizer. With banner ads throughout the Music Rising site featuring a revised version of its “Keep Going” tag line (aptly titled “Keep the music going”), along with the Music Rising logo, the company’s promotional presence is strong. Doubtless, there was appeal in the association with such an altruistic event. Energizer’s certain to be benefiting from the mass exposure of the concert as well.

The partnership between Energizer and Music Rising is just one of many modern Webcast advertising opportunities incorporating music. Since Webcasts are ideally suited to transmitting audio and video footage, it’s a natural fit. As mentioned last week, many of the most prominent Webcast ad placements have involved music, from last year’s anniversary event to AOL’s Live 8 concerts. Companies of almost every ilk are taking advantage of this form of online media through both custom sponsorships and more conventional online ads.

Over at AOL, the concept of music Webcasts birthed an entire site section, aptly named Sessions and designed to be AOL Music’s live performance program. It caught the eye of automaker Chevrolet, which has been sponsoring the section for over a year.

A current campaign promotes the Chevy Backstage Pass Sweepstakes, a custom contest in which site users can win a trip to an AOL Music Sessions live concert event. In addition to having its logo featured throughout the Sessions section in association with its music videos, artist information, and exclusive live music, Chevrolet promotes itself through banner ads and a branded Backstage Pass site feature. It’s an opportunity for the company to connect with a younger audience and to cultivate a hipper, more contemporary image.

For those who don’t find music-themed Webcasts to be the most appropriate avenue, there are plenty of other events that may be more their style. Consider the recent Fall 2006 Olympus Fashion Week in New York. Show sponsors such as Cingular and Aquafina were on board, promoting themselves in association with fashion show footage broadcast online by lifestyle marketing firm IMG Worldwide and MSN Video.

The Webcast also produced additional marketing opportunities. Pre-roll video advertising was placed throughout MSN Video’s special Fashion Week site, and additional video clips were exclusively accessible by Cingular mobile phone in a program-style format called “The Daily Front Row.”

Whether music- or fashion-oriented, this type of Webcast advertising has broad appeal. It can afford an exclusive promotional presence while providing access to an audience that’s at once targeted and significant in size. And if you think Webcasts are a one-time event that fade from memory once the stage lights have dimmed, think again. Today’s entertainment-themed Webcasts are frequently archived for later viewing and come bundled with countless related placement opportunities that allow for expanded (and extended) exposure.

If it seems as if this form of online media is all rock stars and stilettos, tune in next week for a look at the more serious side of Webcast advertising. Publishers whose modus operandi is business and finance are equally eager to deliver live content to the masses. And what they offer isn’t limited to media buys alone.

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