Rap Video Site Sets Sights on Brand Advertisers

Grassroots street marketing has long been a primary method of choice for rap music marketers, but Rapvideo.com aims to take a different approach. It’s delivering music labels and other advertisers customized interactive ad opportunities.

Just in time for Black Music Month, the youth-oriented destination launches officially today, offering ad-supported music videos from all corners of the rap realm — from Reggaeton to Dirty South. It’s also planning to let users show off their own video creations.

“The urban demographic is not really mentioned that much in terms of doing innovative advertising, and we’re kind of hoping to change that a little bit,” explained Rapvideo.com owner AJ Archibald.

In addition to pre-roll video ads and site display ads, the site is offering customized branded video player skins, like the one currently promoting Yo Gotti’s new “Back 2 Da Basics” album through a partnership with Universal Music Group. The :05 to :10 Flash creations play before the music video streams, culminating by branding the video player itself. Currently, users can choose from a list of skin ads for Xbox 360 and Ludacris, or personalize their players with non-branded skins.

Site users, 80 percent of whom are expected to be between 18 and 34, according to Archibald, are given the option to distribute videos on their own sites, send videos to friends, and in some cases, link directly to iTunes and Amazon to purchase songs or CDs associated with the videos. In addition to the relationship with Universal, Rapvideo.com also gets video content from Warner Music Group and The EMI Group.

One sponsor plans to provide a ring tone version of a song that can be ordered directly from a video player skin, Archibald told ClickZ News. Custom ads are produced by Rapvideo.com and all formats are sold on a CPM basis through the firm’s ad sales rep, Blackrock Digital. The site uses Lightningcast to enable pre-roll video ads and sells remnant inventory through Tribal Fusion.

Though music label advertisers are the only ones that have purchased media directly from the site so far, the company aims to target other national advertisers in the auto, consumer electronics and beverage categories. “We’ll approach brand advertisers that are a good fit for this market,” commented Blackrock Digital President Chris Smith, adding that the site’s audience has a “disposable income and they don’t mind spending it.”

While most online rap video selections from portals and music download sites are offered as part of a broad music and entertainment video selection, Rapvideo.com is relatively unique in its rap video-only offering. Blastro, a similar “urban entertainment” site offers Hip-hop in addition to pop and R&B videos accompanied by pre-roll video spots.

Over the past three months, Rapvideo.com has streamed anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 streams each day. According to Archibald, adding a video by Christina Milian, whose MySpace page features her video in a Rapvideo.com player, helped boost daily unique visitors from 10,000 to 40,000. “The MySpace audience is already taking hold of this,” noted Archibald. He said his firm can track which videos are being played and how often, but not to which sites they’ve been spread.

“That is an issue,” he admitted; however, he doesn’t think advertisers will be too concerned with potentially inappropriate content on affiliate sites displaying Rapvideo.com videos. “That’s kind of the pot calling the kettle black,” he commented, noting the risqué nature of many rap videos. Still, Blackrock’s Smith expects that some ads will not run on affiliate sites. “At least with the larger brand advertisers we’ll probably make sure they’ll stay on Rapvideo.com and under our control,” he predicted.

By this fall, the site will launch a CGM feature in conjunction with Interscope Records, allowing users to submit homemade videos created to accompany “New York Shit,” a Busta Rhymes ditty. “They [Interscope] want users to create their own experience…their own regional vibe of what the song embodies,” explained Archibald.

Join ClickZ’s Online Video Advertising Forum in New York City, June 16, 2006.

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