Startup Hopes Local Merchants Take a Turn for Advertorial Films

Jeweler and sculptor Daniel Macchiarini isn’t sold on search marketing, and he’s pulled his ad dollars away from standard local ad venues like newspapers, radio and television. Instead, he’s taking a chance on a two and a half-minute film produced in conjunction with local travel video producer and distributor TurnHere to promote his family’s business, the Macchiarini Creative Design and Metalworks Gallery on Grant Avenue in San Francisco.

“I want to aim at a younger demographic and reach younger people,” stressed Macchiarini, who said he used to place ads in the yellow pages, in his small local paper and occasionally in the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s clear to me that the future’s not in the newspapers and not on the radio and not on the TV….It feels like less and less and less people are responding [to ads in those media]” he continued.

TurnHere’s Web site officially launches Monday, but the company has been stockpiling original sponsored and non-sponsored short films highlighting neighborhood locations and activities around the globe for the past few months. In promoting its sponsored film service, the firm is setting its sights primarily on the New York, LA and San Francisco markets, hoping more proprietors will take what Macchiarini calls, “an intelligent risk” on the advertainment-style format.

Most video content providers are offering pre- and post-roll spots that run within video streams before and after content. Not so for TurnHere. TurnHere founder and CEO Bradley Inman told ClickZ News in April that focus groups conducted by his firm expressed distaste for in-stream video ads, and would rather watch narrative films dedicated to individual advertisers.

Although emotion-eliciting video advertising is often associated with brand objectives, Inman believes the TurnHere site and the film content the company produces work best for direct-response purposes. “The Web is a transactional based and conversion tool,” noted Inman in a more recent talk with ClickZ News. “We need to play to that strength.”

Despite its local focus, the inspires exploration; hence its first national advertiser, Expedia.com. The travel advertiser has placed run-of-site interactive skyscrapers on the TurnHere site that allow users to search for vacation packages directly from the ad. Inman suspects that Expedia will see more success from an ad placed on his contextually-relevant site than, say, a social networking site.

Advertorial and editorial films on the site center on popular U.S. tourist spots like Philadelphia, Boston and Seattle, as well as those off the beaten path such as Reykjavik, Iceland. There’s already a variety of sponsored shorts featuring small businesses including Brooklyn’s Damascus Bakery, a haven for Lebanese delicacies; and Dr. Wilkinson’s, a Napa Valley getaway known for its mud baths. The spa is sponsoring the Napa/Sonoma neighborhood area of the site, so its film is presented prominently on the section’s homepage. Site visitors can plot area businesses using the Google Maps feature on the site.

Like the other professionally-shot sponsored TurnHere Web flicks, Macchiarini’s film covers all aspects of his business, from how he develops his designs to the process of crafting one-of-a-kind wedding rings and other works of art. The short was directed by Marty Jackson and took about 6-8 hours to film, according to Macchiarini, who plans on placing it on his own Web site.

TurnHere offers short and long merchant films that run 45 seconds and 2-3 minutes, respectively, as well as custom films for corporate use. The firm charges base production and distribution fees in addition to a per-stream charge after clients reach a minimum stream count. Businesses are charged only if they commission a sponsored film that focuses solely on their company; when merchants happen to be featured in a non-sponsored short highlighting multiple neighborhood attractions, they aren’t charged.

To help spread the word about its films, TurnHere has enabled a viral component to all its content. All films can be emailed, downloaded, or linked to. The company also allows affiliates to place a text-ad supported TurnHere player on their sites that automatically streams different mini-movies each day. Affiliates can license a premium player and split ad revenue they generate through the content with TurnHere.

Whether the firm’s unique ad format will appeal to more local advertisers remains to be seen. Even TurnHere advertiser client Macchiarini isn’t entirely convinced his new film will drive foot traffic to his shop. “The only thing I’m nervous about is it’s a new launch,” he explained. “How many people are actually going to see it is a question in my mind.”

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