The Kids Are Alright (and Watching Online Music Videos)


The variety of media and communication outlets for today’s kids and teens is growing at an astonishing rate. From instant messaging and email to social networking communities, blogs, and podcasts, marketers have more options than ever to reach these increasingly valuable audiences. Although many marketers struggle to find effective ways to wield these new tools, one very obvious outlet stands out.

As part of the original MTV generation, I spent my prepubescent years to my 20s glued to the TV, exposed to ads that appeared between ZZ Top and Run-DMC videos. For advertisers, this inventory was incredibly valuable. It provided a vehicle in which their brand messaging was viewed in the same context as sexy, current, and cool content.

It’s different today. MTV cable network is less about music videos, more about lifestyle. Where have the music videos gone? Online — in higher demand and in fewer places than ever before.

According to a 2004 AccuStream study, of 5.6 billion video streams served during the first half of 2004, 1.86 billion (or 33.2 percent) were music videos. While the number of streams is growing, the number of places to see them is shrinking.

Recent licensing deals between major record labels and online publishers greatly narrowed where people can watch music videos online. Destinations such as AOL Music, Yahoo Music, MSN Music, and MTV Overdrive are infused with video content that can’t be found in many places or, in some cases, anywhere else. It’s only a matter of time before record labels official artist Web sites carry significant amounts of video content to realize greater ad sales potential.

It all boils down to ad sales potential. More video begets more video ads. Proprietary media players are rapidly developing to catch up with increased video inventory demand. Advertisers have a rare opportunity to associate their brands with guaranteed cool content. Publishers are aggressively working to make these opportunities available.

AOL recently released a media player and made nearly all its video content available to all audiences with the removal of its members-only wall. Fifteen-second and :30 preroll video ads will be available. An “ad curtain” borders the video-play window and continues to display ad messages as content plays. Advertisers purchasing video inventory should demand the ad curtain. It provides a more persistent brand message.

In-page video advertising is another option, particularly if it’s well-executed and features relevant brands or music. People actively seek out video content and will interact with video ads if the ads do their job; our in-page video ads regularly keep teens involved for 2-3 minutes. Preroll and video advertising’s true potential, getting audiences to spend more time with a brand, will be realized when the messages are custom-crafted for the content. Street cred is at stake. Don’t underestimate kids and teens. They can smell a shill a mile away.

With great power comes great responsibility. My agency spends the lion’s share of all record industry online media spending, so we’re always learning what kinds of content kids and teens find cool and worth talking about. We know the most influential kids and teens will spend a significant amount of time with music-related content, whether genre- or artist-focused. These areas have built-in street-cred. That makes it even more important for us to be relevant with our ad messaging. Just because ads run in front of music video content doesn’t mean they reach the right audience.

Conduct adequate research and ensure the audience for a particular genre is right for your product (and it’s one you want to be associated with). Don’t, and you risk an adverse reaction from a very influential audience.

With online communities such as and Thefacebook thriving, teens are building their own communities around their love for music. And as companies such as AOL Music continue to build impressive repositories of exclusive video content (e.g., the exclusive online broadcast of the LIVE 8 concerts), kids and teens will continue to go where their friends — and the content — are. Neglect to customize your advertising to integrate with this kind of content, and you’ll wonder where your audience went.

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