YouTube Video Annotations Gain Momentum with Advertisers

H&R Block is one of several big brands making use of a video annotations feature released last summer by YouTube. The tax preparation company is running a Razorfish-designed YouTube game that lets users click on “hot spots” in videos that link to other YouTube videos or Web sites.

With the video annotations feature, YouTube video makers can add interactive commentary to their creations. This can include background information, the creation of “branching stories” where users can choose among various outcomes. Annotations can also be used to add links to YouTube videos, channels or search results at any point in the video.

In its campaign, H&R Block adds video annotations to a game called “Don’t Miss It.” The first level of the game shows two images of a cargo truck that contains boxes. The image on the right includes clickable areas and one has a box not found in the image on the left. The goal is to find and click the image that’s different. Annotations tell players whether they’re right or wrong, let them ask to be shown the answer, or try the next level.

The goal of the game is to demonstrate H&R Block’s expertise at taxes, said Paula Drum, VP of marketing for the company. She said the company is always looking for ways to make its brand messages relevant to the particular communities it targets. “The ‘Don’t Miss It’ game is a great way to engage the YouTube community using the new video annotation feature to build brand relevance by demonstrating our tax expertise,” Drum said.

Google/YouTube Spokesman Aaron Zamost said video annotations are gaining popularity among advertisers. In another example, Lionsgate created a game allowing players to decide where they wanted to go during a mission. “One of the better things this does for them is [create] an engaging platform where they give users real control over the experience,” said Zamost.

H&R Block’s Drum said the company has been involved in social media marketing for three years. “One of our key learnings has been that each community requires a different type of engagement,” she said. “What works on YouTube will not work on Facebook or Twitter and vice-versa.” Drum said H&R Block plans to continue its social media campaigns as a way of transforming the company’s communications from “the traditional corporate monologue to a customer dialog.”

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