Mobile advertising is a joke. Mobile video advertising has been some of the worst of any category, in terms of disruption and ineffectiveness. For all the promise of mobile devices extending Web browsing and content consumption to an anywhere, anytime experience, the inability of brands to effectively deliver their marketing messages is like an albatross hanging around the neck of the entire sector.
Today, mobile video discovery startup Showyou is announcing a partnership with market leading media agency OMD, a unit of Omnicom Media Group, that it believes will “set a new precedent for how mobile advertising is done.” OMD has helped the startup develop new ad delivery methods and establish first-to-market agreements with advertisers, including Brooks, Levi’s, Monster, Mountain Dew, and Showtime.
“As audiences continue to move across different screens, it’s incumbent upon agencies to lead the way in transforming new viewing experiences into new engagement opportunities,” says OMD CEO Alan Cohen. The company’s showyou partnership gives these brands one of the best opportunities yet to effectively engage with consumers on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch devices, as well as through Apple TV and the Web.
Showyou built its success on delivering video curation. As such, a recent redesign moved beyond the typical reverse chronological list of videos to deliver a ranked list of the 20 to 30 “best” videos at any given time, in addition to dozens of topical channels. Now, Showyou and OMD are offering brands the opportunity to deliver marketing videos — commercials — “in stream,” similar to Twitter’s promoted Tweets and Facebook’s in-stream ads. Out of the 15 videos that appear on each screen, one or two will be paid advertisements from brands.
The key to this solution is that, unlike pre-roll ads, overlays, or other pushy and disruptive experiences, clicking on and viewing these brand videos is entirely voluntary on the part of the user. Therefore when users do view them, the intent signal will be significantly higher.
“In this environment, engaging with a brand is also a matter of choice, meaning that Showyou delivers a more relevant and meaningful connection with consumers,” says VP of business development Taz Patel.
By making everything opt-in, the company is taking a fairly user-friendly approach. Brands are following suit, according to Showyou founder and CEO Mark Hall, by trying to be creative and engaging, rather than just taking television commercials and uploading them for mobile consumption.
When done well, these videos blur the line between advertising and entertainment. Drawing an analog to magazine advertising, the best ads are those that appear to be part of the editorial and do not jar the consumer out of the consumption experience. The brands are equally curious and incentivised as Showyou to determine what type of video content will work best in this type of environment, and what types of engagement they can expect.
The brand videos look and work like other videos within Showyou, although they will be clearly labeled beneath the username as “promoted” and will display a small brand icon. Users can watch, comment, and share these videos. Similarly, brands can use their own Showyou profiles to like and share other videos as well that may or may not be paid commercials.
According to Hall, OMD had been looking at several mobile video platforms before deciding that Showyou had some of the best engagement and UI. After more than six months of conversations, the two companies formalized their partnership and began build back end technology based on brand advertiser feedback.
The partnership with OMD and its brands is structured as a three month exclusive trial. There are no guaranteed delivery terms, but rather the partners see it as an opportunity to gather data on user behavior and engagement from which to establish a baseline going forward. Showyou will not charge the brands during the testing phase, although Hall was quick to point out that his partners were in fact willing to pay.
The brand campaigns “soft launched” in late July, with today marking the official launch of the program which will extend through the end of October. A successful campaign should lead to a longer-term partnership with OMD, as well as deeper brand relationships. Last year, OMD completed a similar program with print content curator Flipboard.
Showyou is already the leading social video discovery app for the iPad and iPhone, aggregating videos posted to users’ social networks into a single, easy-to-consume interface. Alongside these videos aggregated from users’ social feeds, the platform delivers curated video content from its partner channels in a variety of categories. These partners include Funny or Die, Red Bull, Bleacher Report, Ask Men, “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and TED, among others.
Showyou’s heavily male 18-34 year old users are highly engaged, typically spending 35-40 minutes per iPad session and 20 minutes on the iPhone. For advertisers, Showyou channels, and its catalog of more than 50 million indexed videos represent an opportunity to reach a specific audience during a period of significant engagement.
The value that this OMD partnership brings to Showyou cannot be overstated. OMD is said to be the world’s largest media marketing company, with more than 8,000 employees in 97 markets and relationships with many of the world’s premier brands. Showyou, on the other hand, is a scrappy startup with seven employees that is taking on the ambitious task of redefining mobile video advertising.
San Francisco-based Remixation, the company behind Showyou, previously built Web-based video curation platform Vodpod.com which it sold to Lockerz in 2011. Remixation raised $1 million in 2007 from True Venture (TV) and has since raised an undisclosed amount of additional funding from TV and other investors.
It’s yet to be seen how users will respond to this brand content. If the results are positive, there’s nothing preventing other video platforms from taking a similar approach. What makes Showyou’s position so advantageous, is its relationship with OMD and its brand partners. As an early deployer of in-stream branded video, Showyou will have some of the best data from which to justify to brands the value of this ad format.
“We hope to push the industry forward and show how to properly do mobile advertising well,” says CEO Mark Hall. “We think that treating brand content as a native, organic part of the app experience, rather than jamming a banner in, is best for brands and, more importantly, for our users.”