Michael O'Neill
Aug 6, 2010

All about webisodes and branded content

Webisodes are increasingly used in Asia by media agencies as branded content vehicles for clients as they prove ideal for reaching customers.

All about webisodes and branded content

 As younger audiences migrate online, short-form serialised video content is proving to be an effective, low-cost way to reach target audiences.

1. A webisode is a video format that airs initially online, either by download or stream, as opposed to first airing on traditional TV.

Short in length, anything from two to 15 minutes, they make up part of a longer series.

Webisodes have been around since the mid 1990’s, but in more recent years they have gained in sophistication. In particular, the growth of online video sites such as Tudou and Youku in China, has given the format a much wider audience — something a growing number of MNC brands are starting to take advantage of.

This month, L’Oréal launched a webisode for its Yue Sai cosmetics brand. Hosted on Chinese style portal Yoka.com, ‘Buzz My Heart’ targets urban women with an eight–part drama mini-series.

 

2. L’Oréal is the latest brand to turn to webisodes in Asia.

In January this year, Nescafé teamed up with Mindshare to air a series of five-minute long webisodes based on a similar French initiative called ‘Camera Café’. Broadcast on Youkli and Kaixin, the format ran for four months.

Similarly, in March, LG ran a five-part webisode in Thailand promoting its new ‘Lollipop’ line of mobile phones. Created by MRM, the webisodes were aimed at the teenage market and were built around the themes of love and friendship.

In May, Ogilvy’s RedCard took the concept further in Singapore when it launched ‘Room 101’, an online reality show for training and education institute PBS Academy.  Over the course of eight webisodes that were released every week on YouTube, contestants were eliminated one-by-one following a series of challenges.

 

3. Given high media inflation across many markets, webisodes offer the opportunity to reach a wide audience at a cost-effective entry point.

“Brands choose online video content as typically that’s where the target consumers are spending their time,” says Karl Cluck, partner, Invention, Asia-Pacific at Mindshare.

“The cost barrier to entry is lower, so experimentation is more accepted. Short-form content provides more frequency and is always on 24/7, and there are fewer restrictions versus working with broadcast networks - who have a maze of regulation, approval and production requirements.”

4. The length and placing of programming also appeals to the modern content consumer.

While TV is increasingly trying to make itself compatible with the growing power of online communities, webisodes already have a natural entry point to this sought after audience. All of which is good news for brands.

“Webisodes can stay live for many years while branded content TV can only be rerun for a limited time,” says Saharath Sawadatikom, creative director at MRM Thailand, “User involvement (such as interactivity, and crowdsourced story arc development) can also be encouraged easily, which is very valuable for brand engagement.”

5. While they are able to generate a certain amount of short-term viral interest, it remains to be seen whether webisodes can hold viewer interest and sustain deeper brand engagement.

“It’s a new area, and brand content online is competing in an environment where there are an infinite number of other choices and consumer attention space is typically quite short,” says Cluck. “It’s a cliché, but it all comes back to the idea. Great ideas create great, entertaining content that consumers will want to engage with and share.”

That said, if the content is right, the format will stick. “LG’s Lollipop Love Story webisode is now into its fourth month,” says Sawadatikom. “It still attracts thousands of viewers daily (without incurring any paid-for media costs). Over ten thousand viewers have left a comment on the webisode site and research suggests that 99 per cent of them have a very good impression and show positive interest in the product and the brand.”

 

What it means for...

MEDIA AGENCIES

  • Low production costs mean agencies can experiment with branded content initiatives that can either be extended online or transferred to other media such as traditional TV.
  • Webisodes also offer a cost effective option for media agencies. “Online programming was a no-brainer,” said Mateo Eaton, partner, Mindshare Invention North Asia, speaking about the Nescafé initiative. “In terms of time, cost, and value, online content-based campaigns easily outperform most TV campaigns, making them the best value-for-media-money in my book.”


BRANDS

  • Webisodes are a highly effective way of targeting key demographics. Both L’Oréal and LG, for example, were able to aim specifically at a younger, predominantly female, viewership. “Webisodes can easily be designed to target specific demographics — you simply alter the protagonists, story line and drive to web strategy,” says MRM’s Saharath Sawadatikom.
  • For brands that are still nervous about digital media, webisodes offer them a familiar format with which to test the waters.  “All brands are “media brands” now and a content strategy, which obviously includes digital, should be core to campaign planning and execution,” says Mindshare’s Karl Cluck.

This article was originally published in the 29 July 2010 issue of Media.

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