Networks use online video to give consumers a taste of new programming

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For NBC Universal, the explosion of online video has opened up creative opportunities to promote its on-air lineup.

"Video clips on the Web are our sampling opportunity," explained Adam Stotsky, president of marketing at NBC Entertainment. "It's like sending out trial-size shampoo bottles."

For this fall season, the network's strategy revolves around trailer clips and adjacent content that it can release exclusively to each show's fan group. For example, prior to the series premiere of the sitcom Community, the network targeted fans of its other comedies, such as The Office and 30 Rock, on Facebook. NBC also used a video trailer to attract viewers to hospital drama Trauma, which premieres September 28.

"We let them screen the full first episode in exchange for passing a teaser clip to five of their friends ," Stotsky said. He explained that rewarding viral behavior with digital assets was a popular and cost-effective way for the network to spread the word about its shows online.

John Miller, CMO and president of the NBC Agency, agreed, adding that since the rise of online video, the network has drastically shifted its spend to include digital as one of its top two advertising outlets.

"Two or three years ago, we were spending next to nothing online," he said. "A lot of our money was going into print and radio."

According to Nielsen, consumer time spent with online video from November 2008 to April 2009 grew by 16% across the overall Internet audience. This makes the medium attractive not just to those, like NBC, that have built their businesses on moving images — but any brand that has a story to tell through video.

Such is the case with fast-food chain White Castle, which ran video ads with hidden content and links to printable coupons through online ad service Oggi Finogi.

"We're seeing the next generation of video advertisers rely heavily on analytics and reporting," said Michael Hyman, CEO of Oggi Finogi. "It's a fantastic combination of rich media you can target and track."

Brands also are examining time spent with video clicks, repeat viewings and the length of a commercial watched. Hyman said that his company found an uplift in time spent when brands embed extra content that needs to be discovered by viewers.

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