Online is the fastest growing part of the ad market, and now three major players are changing the face of online advertising by turning ads into branded entertainment.
It looks like a win-win-win: content creators get a new forum for their business, sponsors get to entertain their consumers, slipping in some positive associations with their brand, while Google gets to expand it's Ad Sense content network's reach and importance.
Here's the news: The creator of Fox's hit "The Family Guy," Seth MacFarlane, is creating animated webisodes that are launching on the web Weds, both on Google'ssites like YouTube, but also all over the web via. Google's AdSense network. The spots are sponsored by Burger King, whose logo and mascot appears in a custom animated spot-- also created by MacFarlane -- before an animated short that's unrelated to the brand. The deal was put together by Media Rights Capital, an offshoot of Endeavor Talent Agency, which is already working on putting together other content creator-advertiser partnerships.
I spoke with MacFarlane(see video, at left) about why he's doing the new venture when he's had so much success on TV. He says it comes down to the freedom the new format allows. MacFarlane says since the FCC has started cracking down, he can no longer get away with his cruder humor, as he did in the 1990s, and he says on the web he can play with the kind of humor you otherwise would only find in an R rated movie. How is such content making it onto the web? Google's Ad Sense network can reach 75 percent of Internet users, but it's only syndicating MacFarlane's videos to sites targeting 18-34 year old men, like Maxim, ESPN, or Fandango. Burger King gets a direct line into its consumers, who find these nuggets of entertainment where Google might otherwise post ads.
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Google says this is its biggest-ever deal using the Google Ad Network to distribute and monetize content. I spoke to Alexandra Levy, the director of Google's relatively new Branded Entertainment division. The idea is that Google has all this inventory and access and branded entertainment may prove a more compelling way to communicate an advertiser's message.
I watched the clips and they're funny and pretty edgy, perfect for the demographic. The webisodes themselves aren't touting Burger King, so I'll be curious to see what kind of brand associations they win for the company. I personally would rather watch a funny interlude than another annoying flash ad.
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