Rafat Ali is Bearish on Webisodic TV? Crafted ad relationships?

September 30, 2007   

Who knew?

Scanning through my Sunday RSS feeds, I came across this article published in PaidContnent.

In it, the PC founder and editor Rafat Ali revealed something this long-time reader never knew:

Doug Anmuth, the Lehman Brothers analyst, makes a case for online episodic video in his weekly “Internet Inside” thinkpiece, and yes, he’s an optimist on this one. Suffice to say I am more bearish. [emphasis added]

Ali went on to quote Anmuth, leaving one last bit of analysis:

-- “We believe that webisodes, as advertisements, could also prove to be an effective tool for building brands and launching new products as advertisers continuously search for the most effective form of Internet brand advertising.” My opinion: overrated. [emphasis added]

To me, this is really surprising, and while it's reason to question the web-based episodic TV market (there have been quite a few major announcements in the space over the past week), I think it may be a reason to question Rafat's analysis itself.

In my opinion, things are looking quite good for any company working on creating closer partnerships between brands and content, and one need not look farther than NYC's own Blip.tv or Wall Strip to see that model getting teased out and growing in the episodic video market.

The fact of the matter is that this is where the whole ad industry is going: to crafted relationships between brands and a captive audiences. While you have Blip doing this crafting on one level -- much like an old-fashion match-maker, or soap-opera producer -- they're actually not doing anything much different than behavioral targeting giant Tacoda, which uses scale and algorithms to better target crafted messages to individual people.

In both cases, evidence points in favor of platforms which enable companies to effectively build their brands, and, ultimately, they collectively point to the future of online advertising.

In mid September, I went to a NY TV Festival event organized by my friend Toby Daniels of Mint Digital. On the panel was Blip's own Dina Kaplan. Toward the end of the panel, I asked an innocuous question:

So, Dina, I think we're all getting that the Blip TV model of carefully crafting relationships between brands and passionate audiences is the future of online media. But that match-making -- that art -- does it scale?

Her answer was simple: "No."

The relationship crafting Blip engages in does not scale. That makes sense, but Tacoda's targeting would have never correctly predicted the level of passion Ze Frank's audience has for Dewars Whiskey, which sponsored the "archives" of his show when they were moved to Blip.

In response to my question, Dina went on to explain that the future would see a coming together of these model: the art and the scale, and this coming together would be made through better coordination between the two, and integration of custom shops like theirs, and the old-school, highly embedded infrastructure of agencies, buyers, and rep firms.

In the end, Rafat's reactions to Anmuth's analysis was only a few lines of a quick Sunday blurb -- and that's why I haven't spend most of this post criticizing him. Also, he could very well be thinking only in terms of MySpaceTV and their plans to engage in this market. Nonetheless, these comments will make me pay much closer attention to Ali's analysis. If he really thinks we should be "bearish" on the targeted ad market as a whole and that it's "overrated," that's a perspective I'll have to note in the future, as I go out a praise their coverage.

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