YouTube Adds eCommerce – Video Advertising’s Future?

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YouTube announced this evening a new money-making endeavor called Click-to-Buy that puts shopping links below some partner videos. Launch partners for the new program are EMI, who are putting links to AmazonMP3 and iTunes below some of their music videos, and Electronic Arts, who are putting links to Amazon below game videos for the new Spore video game.

The implementation is pretty rudimentary — text or button graphic links below specific videos — but YouTube hints that there is a more robust platform coming. “This is just the beginning of building a broad, viable eCommerce platform for users and partners on YouTube. Our vision is to help partners across all industries — from music, to film, to print, to TV — offer useful and relevant products to a large, yet targeted audience, and generate additional revenue from their content on YouTube beyond the advertising we serve against their videos,” wrote YouTube’s Glenn Brown and Thai Tran in a blog post.

According to YouTube, we will start seeing product links on user generated content as well from partners who “claim” videos using the site’s content management system. For now, product links are only available in the US and on a select handful of music videos and game videos.

Adding product links has a very low risk to reward, so it makes sense to try it out — especially with TiVo about to launch a video ad blocker for the PC (though I wonder how many people will really go for a $99 piece of hardware just to block a few 15 second commercials on Hulu). YouTube’s implementation of the ads themselves, however, leaves a lot to desired.

I’d suggest Google check out the television and web video product placement platform being developed by Minnesota-based Evenhere. I got a demo of Evenhere’s platform from the company’s founder Brian Rogers a couple of week’s ago at the EmTech conference in Massachusetts.

Evenhere is developing a click-to-buy product placement solution for video on the web and on television that allows the consumer to purchase pretty much anything they see on screen — from the paint on the walls to the clothes the actors are wearing to the music playing on the soundtrack, pretty much anything can be made for sale. Users click to bring up a ribbon display that runs along the bottom of the screen and displays anything in the current scene that’s for sale. At any time they can pause what they’re watching and get more information on a product or order it.

Evenhere has developed a web-based Flash version of their product for web video, and as I understand it, also hopes to get their software integrated with set-top boxes for use with broadcast or cable television and film.

The software was rather impressive and could be a hit with users. It’s unobtrusive — since it only exposes itself when the user wants it there — and for that reason it is based on user intent, which may increase the likelihood of conversion. The other day, for example, I was watching a movie with my girlfriend and she asked if I liked the sweater that one of the actors was wearing. Imagine if we could have paused the movie to find out where to purchase that exact sweater — and even ordered it right then if the price was right.

The bad news is that product placement is actually down 15% between the first half of 2007 and 2008 on television. But robust click-to-buy platforms like the one Evenhere is developing offer product placement opportunities that have never existed. Everything from appliances to furniture to clothing to music to electronics could be up for sale in sitcoms, movies, and web shorts. That’s pretty cool, and it sure beats the pants off of YouTube’s iTunes link buttons.

Josh CatoneJosh Catone
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Before joining Jilt, Josh Catone was the Executive Director of Editorial Projects at Mashable, the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID. On the side, Josh enjoys managing his blog The Fluffington Post.

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