Chris Schreiber: Sharethrough

(Images courtesy Sharethrough)

Video advertising is big business and getting bigger. As traditional TV broadcasting continues to splinter and change, advertisers are moving more and more dollars online. Just last week, comScore reported that the number of video ads viewed in the U.S. in one month reached an all-time high of 10 billion in May, while time spent viewing ads totaled 4.5 billion minutes.

Those are huge numbers, and with so many channels and so much content, it’s still a challenge for brands to easily reach and engage their desired audience in a meaningful way.

Sharethrough, a “native video advertising platform,” seeks to empower brands to share video content with audiences organically, shifting from a model of interruption to one of engagement. Chris Schreiber, Vice President, Communications, joined us for a quick conversation by email about Sharethrough’s unique approach to video advertising and where he sees the industry heading.

Can you describe for us in a nutshell what Sharethrough is and offers?

CHRIS: Sharethrough is a native video advertising platform. Brand advertisers and their agencies work with Sharethrough to drive views and maximize social engagement for their video campaigns. We distribute brand videos to native, non-interruptive placements on our partner websites, which include premium editorial sites, blogs, content discovery, and social games. For each campaign we run, we track in-depth video and social analytics and optimize campaigns to maximize their Social Engagement Rate (SER) to produce the highest amounts of earned media.

What makes Sharethrough different from other video advertising solutions?

CHRIS: Our focus is on delivering the highest quality views and earned media for brand videos, while providing the highest level of transparency about campaign insights. Unlike most traditional advertising formats, such as pre-roll or display, we sell distribution on a cost-per-view (CPV) basis, which ensures that people are truly viewing and engaging with our clients’ videos. We offer brands access to unique and exclusive native inventory across the web, including premium editorial sites, blogs, content discovery sites, and games. Our native advertising inventory has consistently shown to drive higher brand lift than other advertising formats. We always provide a well-rounded set of insights to our clients about their campaigns, including brand lift studies and in-depth social and video analytics, which help them really understand the impact of their campaigns.

Where did the idea come from and how did it start?

CHRIS: From day one Sharethrough has had the vision to create a distribution platform that united the forces of brand video content and social media. Sharethrough’s founders, Dan Greenberg and Robert Fan, met as TA’s for a course at Stanford that focused on building applications for the Facebook platform. Their quick success in building hugely popular apps for Facebook and integrating brand video content led to them dropping out of school and founding Sharethrough. The company’s distribution focus quickly evolved beyond the Facebook platform to a wide range of social, choice-based ad formats across the web. The original vision for the company has always remained intact—to create the premier distribution platform for brand video content.

Where is the industry is at right now with driving video views? What are the options for someone who wants to drive 100,000 views of their video?

CHRIS: Within digital media, there are two primary types of views. 1) Pre-roll is the most common tactic for driving auto-play views of video content. Typically this content is 15 or 30 seconds in length, and most often is repurposed TV spots that are then delivered on leading publisher sites. We consider these to actually be “impressions” and not “views” because people are not actively choosing to watch the brand’s video. 2) Social video defines a “view” as a user-initiated view of video content. The video player plays the brand video as content. It is not delivered prior to other video content (as in the example of pre-roll playing before other video content). In this case, the video IS the content.

Speaking specifically to driving real “views,” there are many tactics for doing so. Most of the traditional media vehicles, such as search, banners, and pre-roll, aren’t strong drivers of video views, especially if they are longer form (i.e. more than :30). As such, social video or native video distribution companies have popped up that specialize in syndication of branded video.

There is a wide spectrum of how these video views are garnered. The spectrum spans from low quality, even “black hat” media tactics (such as penny clicks, “bots,” offer walls), to fully transparent video distribution (such as direct publisher/blog relationships, editorial relationships for syndication, value exchange within social games, etc). A variety of companies will claim to deliver “millions of video views,” but given the nascent nature of this industry, agencies should always push on video vendors to clearly explain and show their inventory and distribution strategy.

(VIDEO: Joshua Brandau, Media Director at agency Pereira & O’Dell shares his experience working with Sharethrough)

What is Sharethrough’s point of view of earned versus paid video views? Is one more valuable than the other?

CHRIS: Both logic and data illustrate that earned media is far more powerful than paid media. Intuitively speaking, people tend to care more about videos posted by a friend because they trust that person’s opinion about it being quality content. Statistically speaking, our data shows that consumers are three times more likely to watch a video that was shared by a friend. Furthermore, consumers watch a shared video three times longer than they do a paid video.

From an ROI perspective, earned media ends up being an extremely valuable bi-product of social video distribution. Social video companies don’t just exist to drive massive volumes of paid views (which is more comparative to pre-roll), but to drive the most amount of sharing and earned media from their paid distribution. Since most social video companies do NOT charge for earned media views, because they are entirely organic and not possible to guarantee, this form of distribution can pay significant dividends for advertisers.

From a targeting standpoint, you can also consider a user who actually DOES share video content to have self-selected themselves to be within the target audience for the brand. From there, sharing with their like-minded friends ends up driving qualified views to an audience that cares about that brand and what they have to say.

Advertisers and marketers are struggling to track viewership. As you’ve said, Sharethrough has a variety of channels where you are engaging audiences—from Facebook to gaming experiences to blogs and curation sites. Can you share a bit about how you track results, and what type of metrics a marketer can expect from, say, a $50,000 media buy?

CHRIS: The primary KPI used for social video is the Social Engagement Rate (SER). Seeing as you only pay for views, rather than impression based CPMs, we calculate the number of views that were delivered, as well as the number of social engagements that were driven from those paid views. We calculate SER by social engagements/views.

In addition to this metric, Sharethrough does provide additional video metrics for every paid video campaign, including: views, clicks, CTR, social engagements (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Email, URL Share), SER, cost details, view length, completion rates. We provide all this data broken out by various media tactics, such as organic vs. value exchange. Also, Sharethrough HQ (our proprietary reporting dashboard) offers a social activity feed, which aggregates any social chatter on your specific brand video on both FB and Twitter. A great one-stop resource for brands to check in on user opinions on the video.

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about? What is Sharethrough working on next?

CHRIS: As always, we’ve got a lot going on. We just recently launched, which is the first searchable database of the best brand videos on the web and the agencies that created them. We see this becoming akin to IMDB for brand content and have seen a really great initial response from creative agencies, brands, and other people in the industry. We’ll be adding a lot more features and content to it over time.

We are rapidly expanding our partner network, which will both benefit our customers to have wider breadth of inventory to choose from and benefit publishers who can drive new revenue through native video. Our engineering team is working closely with our publishing partners on new ad formats and designs, so look out for some cool new native video experiences coming soon.

The other big focus for our engineering team is all about data. There is so much data that can be collected from social video campaigns, particularly when it comes to earned media reporting. We are pretty excited about the improvements we will be making to our reporting and analytics soon. This will definitely be a big year for us for data and analytics advancements.

Thanks for joining us!

What do you think about video advertising platforms such as Sharethrough? Let us know in the comments and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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