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This MediaPost piece discusses a Wendy’s “campaign” on YouTube — commercials that “masqueraded” as videos on the site. There was considerable exposure apparently, with some users responding positively and others critical of the spots.

Even though these spots may have been clever, edgy or entertaining, they’re effectively video spam because they were put there by an ad agency on behalf of Wendy’s. Get ready, there’s going to be a lot more of this once marketers clue in to how effective (and cheap) YouTube and online video sites are as an alternative to conventional TV advertising.

What’s the danger, what’s the opportunity?

The opportunity is pretty clear for marketers, unless they kill the goose. But rather than flooding sites like YouTube with TV-like spots, they should create video campaigns elsewhere that build a fan base. And then let the fans upload those commercials to YouTube. Then it’s not spam but viral marketing.

The dangers are pretty obvious for YouTube (and Google). If YouTube doesn’t police commercial video spam, users will be alienated. Google, for its part, will lose part of the revenue opportunity it bought YouTube to capture — brand marketing via online video.

But policing this will be challenging.

Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.

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