Video Essentials

Branded OTT Apps: Go it Alone or Partner With an Expert?

Advertisers are finally waking up to the possibilities of over-the-top (OTT) video.

“It’s definitely something that’s been on the radar more and more with clients,” said Robert Davis, executive director of content marketing at OgilvyOne, at this week’s Streaming Media East conference in New York City. Over the past few months, he added, “I don’t have to bring it up myself.”

mobile videoDespite that interest, challenges remain.

Davis said brands are starting to ask what is available to them in the OTT space beyond pre-roll ads and programmatic buys. Custom apps are one option, but they’re not right for every brand. Why? Because discoverability is a major issue.

“The OTT ecosystem becomes very fragmented,” said Noah Fenn, head of video sales and strategy at AOL. Unlike other digital channels, Roku boxes or connected TV aren’t connected to social media platforms, options that would make it easy for users to share their favorite apps and get recommendations from friends.

When Gaiam first launched its branded app, it was one of only a handful of apps in the lifestyle space, said Eric Lemasters, vice president of digital business development and strategic partnerships at Gaiam. That meant the company didn’t need to put marketing dollars into promotion. Now, as apps proliferate, he said the marketing budget has shot into the seven figures.

“I feel for anyone who is trying to launch a branded, niche OTT app right now,” Lemasters said.

“Sometimes it makes more sense to partner with someone who is already in the top of fold placement,” Fenn added.

“A lot of brands are questioning whether they should be a house of content,” Davis said.

But there may be one age group that is willing to dig a little deeper and search out worthwhile apps: millennials.

“Millennials might go a bit deeper in the menu…versus other age groups,” Fenn said.

Lemasters agreed, adding “My best focus group is my teenage kids.”

For brands looking to target a millennials, OTT might be the way to go.

The bottom line is, however, is that brands should be ready to invest a lot of time and money marketing any new OTT app. If they’re not, they’re better off partnering with an existing content provider and focusing on adding value for that existing audience.


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