NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Integrating brands into original digital-video content sounds great in theory. But to really make it work, there's still that whole audience issue -- namely, how to amass one. While the barriers to entry on the web are low, vast media fragmentation and proliferating entertainment choices make the competition for viewers fierce.
One company thinks it has found a way to guarantee reach to advertisers as well as give them integration opportunities with Seth MacFarlane, creator of "Family Guy," and Raven-Symone, star of Disney's "That's So Raven." The digital arm of Media Rights Capital, helmed by former Ogilvy Chief Digital Officer Dan Goodman, has unveiled a deal that uses Google's AdSense network to distribute branded content.
Here's how it works: MRC talent, in this case Mr. McFarlane and Raven-Symone, want to create digital content because doing so gives them creative freedom; ownership of the rights; an opportunity to pursue projects they might not be able to otherwise; and, ideally, financial benefit.
MRC Digital helps finance those projects by selling integrations to advertisers and then distributes them by buying ads through Google's AdSense network. Videos, complete with brand integration, are embedded as click-to-play units within display ads. MRC can guarantee at least the ad impressions because the distribution is through Google's paid network.
Finding an audience
More typical branded-content deals may live on portals, individual sites or collections of sites and depend on viewers to come to them. By targeting through AdSense, Mr. Goodman said, "our content finds the audience vs. making them find us." Google did not return calls seeking comment by press time.
"We want to marry great brands and bring them to market in a scaleable way from day one," he said. "You can have great content and great partnerships, but if you can't deliver messages, you've lost the war."
MRC, which works with Hollywood talent to help finance films and TV shows, has been around since 2003 but only recently launched a digital division; Mr. Goodman was brought on as president six weeks ago. This is Mr. Goodman's first deal.
Of course, the guarantees MRC can make will not necessarily be guarantees of video views; whether or not viewers click to play the videos remains to be seen. Both stars, however, have strong followings in their respective demos -- young men for Mr. MacFarlane and tween girls for Ms. Symone. If the content can be targeted to sites that also attract those audiences, there's a better chance its viewership will grow.
Mr. MacFarlane is creating 50 original digital shorts, and Ms. Symone is creating a how-to series. An MRC spokeswoman described her as a "Martha Stewart for tweens" who will detail how to decorate a bedroom or pack for a slumber party.