Ad friendly video site to combat YouTube

NBC Universal is expanding its battle against YouTube and other viral video sites, using the weight of its top-rated USA cable network to launch an all-advertising website called Didja.com.

Set to launch early next year, site will offer a vast archive of current and classic TV spots, movie trailers and other “brand-related content.” USA-Sci Fi Channel prexy Bonnie Hammer said the goal is to “become the go-to destination for on-demand advertising content.”

“Didja.com is the logical next step in the changing dynamic between consumers and advertisers,” Hammer said. “There’s no doubt that commercials are major drivers of pop culture — all you have to do is check out traffic on any video-sharing site. We want to own that watercooler conversation.”

Launch of Didja — whose name is a play on the phrase “Did ya see that?” — marks USA’s first digital media initiative not directly linked to the cabler’s programming. Brainstormed by USA execs, Didja will start out with extensive promotion on the channel and will eventually extend to all divisions of NBC Universal.

Didja will roll out after NBC and News Corp. mount their first major assault on YouTube, the viral video partnership known as New Co. Both efforts are designed to give NBC a bigger share of the ad revenue being generated by streaming video.

Peacock will use its massive ad sales division to help stock the site with content. Conglom hopes that advertisers will eventually pay for prominent placement on the site or create microsites within Didja focusing on their brand (an all-McDonald’s channel, for example).

“It’s another way for us to engage with our advertisers and our audience,” said Chris McCumber, senior VP of marketing and brand strategy for USA.

Cabler will seek five to 10 “charter” advertisers to help launch Didja. Those companies will get premium positioning on the site as well as access to planned on-air cross-promotion of it.

Sponsors also will get the chance to create customized online environments for their Didja-hosted spots. A page filled with classic Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ads from years past could also include links to Kraft coupons or recipes, for example.

NBC U ad sales chief Michael Pilot said Didja reps a chance for advertisers “to interact with an engaged audience and extend their marketing budgets online.” Pilot also said NBC Universal plans to supply Madison Avenue with a host of data gleaned from Didja, including the results from virtual focus groups.

Beyond the ad sales component, execs are also hoping Didja succeeds as a pure entertainment site, generating enough traffic to result in another stream of revenue from click-through advertising on the site.

“We know people like watching commercials,” McCumber said. “They just don’t like being force-fed at the wrong time.”

Toward that end, “We want the site to be as deep as possible,” he added. “Content drives traffic.”

Didja will feature extensive social-networking features (so fans of, say, classic kiddie cereal commercials can geek out together), as well as a mash-up kit that will allow consumers to make their own tributes to brands. Advertisers will upload commercials to the site themselves via their ad agencies, with videos playing via NBC’s copy-protected player.

To further underscore the consumer-driven nature of the site, USA is looking into the idea of an on-air commercial showcase linked to Didja.com.

NBC U isn’t the first company to recognize the profit potential from an ad-centric site. Warners-owned TBS has the comedy-focused Veryfunnyads.com, which is linked to the cabler’s comedy-focused brand. And earlier this year, a group of investors launched adTV, which offers many of the features promised by Didja (Daily Variety, Nov. 17).

The TBS site is narrowly focused, while adTV is still getting off the ground. McCumber believes the massive marketing power of NBC Universal, plus its deep relationships with advertisers, will give Didja a leg up.

“Having the combined assets of NBC U behind us is a big advantage,” he said. “Like any big priority here, every part of the company will get behind this.”

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