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NBC Launching Ad-Only, Not Ad-Supported Video Site

You know you live in a consumer culture when advertising spots become entertainment on their own.  Today, NBC Universal announced the planned roll out of their next step into Internet video – an advertising only video site.  To clarify, this is not an ad supported video website (well, technically it’s that too) but this is a site showing nothing but video ads.

old adsThe site, which is named Didja (in tribute to the opening line of the water cooler conversations they hope their programming will inspire), will launch in early 2008, Variety reported.   The site’s  roll out will be staged to follow the launch of NBC’s other video effort, New Co, (which is its much larger joint venture with News Corp to build a true YouTube rival called).

The Didja site will showcase both new and old TV ad footage.  It’s expected that advertisers will have the opportunity to pay for featured billing or placement similar to the way sponsors buy top search result placement with sponsored search.

While the site is being billed as an entertainment offering, its links to the ad industry will go beyond just popcorn entertainment.  On the surface, the advertising content will be uploaded by the Ad Agencies themselves and playable by users on a copy protected NBC player. 

Behind the scenes,  Didja will repay Madison Avenue by sharing and selling  a treasure chest of user data: things like which ads are popular?  Demographic of who’s watching? etc.   NBC  is even counting on viewers to help provide this kind of data.  The site will offer a full stable of the social networking features popular on rival video channels. These will includes things like the ability to create private groups, to link and interact with friends and voting features.  The site will also offer tools to let users create their own composite mixes (“mashups”) of hosted videos. (This feature may be similar to what MySpace has plans to roll out after intregating the assets of Flektor)

In the Variety published article, NBC ad chief Michael Pilot characterized the effort as a chance for advertisers to “interact with an engaged audience and extend their marketing budgets online.”    “Extending budgets” sounds a lot to me like a euphemism for trying to get some extra free exposure.

Didja won’t be alone in trying to wring a few dollars out of older advertisements.  They will compete against ad content already shown on popular video sites like YouTube and MySpace TV as well as a Warner Brother’s owned site from TBS called  and another property called adTV.

I admit, ads can be entertaining to watch. The best of them can be conversation topics. It’s no secret a large portion of Super Bowl viewers tune in for the ads. And some very creative people spend their hours and talents focused on little but developing them.  The recent Get a Mac ad campaign, for example, is incredibly well done and clever.   Still, it’s hard to get my head around the idea of an announcer saying “Stay Tuned, we’ll be back next week with the latest commercial from Doritos” …..or… “It’s time to make the donuts.  Encore display at 11.” It’s hard to envision an ad-only showcase being more than a pop-culture fad and a niche phenomenon.

Not to mention, the data collection aspect of a site like Didja is disconcerting.  As much as websites gather and collect data on user behavior all the time, and consumers are used to accepting that,  it’s beyond brazen to recognize that on a site like Didja, our viewing behavior will be used as a virtual focus group not with the intent on how to make products more interesting to us but instead, to figure out which ads get more of our attention than others. 

It’s a foreign thought: a world where advertising becomes a consumer product of its own? … I guess so.   It’s a distant place from advertising legend David Oglivy’s belief that “a good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.” I wonder what he’d think of where his beloved industry has gone. I wonder.

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