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Sharethrough Promises Video Ads That Look Like Content

New video ad platform looks to tap into 'native' trend

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The social video firm Sharethrough wants to help brands run video ads that don't look like video ads.

The company, which claims to be able to help advertisers get their ads viewed all over the Web through placements within editorial content rather than paid ad placements (like pre-rolls), has rolled out a new product dubbed Sharethrough Sponsored Videos.

Instead of running video ads that appear before, after or during a publisher’s own video content, with Sharethrough Sponsored Videos a brand’s spot lives adjacent to a publisher’s own video content—just like any other editorial content. Only in this case the videos are labeled as “sponsored” or “promoted."

Or, in the case of a publisher that features a collection of videos in a grid or playlist, an advertiser’s video will receive placement alongside that publisher's own videos. 

With the new product offering, Sharethrough is looking to tap into a hot trend of late in the digital media sector: the concept of 'native advertising.' The basic theory is this: Web publishers are likely better off running ads that look and feel like their site or platform, rather than earning their living on commoditized banners. In this case, Sharethrough wants to provide publishers and advertisers with video ads that look and feel like any old video content.

Such ad placements will likely be compelling to many brands since theoretically they'll reach users who are interested in their ads, rather than being forced to sit through them. Thus, to get their ads noticed, Sharethrough encourages brands to title, caption and designate thumbnails for their videos in an attempt to capture users’ attentions.

But that sort of promotion could feel dicey for some advertisers accustomed to paying for standard video ad slots. But the way the market is trending, "if the goal is content marketing and engagement with content, it’s got to be native,” said Sharethrough founder and CEO Dan Greenberg.

Publishers have total control over what Sharethrough Sponsored Videos run on their sites, as the product functions similarly to an ad exchange. Advertisers load their videos, including titles, captions and thumbnails, onto Sharethrough's platform and then specify their target audience, CPM and desired site type. After that, things are out of their hands.

Sharethrough works directly with publishers to help customize the video ad, ensuring that each campaign meshes with the site's layout and colors, for example. The turnaround to set up new publishers can take up to two days, but Sharethrough plans to eventually add a do-it-yourself integration tool.

Throughout this year, Sharethrough has been piloting the product with a number of publishers, including Forbes, The Awl Network, Thought Catalog and roughly a million WordPress blogs (Sharethrough employ comScore-owned ad verification firm AdXpose to ensure sites are brand safe). Based on that pilot, Greenberg said Sponsored Videos are on track to generate more than $40 million in revenue next year.

There's only one problem with Sharethrough’s dream of customized video ads paying the freight for lots of Web content. Not every advertiser is ready to go native. Greenberg said that currently, 50 percent of the Sharethrough Sponsored Videos are repurposed TV ads.