PlaceVine (http://www.placevine.com) is a web-based matchmaking service that connects marketers to brand integration opportunities across film, TV, and new media. There are over 400 content producers and 225 brands and agencies currently using PlaceVine, including Fox Films, Fremantle Media, Arnold WorldWide, A&E, and MDC Partners. The site operates very much like a dating service, providing content creators with a lead stream of interested brands, as well as sophisticated web-based tools that enable collaboration with marketers.
PlaceVine recently won The Wharton Venture Award and was named a Top 10 Advertising & Marketing Idea by the trend-spotting publication Springwise. The company is based in New York and Los Angeles and is financed by venture capital firm NYCSeed and leading angel investors.
Brand Integration Market Opportunity
As traditional advertising models come under increasing pressure, brand integration (or "branded entertainment") is emerging as an increasingly critical revenue source for content producers. For the uninitiated, brand integration is the umbrella term used to describe a wide range of activities, from product placement to the creation of new branded content. The Event Marketing Institute defines the practice of brand integration as the "strategic and programmatic use of relevant content or entertainment as a focal point to attract, engage and influence targeted audiences." The branded entertainment market was estimated at over $20B in 2008 by research firm PQ Media – a total that includes media buys associated with filmed integrations and event marketing expenditures. Jack Myers Media Business Report estimates branded entertainment and product placement investments to be $9.0 billion in 2009 and represents one of the few bright spots in the media industry, increasing 4.0% in 2009 and 6.0% in 2010, compared to overall ad spending declines of 12.1% and 5.1% respectively.
The problem for media sales organizations is that brand integration introduces more matchmaking variables between buyer (marketer) and seller (producer) than what has typically been required to sell 30's and 60's. In order to capitalize on the growth in brand integration, content producers require new tools to effectively communicate these opportunities to agencies and brands. Due to the volume of brand integration opportunities available, it is impossible to continuously communicate these opportunities via traditional communication methods: phone, email, and meetings. The hurdles to optimizing ad sales efforts will be in creating transparency and enabling access into available opportunities. Herein lies PlaceVine's greatest strength and biggest challenge.
PlaceVine Bringing Efficiency to Brand Integration Sales
While not perfect, PlaceVine has come a long way in helping solve the transparency and access problems in the brand integration market. The PlaceVine service provides content owners a new way to collaborate with marketers that augments the industry's current sales processes. As the "Match.com" of the integration industry, PlaceVine allows marketers to post brand profiles, producers to post project and brand integration specifics, and enables both sides to collaborate and connect when there is a potential fit.
Unlike Hamet Watt's NextMedium, which attempted to build a complete online auction model for product placements (essentially, an eBay-style marketplace for product placements), PlaceVine believes that integration deals are not well-suited to "click-to-buy" transactions. Instead of building an auction site that takes a commission on deals, PlaceVine uses a subscription-based revenue model. (It is free for content producers to use PlaceVine's basic tools. Producers can optionally pay for walled garden dedicated premium tools. The standard model for marketers is a $145 monthly subscription fee giving full platform access.). This strategy has enabled PlaceVine to gain traction while NextMedium recently changed ownership (its assets were sold to an investor in January). However, as PlaceVine continues to grow, the company faces clear challenges in maximizing its own potential revenue given that it does not take commissions on the transactions it facilitates. In addition, the service will need to continue attracting new marketers if it is to provide ongoing value to the producer community.
PlaceVine is actively tackling a number of these challenges and has been successful in rapidly unveiling a string of new features that bring greater value to its users. PlaceVine has rolled out sophisticated sales force automation features that enable networks and production companies to create private communities of marketers on PlaceVine. This feature effectively allows film, television, and digital sales teams to have their own private network within PlaceVine that can be used to keep invited brands and agencies up-to-date on brand integration opportunities. This will allow production companies and networks to efficiently communicate their burgeoning list of opportunities to a wider variety of marketers than would be possible via phone calls and emails.
PlaceVine has also built CRM tools enabling marketers to track deal negotiations and has developed a feature called "LeadCapture" that allows marketers to funnel producers' brand integration inquiries via a customizable web form. The company also recently released its premium "Campaigns" feature, allowing marketers to submit RFP's to PlaceVine's community of over 400 professional producers. As the brand integration market matures, features such as "Campaigns" should leave the company well-positioned to offer transactional capabilities for appropriate opportunity types.
As the brand integration market picks up steam, PlaceVine is well positioned to assist marketers in efficiently allocating expenditures in this category and to work with producers and media sellers to expand their revenue opportunities.
Jack Myers Media Services advises media companies, marketers and agencies on business development and revenue generation opportunities, and has advised PlaceVine on market positioning and strategies.