Tuesday, December 30, 2008

For Your Imagination Enhances Online Video Market Leadership With Reach, Revenue and Solutions, Says CEO Paul Kontonis

Spring 2009 Upfront - For Your Imagination Reel - Nov2008

Digital media and web video studio For Your Imagination has been successful in defining itself as a leader in online video. In a market still unsure of revenue models, FYI has demonstrated year-over-year revenue growth of 34% in sponsored and branded entertainment implemented of a leveraged distribution network and delivered strong advertiser video solutions. Their 2008 highlights have been on expansive reach, powerful advertising solutions, a focus on vertical video networks and sponsored and branded entertainment and on agency partnerships.

They recently held a Spring 2009 Upfront event as a preview of upcoming web shows and verticals launching in 2009. FYI has held these in the past and they've been successful in building interest with advertisers and brand sponsors.

The night's theme was “Who’s Watching?” and Tilzy.tv and Tubefilter both covered the Upfront here:
I spoke with FYI CEO Paul Kontonis about the Upfront event and their press release on enhancing market leadership with reach, revenue and solutions which can be found at the end of this post.

Larry Kless: How did the Upfront go? How successful was it for FYI?

Paul Kontonis: I think it was successful for us because it gave us an opportunity to attract some attention to what we're doing in our content. It allowed us to position our content to the advertising agencies that we'd love to work with. I think it's important that we react to the changing economy not only by reducing expenses but by also putting out a more compelling product and service that can still attract the dollars.

So, I do agree very strongly that when the economy is not going in the right direction you reduce expenses and run a very tight ship and we've been needing to do that our whole lifespan… so for us it's all about how do we continue to innovate, get those dollars and provide a real powerful advertising solution for the brands we hope we can work with.

LK: How often do you host the Upfronts? Have you been doing them for a while?

PK: Yes, the first one we did I believe was in the Fall of '07 so I think that this might our 6th. We've been doing them once a quarter since late 2007.

LK: Any immediate results?

PK: Sure, we've had inquiries on a couple of our shows right away and about some brand opportunities. I would say that we've sent out information on Lurker the new series by the Break a Leg guys to some big online destination site type of networks. We've had inquiry on the Greenhouse which is our Green Living network and also on the Spanish show Spanish por la MaƱana.

LK: Regarding your press release, did you share that as part of the package for the Upfront event?

PK: Not all of it. The revenue related stuff wasn't there at the event but everything else was.

LK: So how about the expansive reach? Your release says you're looking at exciting partnerships with Hulu, Joost, Dailymotion, Howcast and Tremor Media and OggiFinoggi.

PK: Coming in January we'll start having our content put out on Hulu. We actually close the Hulu deal much earlier this year but they use an encoding format MP2 that is not really standard in the industry so we've been holding back on spending the time to do that encoding specifically for them. Everyone else uses .mp4 except for them and Joost. They both are MP2 holdouts and they some pretty.

When it comes to the file format they're a little on the primitive side in that A) they are using MP2 and B) they don't have the ability to encode. So for example, you could upload to let's say Blip or Viddler an .mov, an .avi, a .wmv, a .mp2, a mp4, pretty much any format you can think of, you can upload the Flip video format (.avi plus Divx plug-in) and it will work fine and they encode to the .mp4 format they use and the .flv format that use. Both Hulu and Joost don't do that at all so you actually have to give them exactly the file format you're going to use. So when you got all your files in your workflow to be .mp4 based since everyone uses.mp4, H.264 files are beautiful and then all of a sudden it come around to another file format it's a real pain in the @$. There's over 300 files and downloads alone and we're talking over 80 hours to encode all of that. It's insane.

But we're looking forward to finally getting our content up on Hulu and since were doing Hulu we might as well do the web version of Joost as well because they've got some great functionality and we've got a nice working relationship with them that was built in the Dailymotion days when most of the people left Dailymotion to go to Joost. So we're really excited about that too.

We're solidifying the relations with Howcast and we'll probably see some content for them to continue to build out their content library.

With Tremor, they really helped us with targeting publishing verticals and helping with not really distribution but targeting some of the relationships with the publisher and ad networks that we want to work with for promotional purposes.

OggiFinoggi has a video player that we will use and a widget that we'll distribute on other sites that has some really cool functionality to it when you mouse over it, it expands into a much bigger player that has multiple videos and ad units on it and so we can drive specific traffic to videos as well as to additional videos by using their player as a widget we can place all around vertical sites across the web.

LK: In terms of powerful advertising solutions, in working with these destination sites that use the ad server model, how effective has that been in combination with the "baked in" endorsement approach? Do see this as a one-two punch?

PK: Definitely, I think the ad server model adds in a little supplemental revenue which is pretty negligible at this point so we really don't pay much attention to those dollars, the pre-roll, the overlays and post-rolls, The baked in host endorsement product placement and thematic content -- meaning we do an episode about something that relates to that product's brand but still stays in the vein of the show and the authenticity and the credibility of the show -- is definitely a very successful way for us to integrate advertising messages in a real quality kind of way into the content and still make it very true to the content brand that we've created and yet very accommodating to the advertisers. and again in a way that people receive it as informative and entertaining and not a straight up pitch. The host endorsements are very sincere they're very authentic and they really differentiate from the ad sever model.

When you see an overlay it's more thrown at you, it's interruptive but when the host of the show stops for a second and says, "We'd specifically like to thank Hasbro for helping bring you DadLabs this week or this month" (right now there's a campaign going on with Hasbro and DadLabs) Link: Hasbro Sponsors DadLabs with Family Game Night - For Your Imagination - For Your Imagination - develops and markets high-quality original web video)

The response we've seen form the audience is, "Okay, cool." It's a very positive reaction because we're very clear that they're helping bring this programming that you find informative, entertaining and useful to being a Dad, for example, people respond very positively to it. The recall is very high, the brands and everyone is re-upped so everyone who's tested something out has decided to do more at this point. So we're really excited about Hasbro coming in this week at DadLabs because we're hoping that they re-up for their next release.

LK: What drove the new expansion into these other areas of personal finance, style and fashion?

PK: The one that I'm personally most excited about is GEQ network which stands for Generation Equity and that's the personal finance content. It's something that from pretty early in setting up For Your Imagination I had always followed the "click these rankings" of brand spending online and looked at the categories and personal finance has been one of these areas that has been a very very high dollar spend online and that continued even through this downturn in he economy. It's still one of the biggest areas of online spending. So take that and balance it with this idea that you have this whole generation of people, Generation Y and even older and younger, who are active, building their futures, some in the workforce some still in school and have really no idea how to manage their money, how to balance their checkbook, how to control their spending, how to work with debt, how to work credit cards.

Home Economics used to be one of the biggest classes you had to take at some point and now it's out of the curriculum, it doesn't exist anymore. So you people who really have no clue what they're doing, and the number one source for information for them are their friends first who are also completely illiterate on personal finance and then you have family members as the next place they turn to. And for the most part we've become a society ridden with debt and really managing our money every well as a whole. You've got a generation that's turning to itself which doesn't really know what it's doing relying upon then their parents who don't know what they're doing either. So it's a real mess.

There is a need here for really good, and sometimes I call it mundane and practical, information on what you should be doing -- and I'm not talking about Jim Cramer, "Get your money into an IRA and roll it over to this and make investment in these stocks..." -- I'm talking about which online banking is better? How to do it? SHOULD you have a credit card or should you NOT have a credit card? And if you do what do you really look for? What do you need in a credit card? And how do you pick one?

Most college students at this point got their credit card because someone was giving them a T-shirt or a hat at street fair outside their school or on the school grounds. And they sign up for the credit card they've got no idea why except, "I got a cool T-shirt" or "I'm getting a coupon for Pizza for my friends."

LK: Right, and they have no idea the 19% APR kicks in after a few months.

PK: Yes! And the blatant marketing towards the use on the credit card arena is really disastrous and causing problems now and could potentially cause more problems in the future. So, I'm not against credit cards, I think I'm against people not knowing what to do with them and the credit card companies not educating people on how to best manage it.

We did a round table here and we asked a very simple question of college students, "Do you improve your credit rating with a credit card? Or how do you affect your credit rating with credit cards?" and some of the people said, "Oh yeah, it's good to have a credit card. Get and just don't use it." Other people said, "Oh no, you have to get put money on it and pay it off right away." While others said, "No, I thought you were supposed to carry a balance and just make your monthly payment."


PK: There's just total ignorance without even realizing you don't need a credit card at all to improve your credit rating. But that's what people have come to think and they're just going through the motions of and how much debt are people accumulating when their in college and how long will the it take to really pay it off? We asked people how long it take to pay off their student loans they had no idea and said, "I don't know, a few years after school?" But how long is it really going to take? 30 years, 50 years? They really had no understanding whatsoever.

So that's the one that has the most robust financial opportunities and tech revenue generator for us but also it serves a real true purpose. It is filling a gap that is missing in content online in an accessible kind of way. I consider, take Suze Orman mix it with a little Consumer Report and then make it fun and informative for that generation and that's what we're really shooting for with GEQ.

LK: Are there several programs launching in that vertical or one main program?

PK: There's four shows total.

The first one is news and interview and community focused show taking to peers and interviewing news makers and giving vital information. That one's called straight up, "Generation Equity."

The next one is a How-to series called, "Ka-ching! Live Well Spend Less" and that's going be giving real practical tips on how to manage your money. A lot of people have advocated, "You cut your expenses, don't sound any money, never eat out, never do this," but I'm a believer in you just do in moderation and you learn how to balance everything. So this is really going to focus on how to help people understand you can still live well and spend less.

Then there's going to be straight up entertainment scripted comedy called, "Broke in the City" about two recent college graduates who are living in a big city. One is planning to go to Grad school and works whatever odd jobs while he's in school. The other one is getting an entry level position in a big ad agency and it's them living in a city with most of their money going to rent, eating ramen noodles and really giving people a chance to laugh at themselves. Because everyone has bought something they really shouldn't have when they didn't have any money and put it on a credit and said, "Aw crap, now what I going to do?" Everyone has done that so this gives you an opportunity to laugh at that and probably learn through making fun of yourself in a way.

The last one is called "The Economiguide" and it's a practical product review show that will do things like comparing all the different Master Card options you have, comparing the online banking between Chase, Citybank, HSBC, ING, What are the pros and cons of each? To educate you on if you're going to make a decision and something like this is important here's all the information you need to know. "What's so special about a Capital One Visa Card?" They do all those these commercials and make it really cool, Is it really cool? What does it means when fees change on the ATMs? How does that compare across all the different banks?

So you take all four different shows and you're building out the community, you're educating people and you're doing the How-to component which is very popular online. So the first one is very timely, the next one is very evergreen because it's How-to, the product review we're hoping is evergreen as well and the evergreen scripted comedy is pure entertainment, another way of getting people into the space and open to learning and participate in. To me, I see it as a big hole in the marketplace and we've had some initial conversations with brands and agencies and their response has been absolutely overwhelming. We're hoping that we will close something up and start to be able to begin production in January and get that out in January too.

We're bringing in special directors for it, John Threat who's over at Media Threat and has done absolutely amazing film work and really funky online video stuff and Jesse Cowell who did an amazing series called "Drawn by Pain." So we're bringing in people who from a visual standpoint and a content standpoint taking what could be a very dry and hard to just sit there and listen and really apply some real creative techniques in delivering it making it accessible to the audience. On the flip-side we've put together an advisory board of real experts in the informational side to make sure what we're putting out us as accurate as could be. We will have an opinion and not totally be neutral, it is going to be about avoiding debt as much as possible to do the things you want to do. The panel of financial experts will guide the content and the panel of entertainment exports to make it as popular as we possibly can.

LK: Will it all be brand new content vs. established brands?

PK: Right now the plan is that it will all be brand new. But as we do with all our other networks we are always looking for established shows or shows that are already being planned that we can also put through the distribution network as well. I don't know if that will be dome in time for the launch.

LK: Any plans in place to pitch to the shows to other established networks? For example Glam Media with Glampede?

PK: Nothing formal, we have a budding relationship with them but nothing really solid there. We'll see what happens though, we just have a very unique opportunity to work with a very well established fashion photographer by the name Tom Concordia who's very well entrenched in the fashion industry and has been producing absolutely incredible shoots and has the opportunity to film them all and produce this content. So we've been producing the content but haven't been editing it yet and putting it out there but it will have some amazing access. It's not so much about, "On my God, who's the model?" it's more like, "Wow, look at how they actually did that!" It's going to have wonderful product integration opportunities and that's going to be very product oriented.

LK: How about the Agency Partnerships? For Your Imagination will continue to support and enhance the agency-to-brand relationships with traditional, interactive and public relations agencies.

PK: I think what's really important is recognizing the ecosystem that we're in -- that the agencies are the brand stewards -- and we need to think in terms of supporting the strategy that agency has created for their brands. Being a real partner to that strategy versus a renegade to that strategy. I've seen a lot of production companies produce content for other brands and they don't stay true to that brand. I don't think they understand what brand guidelines are and what the positioning strategy of a campaign is and that's something that where we're building off our interactive agency experience and our agency experience.

I was CMO for a big agency for three and half years working with Mastercard, Samsung, Pfizer, Lucent, really big brands and when every point of marketing is fully brand enabled and supports the brand strategy and criteria it's a beautiful thing. It ends up being very powerful so I think we're very mindful that these agencies are really the stewards and the brands and the ones we need to support and if we empower them with powerful tools that support their brand and positioning strategies then we're going to get a great response. We're going to be a team player not somebody who's trying to usurp their relationship with the brand.

We've had a lot of positive reaction to the way we've been working with agencies and we hope to continue to expand upon that. I think that's something that differentiates how our approach is from a lot of the other companies. As well is that we are agency and traditional media production people, we're not coming at this as Hollywood script writers or talent that want to do something exactly their way and find the brand integration obtrusive. When you see our brand integration it's smooth, it's very high quality because we know there's more than putting a bottle of water on somebody's desk and saying, "Hmm, good!", it's a lot more about thinking of brand strategy. The agencies are very comfortable with our approach to things. I think that's a real important piece for what we want to do moving forward.

LK: In terms of the economic state, it seems like FYI is well positioned with this exciting launch of these new networks. What do you think about of the current state of the online advertising marketplace? How long before you see it bouncing back and for the ad dollars start to support this new programing?

PK: I think there's going to be a shifting of ad dollars. Whenever there's a downturn you go a lot towards direct response and away from brand marketing. Different mediums will lose and gain accordingly. I think traditional will take another big hit. So TV, newspapers and magazines and out of home will take additional hits from what they've already been taking so I think they'll drop faster. I think you'll still see online spending going up but the year over year growth rates won't increase as much. There will be a shifting like to more keyword buying and search engines, more email marketing, more direct type of response.

We need to prove that we can take some of those dollars that are fleeing TV and provide an absolutely compelling proposition to anybody who is considering advertising on TV. This is an educational challenge for us. It's educating brand that, instead of spending $400,000 to produce a 30 second intrusive spot and then buying a million dollars worth of media to do a little campaign, spend that $400,000 on 6 months of an original web series that you will underwrite and be integrated into in a quality way that will attract an audience and we'll go out on the line and say, we'll guarantee you that you're going to get 5-10 million views a month on it with that budget. Let's go do it and don't go spending the dollars on media spend it on more keyword buying and a few good promotions to move the product off the shelf.

So we can be a real strong component to their media plans and marketing plans and do it in a ridiculously cost-effective way and still provide them something they're comfortable with, which is TV-like content produced specifically for the web that still allows them to increase their brand reach and frequency but also put a direct response component into it. On TV, the direct response is you do the phone number and hope somebody calls. I'm glad we could do the phone number, click to go over here, click to sign up for that, we have so many more options. We know that if you're already on a web page and see something really cool you're more likely to click on that than you are to go from your TV to your website. So we increase the likelihood of the response. We can give the same brand awareness and that's not even higher recall and higher responses that they use on TV for a fraction of it maybe a 5th of the budget total between the production and the media.

LK: So when are we going to see some of the first programming?

PK: I don't know the official launch date that why we have done a GEQ only release or any shows specific releases. As we start getting closer and know the exact dates then we'll start doing releases.

LK: Final comments?

PK: I believe in a down economy you innovate you get more creative and you get scrappier you focus on ROI and cost-effectiveness and you'll be in a better position once it starts swinging up the other way.


Just days after our conversation, their dad parenting network DadLabs closed a six month, six figure exclusive sponsorship with baby products manufacturer BabyBjorn. Drew Baldwin covered the news here: 'DadLabs' Snags Badass Six Figure Deal With BabyBjorn - Tubefilter News



November 24, 2008

For Your Imagination, a leading digital media studio, developing, marketing and distributing targeted online video networks and web series, today announced notable growth and successes for 2008. In a market still unsure of revenue models, For Your Imagination has demonstrated year-over-year revenue growth of 34% in sponsored and branded entertainment implemented of a leveraged distribution network and delivered strong advertiser video solutions.

For Your Imagination 2008 highlights include:

Expansive Reach: With a total potential reach of 60 million views per month, For Your Imagination has developed a leverage distribution network that can target audience and interests. Some of the most exciting new partnerships for 2009 include Hulu, Joost, DailyMotion, Howcast, Tremor Media and OggiFinoggi.

Powerful Advertising Solutions: For Your Imagination’s authentic and popular hosts deliver endorsements and product placements that drive the highest brand recognition and actions in online video.

Focus on Verticals: In 2008 For Your Imagination bolstered a commitment to deliver high quality comedy, green and parenting audiences and will expand into the lucrative personal finance and style and fashion lifestyle markets in 2009.

Sponsored and Branded Entertainment: High quality original content, led by Axis of Comedy, The Green House, and DadLabs, is complemented by the development and production of popular and effective branded entertainment. The new, targeted networks for early 2009 are GEQ, a personal finance network, and Glampede, fashion and style videos.

Agency Partnerships: For Your Imagination will continue to support and enhance the agency-to-brand relationship through strong alliances with traditional, interactive and public relations agencies.

For more information contact:
Kathryn Jones
For Your Imagination
866-475-6908 x704

About For Your Imagination:
For Your Imagination is a leading online media studio which develops, markets and distributes high-quality original Internet TV and web video series, turning concept into reality for brands and content creators. The studio works with brands and content creators to develop their online video content, offering them the opportunity to reach a targeted advertiser-friendly audience effectively and monetizing quickly.

About Paul Kontonis:
Paul is the Chief Executive and a co-founder of For Your Imagination. As an interactive media veteran, Paul has been a new media pioneer and has developed interactive content practices which reach out and engage an audience. Paul was the General Manager of Educational Marketing and Corporate Sales for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, the leading test preparation provider. Prior to joining Kaplan, Paul was the Chief Marketing Officer of btldesign, a 25-year-old marketing communications agency, specializing in business-to-business marketing communications for Fortune 100 global brands like MasterCard, Samsung, Pfizer, Major League Baseball and the FIFA World Cup. Paul's interactive experience began as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at SenseNet, a Web application development agency, and as the Director of Business Development for Silver Shock, a boutique interactive agency. He appears in a number of marketing publications, digital media books including the Documentary Filmmakers Handbook, and is a speaker at several industry conferences and seminars annually.
View Paul Kontonis' Linkedin profile.
Contact: Paul Kontonis
For Your Imagination
(o) 866-475-6908 x 701
(e) paul@foryourimagination.com