New Shoppable YouTube Videos Are The Walkmans Of Advertising

Some day you'll buy your favorite television character's outfit with a click of the remote. That day isn't today. But YouTube just brought it a little closer.

After dozing off by the pool in a tiny yellow bikini, Supermodel Candice Swanepoel dreams of a fabulous alternate life in which all of the uniformed maids carry pink packages and even the cats wear gems. But what’s most abnormal about the scene, from a new YouTube video created to promote fashion brand Juicy Couture, is that you can shop for the cat’s jewelry without leaving the page.

YouTube first began testing a feature that puts links to external sites within videos and ads this spring. Fashion brands Juicy Coutoure and ASOS have both recently used the new capability to create YouTube videos that resemble moving catalogs or shoppable videos. As Swanepoel struts around her dream life, thumbnail images of the Juicy outfits and accessories she’s wearing pop up on the bottom of the screen. If you click one, the video pauses and a pop-up window gives you the option to visit that product page on the Juicy website—just clicks away from a purchase.

"I think for us it shows the ROI and the direct link to what social media can do," says Juicy Coutoure VP of Global Digital and Social Strategy Michelle Ryan, who helped create a social media campaign centered around the video.

Marketers started dreaming of shoppable videos long before Swanepoel’s poolside snooze. A company called Pokeware, for instance, turns videos into click-to-buy ads. Target recently created a short film that allows viewers to save products characters are wearing as they watch. Brands such as Gucci have created shoppable videos within YouTube using third-party technology.

But this is the first time an advertising platform the size of YouTube has enabled shoppable videos and video ads. Advertising creatives say it’s a move that hints at—but doesn't quite encompass—the future.

"This is the Sony Walkman of ecommerce and video," says Darrell Whitelaw Executive Creative Director at IPG Media Lab (Google is one of IPG's clients). "The thinking is spot-on, but the execution is just awful."

What's awful about it, Whitelaw says, is that every time a user clicks on a product they're interested in, the video stops. This is an experience-busting flaw that most shoppable video shares. It's what's likely to separate the Walkmans from the iPods.

"If you’re watching a video, I think in the terms of the future, I think things will be figured out in terms of product placement," says Martin|Williams Creative Director Tony Lintner]. "Once people perfect that experience in terms of clicking on things in a video, I think that’s going to be the golden nugget."

Some day, clicking to buy won’t stop a video. And unlike the Target film, you’ll actually be able to purchase from within videos – not just add projects to a cart. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to click any product in any video in order to buy it. But for now, YouTube has given shoppable videos its Walkman, which while not music technology’s final form, was a crucial step in building the world of digital music of today.

"Every evolution starts with something like this," Whitelaw says. "I’m not taking away from the quality of it. It’s amazing that someone actually did it and got a client to say yes, let’s jump in and do this new thing. But you still have to look at the fact the next one – that perfect, beautiful experience—that’s going to be the one that gets people to buy."

[Image: Flickr user Lee Jordan]

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  • MattyMattMatDWright

    It's the scalability of the product 'Merch' annotations that concern me. I've used merch annotations and they're not scalable but do have an entertaining quality about them that could be misunderstood.

    For years (video agency) have built players that put products beside M&S videos at scale, Zeebox recently have done the same for live Sky TV. Both companies seem to provide relevant and timely product annotations alongside a video and good advertising does just that (ask adwords!): Good advertising responds to content in a way that's relevant and timely.

    Break an audience's view of a video through too many annotations with no format and I wholly believe that audience's will not engage.


  • Greg Caldwell

    The buck certainly doesn't stop here. I'm wondering who's clicking on the "Juicy Couture Presents California Dreaming" video in the first place? It seems to me like I'm voluntarily watching a commercial (which won't ever happen), or that this specific application is too small in its segmentation of a) people who want to shop via Youtube videos and b) people who want to shop for Juicy.

    Here's a thought...

    Apply this to music video's. It's a great medium that is already getting consumed and shared via social media and most people enjoy watching them. The music industry could use the revenue and the integration is more seamless than Lana Del Ray in a magazine ad for H&M. Even beyond the chart toppers and Jay Z's of the world I think indie acts would favor this medium if it featured products/companies that were near and dear to them, i.e. their guitars, foot pedals, even charity donations, and it would allow them to sponsor smaller companies who don't have the capital to go out and grab an ad in The Rolling Stone or film a T.V. commercial. And seriously... don't stop the video.

    Thoughts? Anyone agree/disagree?

  • justice_action

    The pop-ups didn't work for me, running latest Safari on latest Mac OS.
    The video certainly didn't work for me, a cat wearing diamonds, what friggin trash, this ode to consumer culture is insipid and shallow.