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Careers: Personal Branding: The New World of Online Advertising

Move over Simon Cowell. Make way for Nalts and P0YKPAC Say what? Welcome to the new world of online advertising where companies no longer need to pay mega millions to plop a Coke can in front of a TV celebrity like Cowell. Instead, there is a new breed of celebrity out there – Web stars who go by handles like Nalts and POYKPAC.

Move over Simon Cowell. Make way for Nalts and P0YKPAC

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Say what?

Welcome to the new world of online advertising where companies no longer need to pay mega millions to plop a Coke can in front of a TV celebrity like Cowell. Instead, there is a new breed of celebrity out there – Web stars who go by handles like Nalts and POYKPAC.

These new-found celebs, some of whom were holding down day jobs at Kinko’s and Blockbusters, while they were posting entertaining videos online at night, have shot their way to stardom and a decent living. It’s not uncommon for these Web stars to have hundreds of thousands of fans and supporters.

I got an inkling of the power of this new world recently when I spent a little time with the folks at Hitviews, which marries Web celebrities with brands. Hitviews is the brainchild of Walter Sabo, an old-time, bigwig radio guy and self-described “analog person,” who knows how to monetize celebrities. Sabo had the vision early on to recognize that the Internet is spawning its own celebrities. “I love a great show,” is how he puts it. Two years ago, he stumbled across the funny, engaging videos of a then 18-year-old web celebrity named Caitlin Hill or as her fans know her, TheHill88. Call it the Web 2.0 version of the Hollywood-discovers-star-story. Hill, who has 69,595 fans, and on a bad day gets 50,000 views of her videos, was unemployed at the time, when Sabo recruited her to enlist talent for his new company, Hitviews.

Today, Hill, as Hitviews’ Creative Director, presides over a stable of 50 Web stars, which includes everyone from a successful pharmaceutical executive to a former Kinko’s cashier. Sabo and Caitlin had the genius to recognize that these web stars in their own quirky way could be turned into 21st century Web pitchman.  For example, a recent video Nalts created for Hitviews’ client Reader’s Digest generated 700,000 views in less than a week.  And despite the economy, Hitviews is chugging along quite nicely as a high-growth startup since its November 2008 launch.  Today the company’s stars have cumulatively attracted over 779 Million views and 2,217,554 subscribers.

Make no mistake. This is not Madison Avenue transported to the Web. Hitviews stars are not creating slick, high-toned ads but telling engaging stories that because of their fun and spontaneity encourage a viewer to click onto a sponsor’s site.

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The force propelling companies like Hitviews is the power of video. Consider that from just November 2007 to November 2008 there has been a 70% increase in viewership of online video; by 2012 Cisco forecasts that 90% of all web traffic will be for video  It’s not unlikely for a video posted by a popular Web personality to be viewed 500,000 times a day. Yikes. Other Web portals such as Newsweek.com, USAToday.com, and FOXNews.com are at a little more than half that traffic.

None of this means, that you and I are going to shoot a video and ride our way to stardom. Unlike your average Joe with a video camera, these web stars like Caitlin Hill are extremely talented. They also understand that the Internet is decidedly not TV. Their videos excite interaction and get you to click.

Barton Goldenberg, president of Bethesda, Md-based ISM, a social media consultancy, in a recent USA Today article explained the new paradigm:

“The old model of an Ed McMahon-type guy pitching you something is long dead, because today people won’t listen to TV ads, but they will listen to each other on these (social media) sites.  It’s all being reversed now. Ads won’t drive brand loyalty, people will.”

That bears repeating. “Ads don’t drive brand loyalty, people will.”

In a sense the Internet has done what the old hippie movement promised but never delivered on. It has returned the power to the people. Which is that it has allowed you and I to have an amplified voice. While we may not be enormous Web stars, in our own niches, our stars can shine a little brighter, and with the enormous power and reach of the Internet, anything is possible. And, for brands, companies like Hitviews have allowed them to hitch a ride on Web stars and directly reach out, touch and engage millions the old fashioned way – through celebrity, entertainment and interaction.

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Roll the camera.

Wendy Marx, Personal Branding and PR Specialist, Marx Communications, Inc.

Technorati tags: personal branding, video, personal brand, online-advertising

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About the author

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning boutique B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives, including start-ups, into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx and on Google+ @ plus.google.com/+wendymarx.

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