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.

New Shoppable YouTube Videos Are The Walkmans Of Advertising

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]

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.