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B-to-b marketers, media slow to warm up to video

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Last December, Cygnus Business Media launched its first online video channel on its ForConstructionPros.com Web site. This new video initiative had only one sponsor, Caterpillar Inc.

Vickie Szombathy, VP-media director for agency StarLink Worldwide, was responsible for connecting the construction equipment giant with Cygnus, which plans to launch video channels in each of its major markets this year to create what it calls the Cygnus Video Network.

A long-time advocate for improving relationships between agencies and the b-to-b media, Szombathy was the first chairperson of American Business Media's media advisory board. "A lot of b-to-b clients want video," she said, "but it's still a leap for them to get into it. For b-to-b marketers who have never done video before, there's hesitation due to their lack of knowledge, experience and preexisting video assets."

Caterpillar, she added, is the only b-to-b client she currently has that's doing online video. The reason? Unlike many other b-to-b marketers, Caterpillar already had a library of demonstration and training videos of its products.

"[Owners of] b-to-b Web sites need to realize that video is a terrific tool that they have underexploited," she said. "We're finally seeing some progressive [b-to-b media] companies step forward, and we're working with them to move some of their video initiatives along."

B-to-b media companies in the early experimental stage with online video might try to get by with amateur-quality video, Szombathy said. But, she added, "B-to-b advertisers don't want their quality brands associated with YouTube-quality video. Their thinking is more in line with television quality."

Although the FCP Video Channel associated with ForConstructionPros.com is a new effort for Cygnus, Szombathy said the product was ready for prime time because the media company partnered with a professional online video company, Waltham, Mass.-based PermissionTV.

One feature of the technology PermissionTV offers is the ability to send video files via e-mail, either between peers or from a marketer to a prospective customer. "Online commercials that are `on-demand' for consumers, that can be viewed when and where they need it, are particularly helpful in the highly mobile construction industry," Szombathy said.

Nevertheless, she does not expect 2007 to be a breakthrough year for advertisers embracing online video in b-to-b media. "I do think we will see a lot more of it," Szombathy said. "Clients are beginning to see how they can use sight, sound and motion to enhance their brands, but the move to online video will build incident by incident rather than being a runaway hit."

Even when b-to-b marketers move into online video, they may not increase their overall budget to do so, Szombathy said. On the other hand, b-to-b Web sites that support these video presentations may have the most to gain, she said, if advertisers reallocate dollars to online video from dollars previously spent on competing publications or Web sites.

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