Brad Pitt strolls through the not-zombie infested laboratory, rendered invisible to the monsters thanks to the virus coursing through his veins. But wait, the corridor to the exit is blocked by a swarm of seriously-they’re-not-zombies. How will the sandy-haired, chiseled god of Hollywood make it to safety?
Coolness personified, Brad saunters over to a vending machine and smashes it open. The noise of a hundred cans of Coke-substitute rolling across the floor draws the monstrosities away, and opens a path to freedom. First, however, there is just enough time for Brad to open and enjoy a can of sweet, sweet bubbles while leaning next to the biggest not-Coke logo ever seen on a cinema screen.
You can almost see the satisfaction on Brad’s face, secure in the knowledge that half his salary has just been paid for.
But you know what’s really sad?
I actually really like World War Z.
Yes, the story has some problems. Yes, by all accounts, it doesn’t even try to be faithful to the novel of the same name. And, yes, the sanitized PG-13 version screened at theatres is inferior to the unrated version you can get on Blu-Ray.
But, as action/horror movies go, it’s pretty darned good. Which is why I can forgive the oh-so-obvious product placement.
Maybe the ease with which I can give the movie a pass for the unsubtle advertising is because it’s become part of the cultural landscape. Advertising inserted into the entertainment we consume is so ubiquitous that we just accept it as part of the deal of getting something either free or for peanuts.
Content has to be monetized somehow, and as an audience we’re savvy enough to grasp that and not get into a twist when our favorite podcast pauses for 1-2 minutes to read out a word from their sponsor, or YouTube inserts an ad before the movie trailer we wanted to watch. Which, now I think about it, is also an ad.
Webinars are more than just a sales vehicle
For the longest time, webinars have primarily been used to make direct sales. Usually in the format of a healthy chunk of content, followed by a pitch for some kind of offer. Lately, however, the range of webinar-styles has diversified. Increasingly, webinar hosts are offering sales-free, content-focused webinars covering everything from make-up advice, to dating advice, to investing tips.
It appears as if webinars may well be following the trend of YouTube videos over the past decade. As video creation has become easier, we’ve seen an explosion in bona fide YouTube stars making large sums of money through advertising and sponsorship. Maybe, in time, as webinars become easier and less expensive to produce (thank you, WebinarJam) we’ll see similar celebrities developing in the world of webinars.
But for this to happen, webinars must be monetized through setups that move beyond the traditional “content plus offer” format.
Want to break new ground and monetize content-based webinars without resorting to direct selling? Give these strategies a try…
1. Webinar Sponsorship
Podcasts really lead the way in this type of advertising. The most popular shows tend to start and end with a sponsorship message, and even break in the middle for the audio equivalent of a commercial break.
With a big enough audience and enough exposure, companies will seek you out, but in the meanwhile, try approaching companies that offer products and services related to your webinar themes and invite them to sponsor your webinars.
You might have to make a few phone calls to snag a worthwhile sponsor, but dialing for dollars is rarely as difficult as people imagine. Just make sure you make good play on the fact that your webinars only have room for 1-2 sponsors. First-come, first-served!
2. Product Placement
Your audience numbers will be a factor in what you can snag, but in terms of advertising this is the easiest to implement. Your sponsor provides a product and you simply leave it in view.
I do, however, strongly urge you to check advertising rules for your region. Especially if you’re going to display or highlight a product that you’re being paid to promote or have been given for free. It may be as simple as putting something in your terms and conditions but do check to ensure you don’t fall foul of any regulations.
3. Start a Co-op or Network
The quality of sponsorship you attract and the fees you can demand will always be based on the size of your audience. One way to ramp this up quickly is to partner with other webinar presenters, and advertise each other.
The beauty of this style of partnership is that you don’t need to be delivering webinars on the same topic. In fact, it’s often better if you don’t.
Once you have a good collection of webinar presenters with a broad audience, you’re in a strong position to find top-level businesses to sponsor the whole group, and then the proceeds can be shared among the co-op members.
4. Joint Ventures
Monetizing free webinars that contain no sales elements can be something of a “chicken and egg” scenario. To create a budget that you can use to advertise your events and grow your audience, you need sponsorship. But sponsors may not be forthcoming while your audience is still new and relatively small.
There are two ways to tackle this. The first, if you’ve got a decent sales patter, is to hook a sponsorship based on your planned audience. Offer them a good deal for your first few weeks or months and pitch them on your potential.
The second is to find a business that will sponsor you in exchange for promotion instead of cash. If you can afford to run your webinars income-free for a time, this is an easily achievable way to broaden your reach and make your webinars look professional (Check me out! I have a sponsor!), even when you’re just starting out and your audience is only just beginning to grow.
Webinars are breaking into the public consciousness in a big way. Now is the perfect time to own your niche and be seen as THE webinar host for your specialist subject.
But don’t be afraid to try new monetization methods. Your audience is becoming increasingly relaxed about instream advertising, especially if the content is good and they know you’re not going to turn into a QVC presenter three-quarters of the way through the event.
Hey, if Brad Pitt can take a break from battling not-zombies to drink a can of not-Coke, and still make a killing at the box office, anything’s possible.