By  on December 10, 2008

A number of retailers have crafted online video campaigns to reach shoppers during the holiday season, including Sephora, J.C. Penney, Lowe’s and Target.

Lowe’s Holiday Solutions Center went up on YouTube Nov. 6 and will stay through Dec. 31. The “channel,” as YouTube calls it, aggregates content from 11 partners, including Martha Stewart, Lowe’s and Epicurious. (Epicurious, like WWD, is owned by Condé Nast Publications Inc.)

“We were trying to brainstorm ways we could forge a relationship with customers over the holiday season and show a different side to Lowe’s,” said Lowe’s vice president of lowes.com Tammara Combs. Many people know the company as a place to go for do-it-yourself home repair, but they might not have considered the retailer for home decor and holiday gifts, she said.

The center was not advertised outside YouTube, but a video about it appeared on the YouTube home page for several days, and the site is still running ads in other spots. Partner sites have links to the channel, and if someone watches an included video, a pop-up ad directs them to the channel.

So far, the channel has garnered 238,675 views on YouTube since it went up last month. Lowe’s and others were able to use videos they had already produced. Lowe’s videos about how to install interlocking tile and replace a toilet have been among the most popular, said Combs.

“The goal of the campaign is “to create more awareness of the type of company we are, the types of products we have and the fact that we are here to help customers,” she said. Unlike print media, online video is interactive, measurable and costs less per eyeball than print, she said. It is too early to say if the campaign will affect sales, she added.

While retailers should not necessarily expect an uptick in store sales as the result of an online campaign, especially a branding campaign, OfficeMax saw a 3.5 percent lift after it ran back-to-school videos and no other ads in the quarter, said John McAteer, Google’s head of retail.

Sephora created a promotion called Mistletoe Makeover that shows up as an ad on top of related search results on Google. At Mistletoemakeover.com, participants can get a digital makeover and create and send an animated digital holiday card with their new look. They upload a photo and the site offers four looks with a variety of colors.

J.C. Penney did a YouTube “home page takeover” for Black Friday this year and last, meaning they bought all the ad spots on YouTube’s home page for the day. Target did the same thing on Cyber Monday. J.C. Penney had videos that it had made specifically for Black Friday with the intention of putting them on YouTube, said McAteer.

There are several ways retailers can advertise on YouTube, which is owned by Google. The latest, launched last month, is to sponsor a video that will come up in paid search on YouTube. Another is to buy an animated overlay that pops up over a video a consumer is watching. Others are to create a contest around video, place a video ad on YouTube’s home page or sponsor a content aggregation program such as the Holiday Solutions Center. Clinique, for example, recently ran an ad that popped up over select fashion videos. Any retailer can upload a video for free.

The down economy may encourage more online campaigns, McAteer said. “My opinion is they will be putting marketing dollars they have remaining into online vehicles, direct response will be more imperative and anything without direct correlation to profit and loss will be on the chopping block,” he said.

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