Last night, I caught up for dinner with Olivier Bassil, one of the co-founders behind the exclusive video-sharing site Squa.re. I have known the team behind Squa.re from its early days, and like all new Internet businesses, I have seen it go through its fair share of fits and starts.
But, its core video proposition continues to hold promise and Olivier and his passionate team, which includes former Warner Music executive Paul-Rene Albertini as CEO and a key mentor, have been tweaking their original model and will unveil a re-design of the site in the early Autumn which will improve the user experience, introduce a directory feature which catalogs all the content, and establish a VIP area, enabling members to find each other more easily.
So what does this have to do with fashion, you ask?
Well, Squa.re's lavish members who travel the world and attend glamorous events (and the video voyeurs who aspire to these lifestyles) are exactly the types of people who are interested in fashion and luxury. A few brands are finally switching on to the idea that Internet video is an effective tool for sharing a different side of the brand in a new, permission-based medium (as opposed to interrupting viewers with commercials on traditional media). The best example of this on Squa.re is Chanel, which recently ran two campaigns on the site for its Coco Mademoiselle perfume, firmly planting the legendary brand as a pioneer in the age of Internet video.
In the month of May, a staggering 12 billion video clips were watched on the Internet in the United States alone, primarily on YouTube. In the wake of YouTube's success, other sites like DailyMotion, and Revver, and hundreds of other small sites have been launched, with additional competition from Yahoo, Microsoft and MySpace. Naturally, some of the new video sites are 'verticals', which take slice the audience and focus on niche content targeted at specific communities. Squa.re is one such site which now has 3,000 videos of exclusive content not available elsewhere on the Internet and 70% of Squa.re's members have uploaded at least one video.
But the Chanel/Squa.re campaign was a different proposition altogether. When they brainstormed on how to create a brand identity for Chanel on the site, they came to the same conclusion: "a non-intrusive campaign" (which doesn't overtly promote the brand through commercials) giving a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of a Keira Knightley commercial . Five different episodes were featured on the site and rotated in 2-week long campaigns to give Chanel the most visibility possible. In the end, more than 5000 views of the various episodes were registered and the campaign was discussed on blogs like OhLaLaMag and TechCrunch.
Speaking of which, I challenged Olivier on his decision not to allow viewers to embed videos in order to really capture the viral nature of the Internet. One of the most powerful features of YouTube is the ability to take the video and embed it on blogs, MySpace profiles and the like, to reach the widest audience possible. He said that TechCrunch had a similar response, but that one of the commenters, Vidar, said it best:
They are going for a level of “exclusivity” and status with advertisers that are very cautious (sic) about diluting or weakening their brand's appeal. Many of them certainly would rather reach a smaller, more targeted set of users than be plastered all over some random person's blog.
The Squa.re site, in other words, ensures that Chanel is seen in an environment in tune with the brand's luxury positioning. What do you think? Does controlled distribution in a luxurious setting outweigh the value of Internet video's wide reach?
If you would like to become a member of Squa.re, email Olivier and team at email@example.com. Otherwise, you can view the videos without registering at www.squa.re