IT was not that long ago when Madison Avenue believed that Web video — also known as webisodes, online video and Web series — would replace television, or at least put a big dent into the ability of TV to reach consumers.
Now, however, as more marketers turn to Web video, many are increasingly doing so along with — rather than in place of — television.
Take, for instance, “The Next Round Served Up by Jim Beam,” a Web series for Jim Beam bourbon that ESPN plans to introduce on April 4. Although the webisodes will be on ESPN.com, excerpts will appear during the first commercial breaks on 11 p.m. episodes of “SportsCenter” on the ESPN cable channel.
“We feel very strongly that video is video,” said Ed Erhardt, president for the ESPN customer marketing and sales unit of ESPN in New York, part of the Walt Disney Company.
Another example is provided by the Bertolli unit of Unilever, which promoted “Into the Heart of Italy” — a Web series that began this week — with commercials on ABC. One spot ran during the Academy Awards broadcast on March 7 and a second appeared in an episode of “Desperate Housewives.”
Some Web series use familiar television faces as hosts. Among them are “Fan vs. Wild” for another Unilever brand, Degree antiperspirant, which features Bear Grylls of the Discovery cable series “Man vs. Wild,” and “In the Kitchen,” for the Jenn-Air appliances sold by Whirlpool, which features Tori Ritchie, a chef and author.
And as American Express and Constellation Brands team up for “Pairings,” a Web series about food, wine and music that went live on Thursday, its creator, GreenLight Media and Marketing, is considering proposing a series based on the webisodes to a cable television channel.
The pairings of Web video and television reflect a school of thought that the old and new media can coexist and perhaps even benefit from each other. That idea has been reinforced recently by growing audiences for the Super Bowl and other big events on TV. They seem to be stimulated by blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter, enabling viewers to discuss together what they are watching separately.
“When digital came in, people said, ‘No one is going to watch TV,’ ” said Gloria Rosenberg, president at Market Fusion Analytics in New York, a consult firm that helps advertisers develop growth strategies.
But as it turns out, “there’s a synergy and not a cannibalization,” she added, which is leading marketers to “create integrated communications programs” involving multiple media.
For example, the Jim Beam Web series will be supported not only with TV but also with ESPN Radio, ESPN the Magazine and displays in stores.
“This is primarily driven as a Web series, using ESPN.com as a lever,” said Kevin George, chief marketing officer at the Beam Global Spirits and Wine division of Fortune Brands in Deerfield, Ill., “and each piece of the program plays a different role, all the way down to retail.”
“Digital is important because our guys are watching online video a ton,” Mr. George said, referring to the men at whom the campaign is aimed, “and ad recall on digital is great.”
Still, “the TV part is nice,” he added, because “it gets you the awareness.”
This week, the Principal Financial Group introduced a campaign, “America rebuilds,” centered on a Web site with video clips featuring experts like Jean Chatzky. The campaign, by the Los Angeles office of TBWA/Chiat/Day, part of the TBWA Worldwide division of the Omnicom Group, includes a sponsorship of the “Building Up America” series on the CNN cable channel.
“I’m a big believer in using all the tools in the toolbox,” said Mary O’Keefe, chief marketing officer at Principal in Des Moines. “People can get the information however they like to.”
In developing the online video for “Pairings,” said Dominic Sandifer, president and managing partner at GreenLight in Los Angeles, “we made sure during production that we captured enough great content and story line” to create sample episodes of a TV version.
A television version would “take an even deeper look at the creative collaborations and inspirations” of the celebrities who appear in the webisodes, he added, including the musicians Dave Matthews and John Legend and the chefs John Besh and Tom Colicchio.
Of course, not all Web video has a television counterpart. For instance, “Undercover” — a weekly Web series created and produced by A. V. Club, part of The Onion — can be watched only online. (The Onion does offer computer users make-believe TV, with video clips on sections of theonion.com called Onion News Network and Onion Sports Network.)
“Undercover,” which began on Tuesday, presents 25 new music acts like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and the Retribution Gospel Choir. They were invited to perform cover versions of 25 rock standards like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Kokomo.”
The first eight webisodes are sponsored by Starbucks, which gets an old-school “Brought to you by” acknowledgment. Budweiser, sold by the Anheuser-Busch unit of Anheuser-Busch InBev, was signed on Wednesday as a second sponsor, said Steve Hannah, president and chief executive at The Onion.
Asked why he sought sponsors for the Web series, Mr. Hannah replied, “Because we want to pay for it.”
“Contrary to what the world thinks about The Onion,” he said, laughing, “we are rapacious capitalists.”