Video chat site gives brands another forum for discussion

Chatroulette, the video chat site, is providing brands with new mediums for advertising.

What: Online video chat site Chatroulette connects users from around the world via web cams and video chats. At first, the site seems risky for brands, as it is known for nudity and very quick interactions. However, several companies are slowly testing the waters. Among them is Travelocity, which put its Traveling Gnome behind the web cam.

"The gnome is our icon, consumers recognize him," explains Joel Frey, senior PR manager for Travelocity. "It seems like a simple execution, putting him in front of a web cam and going onto Chatroulette."

How: Travelocity has "someone there to staff and talk to people," Frey says. While on Chatroulette, the company engages consumers about travel, the gnome, or Travelocity as a brand.

Steve Rubel, SVP and director of insights for Edelman Digital, suggests participation on the site can be another arm of a social media strategy. "I would think about what is the overall strategy and where the platform could fit in," he says.

Why: "We're seeing the evolution of the simple text chats turning into something more visual," explains Attention PR founder Curtis Hougland. While Chatroulette may be "the Wild West of the web right now, I do expect the technology to stay," he adds.

Being a part of that is important for brands that want to stay on top of social media trends, Frey says, noting that when consumers see Travelocity on Chatroulette, it helps the brand increase its reputation as a leader in social media.

Who: Clothing company French Connection UK used Chatroulette for a recent contest where men were challenged to get a real date by using the site. Musicians have also used it to introduce their songs to people.

Hougland and Rubel say they are monitoring the service for their clients. Attention even created Chatroulette Bingo as a fun way to learn more about the site. l

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