Arriving at the Brandcast event held in Australia on 15 October at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion, it was clear that pop culture was going to play a part in the evening’s proceedings. This observation wasn’t informed by a memo detailing what would occur over the course of the evening, but rather by scores of teens with their faces pressed against a fence in the hope of catching a glimpse of somebody famous.
This excitable group of teenagers had gathered outside the Hordern Pavilion in anticipation of seeing Bethany Mota and Troye Sivan. And while it’s understandable for anyone over 25 not to have those names listed in their celebrity catalogues, YouTube wants brands and advertisers to familiarise themselves with this new breed of celebrity.
Mota, who runs the lifestyle channel Macbarbie, has over seven million followers while Troye Sivan, who first caught attention as the lead actor in the film Spud, has over 2.7 million people tuning in on a regular basis to watch his video posts.
From the moment Google’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand Maile Carnegie took to the Brandcast stage, she drew emphasis to the rapid growth of online video watching and how this was creating a new type of celebrity, whose fame isn’t necessarily founded in the traditional media channels.
“There is no doubt that the quality and the extraordinary diversity of content on YouTube is getting better and stronger every single year,” she said. “Australia is actually seeing the emergence of a little bit of an Ozzy-wood of extraordinary YouTube creatives. At YouTube we actually has a magical milestone of a million subscribers, and Australia now has 11 YouTube creatives that have hit this.”
These content creators have contributed to YouTube Australia receiving more than two billion views a month, and Google is now using them as a lure to pull in marketing dollars.
“We’re investing in these stars and we want to make them even bigger names, and we will continue to spotlight our upcoming and top content, and you’ll see us doing that in a variety of ways … For us, it’s the stars like Troye and Bethany and all the other channels on YouTube that are creating the next generation of engaged and passionate audiences and it’s these audiences that are choosing the next generation of winning brands.”
Mota’s work with the retailer Aéropostale was referred to numerous times over the course of the evening as an example of what is possible if brands collaborate with the right creatives in the online space. In late 2013, Mota was signed by clothing company to produce an exclusive line of clothing. Since its launch, Mota’s range of clothing has proved incredibly popular, serving as a stark contrast to the company’s overall sales, which continue to decline. The pull of the starlet is often attributed to the fact that she has garnered a significant following among a younger target market of girls who follow her advice.
“No one is telling me what to say, and I think that’s why the audience really trusts [me] and they really listen, because they know what [I’m] saying is organic and true,” said Mota while standing on stage alongside MC Ruby Rose. “At the end of the day, no matter what I’m making videos about, I’m able to connect with my audience on a personal level, and in the end I’m really allowing them to get to know me, so that includes music or any other things that I’m getting into.”
The emergence of these YouTube stars has become YouTube’s point of difference, in that it offers a level of engagement that has thus far not been possible in traditional channels. Fans are able to communicate with the content creators via the comment section, and at times they can suggest what the next video should be.
Much of the event was aimed at convincing brands to afford the same level of confidence to YouTube advertising as they do to television. When Google’s vice president of global brand solutions Lucas Watson took to stage he pointed to a range of examples of brands that are already using YouTube as a creative outlet to deliver brand messages.
Among these examples was Air New Zealand, which was singled out for changing the way everyone thinks about in-flight safety videos. The point that he made in using this example was that brands are now free to use longer form advertising, and that they don’t have the 30- or 60-second limit that is often the case on television or radio.
However, it’s not reasonable to produce a video from scratch and then expect it to go viral overnight; this happens only in the rarest of instances, and it’s difficult to predict success. Marketers require some level of certainty that their messages will reach at least some members of the target market. And this is largely why television remains the advertiser’s preferred medium in most countries throughout the world.
Watson thinks that the industry is starting to change, in the sense that media agencies are beginning to recognise that YouTube stars also have dedicated viewers, who often tend to fit the profiles of specific brands.
“We’ve created an energy and momentum you can feel,” said Watson. “On YouTube the top 500 brands grew their paid and earned views by more than 70 percent versus a year ago. And media companies are starting to take notice. They’re investing significant capital into YouTube creators that will drive further growth.”
Both Watson and Carnegie said that a common problem brands and agencies face lies in identifying which online channels to invest in, given the sheer extent of the YouTube community.
“We’ve been listening to you [the audience],” said Watson. “You’ve told us that not every brand can be GoPro or Old Spice or Johnnie Walker. And yet you’ve told us that you’d love for your brands to connect with the passionate fans on YouTube in authentic ways. You’ve asked us to get you high quality content that’s safe for your brands. You’ve asked us to make it easy to navigate the sheer volume of YouTube and its four million channels. And you’ve asked us to help you measure YouTube in the same way that you measure television.”
So one of the biggest announcements made on the night was on the launch of Google Preferred, a system that allows agencies to purchase media space on the most popular media channels upfront in much the same way as television ad space has been purchased until now.
“We’ve packaged some of [YouTube’s] most popular, most engaging platforms and fastest growing channels, so that you can be … in an advertising-safe context. We’ve made it easy to buy. We’ve organised it into ten verticals, like sport, food, music and entertainment, all sold like television on a reserve up-front basis. And we’ve made it easy to measure. YouTube, for the first time this year, delivers Nielsen OCR and ComScore’s VCE, reporting the audiences that we deliver to you with third party verification.”
Given the value that lies in this, media agency GroupM snatched at the opportunity and signed a deal with YouTube.
“This upfront commitment means that GroupM will have the first opportunity to reserve some of our top content on YouTube and have the unique ability to geo and demo target against this content,” said Carnegie.
After the event, Watson was asked whether Google Preferred would also be rolled out in New Zealand, but he said that Google was first focusing on the world’s larger markets. He did however add that Google was meeting with 30 agency representatives from New Zealand to discuss how the platform could be used more effectively.
Much like the Brandcast event, Google’s move to meet Kiwis advertisers is about illustrating that the digital channel is evolving into a medium that can, through its content, deliver a targeted audience in much the same way that television has done for decades. It’s about demystifying the online advertising space and providing advertisers with the certainty they need to invest dollars. And given that the YouTube stars are already facilitating conversations between brands and target markets across the ditch, it isn’t far-fetched to imagine something similar happening in the Kiwi context in the near future.
Note: Google provided StopPress with flights and accommodation to attend this event.