Google Preferred launches in Canada

WPP, Publicis and Omnicom sign on as charter agency partners

Google has announced the Canadian debut of Google Preferred, its premium YouTube ad sales platform.

Google first launched Preferred last spring in the U.S. as a dedicated ad sales platform for the top 5% of YouTube content. Rather than selling ad impressions through regular channels, like the DoubleClick ad exchange, Google decided to sell its best YouTube inventory on a limited, upfront basis, similar to the way TV inventory is sold.

As in the U.S. and the U.K., Canada’s version of Google Preferred will sell the top 5% of YouTube directly to select agency partners.

So far, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP have signed on to have early access to the platform, which will beginning running ads in May. The initial partners were selected based on multimillion-dollar global commitments each of the three holding companies have made with Google in the past year.

Other buyers who are willing to make large-scale agreements with Google will have access to the Google Preferred platform beginning in July.

“Aside from the growth of YouTube, what shaped the Google Preferred product was listening to the market,” said Christos Nikitopoulos, head of agency development at Google Canada. “[Advertisers] were asking for a video product that really gets closer to YouTube’s best content.”

YoutTube channels available on Google Preferred will be selected based on a “preference score,” which combines standard viewership metrics and user engagement metrics like comments and shares. Month-to-month selections for Google Preferred Canada will be made independently of other markets, based on Canadian user metrics.

Nikitopoulos said he expects there will be a mix of Canadian content along with U.S. and international content.

Advertisers will not be able to buy inventory on specific channels, but will instead have the option to buy either audience demos or verticals. Standard age and gender demos will be available, as well as 13 verticals, including entertainment, beauty and fashion, comedy, music and one for French language content.

Once they’ve made an up-front commitment, participating agencies will be able to submit weekly IOs specifying the verticals they want to target. Nikitopoulos said the partners will have flexibility to shift their spend around from season to season, to make an annual budget plan that makes sense for them.

The total amount of inventory available on the platform will be limited, though he could not discuss how many total impressions would be sold. Last year in the U.S., Google Preferred “sold out” in October just like a TV upfront offering.

Engagement just as important as reach

Though Google expected the U.S. Preferred upfront to sell out last year, Nikitopoulos said it was so popular it hit its target earlier than anticipated. In total 100 brands served ads on the platform, 30 of whom had never advertised with YouTube before.

Google conducted brand lift studies on all 100 campaigns, and found that on average, Preferred drove 80% lift in brand recall. Brand awareness rose 17% on average (considered an impressive number for well-established multinational brands).

“We’ve looked at the brand lift metrics against the preference score, and what we see is, the higher the preference score, the higher the brand lift study. So there’s a direct correlation between recall and engagement,” Nikitopoulos said. “We know that instinctively, but now we can actually back that up with research.”

According to ComScore, YouTube reaches 84% of the Canadian population 18-49. Nikitopoulos highlighted that over 50% of its video views are on mobile, a channel that marketers have had difficulty investing in thanks to a lack of quality inventory and reliable measurement tools.

“A stat that I think is underappreciated is that watch time on YouTube is up 50% year-over-year,” he said. “Within the community in the past, people would either graze or jump on a trending video, but when watch time starts going up that much [we’re seeing] people are choosing that as their source of entertainment in many cases.

“Users have really become fans. They participate, they engage with the content, it’s lean-in versus lean-back, active versus passive engagement, and really getting in on an immersive and engaging experience that really only we can offer.”

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