YouTube Pulse event shows how brands can make most of the platform

If it weren’t for YouTube, we wouldn’t know what it looks like when Norwegian army troops spazz out to a dubstep track or when a cat repeatedly wrestles open a freezer door or how a mathematician makes paper snowflakes. The platform that has given power to the camera-wielding masses and made celebrities out of former, […]

If it weren’t for YouTube, we wouldn’t know what it looks like when Norwegian army troops spazz out to a dubstep track or when a cat repeatedly wrestles open a freezer door or how a mathematician makes paper snowflakes.

The platform that has given power to the camera-wielding masses and made celebrities out of former, well, nobodies (hello, Mr. Bieber) hosted an event in Toronto on Monday to highlight how brands can use YouTube to share their messages and stories and interact with their target audiences.

Google Canada’s YouTube Pulse event took place at the TIFF Lightbox, and included a range of case studies, video clips (from the Red Bull space freefall to a tyke coming down from pain medication after dental surgery) and prerecorded interviews with insights from bands such as Karmin that launched their careers using the platform to perform cover songs.

Some of YouTube’s most popular categories, including comedy, sports, music, live events and how-to, were showcased in an attempt to show why brands should, as Google Canada managing director Chris O’Neill said, be excited to build themselves on YouTube.

There’s the reach, for starters. Suzie Reider, director of media solutions at Google, spoke of how more than four billion videos are viewed off the site everyday. It’s the type of strong following that prompted TV producer Simon Cowell to launch his latest series exclusively on YouTube.

Reider also addressed the elephant in the room—will YouTube hinder or help TV? While the C-suite at YouTube has treated the comparisons to TV differently over the years (from a “we don’t want to be compared to TV” attitude to a “we’re kind of like TV” stance), Reider said that YouTube’s take on the issue today is that YouTube isn’t like TV at all. TV is about sitting back and watching, she said, while YouTube is about interacting. “YouTube talks back.”

Marshall Self, head of media solutions at Google Canada, added during this part of the presentation that “YouTube is the new water cooler.” He pointed out that it’s fundamentally different than TV in that “it’s not about viewers, it’s about fans.” It’s a lean-forward platform that prompts engagement and sharing, he said. “It’s connecting to people in a different way.”

In an interview with Marketing after the presentation, Self explained that he thinks TV and YouTube work better together. It’s not as if TV is going anywhere, he said, but YouTube can help brands connect with hard-to-reach audiences. “We’re reaching audiences that aren’t always glued to the TV.”

To that end, he referenced a recent study done with comScore that shows that 25% of respondents aged 18-24 said they’re only watching video online.

Reider noted that YouTube is all about “Generation C,” which she defined as the generation that lives through curating, connecting, creating and community.

Everyone knows what LOL, WTF and YOLO are, but Reider mentioned another acronym that’s linked to the plugged-in masses: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). In the real world, this can apply to someone facing the disappointment of not going to a cool party. For marketers in the YouTube context, though, Reider said it’s about making sure they get into the moment and stay plugged into what’s popular, especially when engaging with the 18-to-34 set.

She made reference to how Fox, for example, came out with its own Simpsons version of the Harlem Shake viral phenomenon shortly after the original was posted and became a top search on YouTube. The network proved it had its finger on the pulse (more specifically, dubstep bass) of what the masses were watching on YouTube. (To date, the “Homer Shake” has more than 29 million YouTube views.)

Beyond broadcast brands, she showed how another company used humour to create content posted on YouTube. This Pepsi Max prank video with racecar driver Jeff Gordon features an unsuspecting car salesperson who is taken on the test drive of his life with the disguised Gordon. “It’s commercial as content,” said Reider.

But back to the kids for a second. Brian Robbins, a California-based TV, film and digital media producer and creator of AwesomenessTV, a YouTube destination aimed at teens, spoke of how his brand has launched more than 20 series in the last year on YouTube. Seem like a lot? That was intentional, said Robbins, who noted that the high volume of content was meant to tap into the content “snacks” that teens today like to consume throughout the day. Whereas adults like to eat meals (i.e. watch particular shows in their entirety), Robbins said kids are more likely to be glued to their devices day and night, constantly checking them and consuming content.

His goal with AwesomenessTV, which was acquired by DreamWorks Animation last month, is to make shows on topics kids care about and will share. He’s found that the key to reaching this young demo is producing content that they can engage with on all devices, and is “funny, shareable and culturally relevant.”

As for brands looking for opportunities to use YouTube to help build themselves, Self offered these three options: prime packages (which are brand-safe environments YouTube has developed for brands which contain top channels that YouTube curates and brands can run media across); sponsorships (brands can sponsor things like style diaries or events on the platform); and starting their own YouTube channel (brands can develop a go-to destination for themselves to showcase their own videos, or those they’ve curated from their fans).

He added that, according to Google Meta Analysis from reach studies that took place in six countries from January 2011 to June 2012, YouTube delivers 3% reach to the average TV campaign. He also noted that these were campaigns in which YouTube was only added on at the end of the media plan, so the campaigns weren’t even optimized for YouTube.

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