Top 10 Takeaways from YouTube's 2019 Brandcast

The 2019 YouTube Brandcast featured a ton of announcements that concern creators and advertisers. Here are the top 10 takeaways you should know.

1. The New Primetime is "Personal”

At Brandcast, Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, said “the new primetime is personal.” She added, “Most people say the content they watched on YouTube is related to something that they are passionate about. And according to our joint research with Omnicom, relating to a passion is three times more important than whether or not there’s a big Hollywood name attached.”

Now, we should have seen this trend coming months before Brandcast was held. At the beginning of March, Think with Google published “Forget about primetime. To attract viewers, follow their passions.” And in April, that was followed by “6 industry leaders on the changing nature of primetime.

So, how does this impact you? Well, there’s still a lot of idle chatter these days that video viewers have shorter attention spans than goldfish. People scrolling through their Facebook News Feed may watch videos autoplay for only a couple of seconds, but the average viewing session on YouTube lasts more than 40 minutes. And viewers aren’t “snacking” on a random assortment of 300 videos for an average of eight seconds each during the typical 40-minute session. So, what are they doing?

People are delving deeply into topics that they truly care about for long stretches of time and skipping content that isn’t relevant or interesting after eight seconds. And, in a world where viewers have total control and a seemingly endless amount of content to choose from, this means traditional primetime has been replaced by highly engaged personal primetimes. Personal relevance and passion are now the key drivers of engagement, with over 60% of consumers who’ve watched something on YouTube in the past 24 hours saying it was related to something they’re passionate about. And, as viewer passion takes center stage, marketers must rethink their approach to video from creating “snackable” content to building long watch-time sessions that maximize viewer engagement and satisfaction.

2. YouTube is Taking Responsibility Seriously

At Brandcast, Wojcicki said, “Let me be very clear, living up to our responsibility is my number one priority. And we are making significant progress. My leadership team and I – along with thousands of people at YouTube – are laser-focused on this.”

For additional context, you can read her recent post in the YouTube Creators Blog, which says, “We’re always balancing maintaining an open platform with managing our community guidelines. But to combat a number of concerning incidents we’ve seen in the last few months, we’ve had to take more aggressive action.” In February, YouTube announced the suspension of comments on most YouTube videos that feature minors. And in March, YouTube took unprecedented action in the wake of the Christchurch tragedy.

And if you haven’t already, you should also read Daisuke Wakabayashi’s recent article in The New York Times, which is entitled, “The Most Measured Person in Tech Is Running the Most Chaotic Place on the Internet.” The article concludes, “After a long conversation, Ms. Wojcicki became introspective. She said she joined Google because she wanted to do something meaningful with her life, and saw the company’s mission of helping people find the right information as inspiring. But now she recognizes that her ultimate legacy will be whether YouTube can get a handle on its problems.”

3. YouTube TV Lineup Available in Google Preferred

YouTube TV’s 70 broadcast and cable channels will now be available as its own lineup in the Google Preferred reservation program during this upfront season. This change, along with audience guarantees and show-level exclusions, allows advertisers to zero in on live and on-demand inventory. And most importantly, brands can go beyond demographics to reach audiences based on their interests – just like with the core Google Preferred offerings.

What does this mean? Well, it depends. If this pulls more ad dollars out of TV budgets and shifts them to YouTube, then a rising tide may lift all boats – including your channel(s). If it doesn’t, then the giant sucking sound that you will hear is live sports, news, and shows on 70 broadcast and cable channels taking a bigger piece of the video advertising pie chart.

4. Karate-chopping the Paywall for “Originals”

At Brandcast, YouTube also announced that all of its forthcoming original series and specials will soon be available for fans around the world to watch for free with ads - just like they enjoy everything else on the platform. In addition, YouTube also unveiled a new and returning slate of original series and specials focused on music, learning and personalities that will all be free with ads, including seasons 1 and 2 of “Cobra Kai” beginning this fall.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, “Cobra Kai”, which stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, is a critically-acclaimed scripted series that picks up the Karate Kid storyline decades after the original film. In its rookie season, “Cobra Kai” received an Emmy nomination, the Golden Tomato Award for Best TV Drama, and a 100-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes – making it the highest-reviewed reboot of all time. And just after its season two premiere last month, which reached 20 million views in six days, Parrot Analytics confirmed Cobra Kai is the most in-demand digital original series in the world right now. And you can binge-watch season 1 for free from August 29 to September 11 and then binge-watch season 2 for free starting on September 11.

5. Celebrating Creator and Influencer Success Stories

At Brandcast, Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s Chief Business Officer, said, “Creators are driving record audiences to YouTube.” He added, “200 million people come to YouTube every single day just to watch gaming videos. That’s twice the audience of this year’s Super Bowl.” And he reveal that, “Over the last three years, the number of channels with over 1 billion views has grown by 400 percent.”

Kyncl concluded, “But creators aren’t just driving big numbers...they’re also redefining culture. They are using YouTube to break through to a generation of early adopters; the same way that 20th century media icons did through television and print.”

And several YouTube creators and influencers spoke at this year’s Brandcast, including Coby Cotton of Dude Perfect and Tiffany Haddish. Cotton said, “Ten years ago, we were just 5 college roommates at Texas A&M trying our best to balance studying with, what always seemed like, one too many intramural sports. Today, we’ve turned our passion into a career, and we’re grateful to now be one of the most watched creators on all of YouTube with 41 million subscribers and 7.7 billion views.” And Haddish added, “I’m a mechanic now, because of YouTube. I’m a therapist. I’m an ordained minister. I’m a reiki healer now. I can also make Red Bottom shoes, but you can’t walk that far, because they turn into brown bottoms. I can build a house from the ground up. I’m a carpenter now. I can do hair. I can do anything because of YouTube. I think it’s the most awesome thing in the world.”

6. YouTube is Updating its Algorithm for Google Preferred

YouTube announced it is updating its P-score algorithm to include more of the content that is frequently watched on the TV screen and content that exhibits higher production value. How significant is this going to be? Well, Wojcicki said watch time of YouTube on television screens alone tops 250 million hours per day. Now, more than 70% of YouTube watch time still comes from mobile devices. So, the smartphone is still your first screen. But, the connected TV is going to be a significant screen, too.

So, when creating content, here’s what you need to know: Google Preferred preference score combs through YouTube’s vast video troves to select among the top 5% of engaging and popular channels on YouTube “taking into consideration, the popularity of the channel and the passion of the audience and a higher bar for brand suitability.” So, if that’s the kind of content that you’re creating, then you should benefit very nicely from the Google Preferred Update.

7. Sales Lift Studies for Google Preferred Campaigns

At Brandcast, YouTube also announced that Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS) will be available for Google Preferred campaigns before the end of 2019. The tool will measure lift in offline sales for U.S. consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, and provide deeper performance insights across audiences and creative.

Now, this is a big deal. Looking at the Nielsen Matched Panel Analysis (MPA) studies that YouTube has run to date, more than 70 percent of YouTube campaigns drove a significant lift in offline sales. So, document sales lift could act as a giant magnet that attracts even more CPG advertising to YouTube. If you create content in the food & recipes category, then drinks are on you tonight.

8. Kicking Sand in TV’s Face

At Brandcast, YouTube shared some new research that revealed:

  • YouTube has the highest share in reach and watch time among all ad supported OTT platforms, according to Comscore OTT Intelligence and Custom Reporting.)
  • And more than half of 18- to 49-year-olds in the US are either light viewers of TV or do not subscribe, but over 90% of these people watch YouTube, according to a study commissioned by Google and conducted by Nielsen study.

Now, TV once made fun of the little video sharing site that featured funny cat videos, which is the equivalent of kicking sand in the face of a 97-pound weakling. But, the platform has built an audience the way that bodybuilders develop a powerful physique. So, no one is making fun of YouTube anymore.

9. Driving Results for Advertisers

YouTube also shared new research about the impact of advertising on the platform: Across all Marketing Mix Modeling studies that YouTube has commissioned with Nielsen in the past 2 years, Google Preferred had greater sales per impression than TV in all of them.

  • Across the Total Audience Ratings (TAR) studies that YouTube has commissioned with Nielsen, YouTube has consistently driven incremental reach at a much more balanced frequency vs. TV. On average, over 50% of the target audience reached by YouTube was incremental to TV. TV required on average 5X the frequency of YouTube to hit reach goals.
  • YouTube’s Google Preferred ads on TV screens drove a significant lift in Ad Recall and Purchase Intent, with an average lift of 112% and 53% respectively.

This is great news for most YouTube creators. The only exceptions might be ones like the Green brothers, who revealed in 2015 that less than 20% of their company’s revenue comes from advertising.

10. Showcasing Advertiser Success Stories

Finally, YouTube showcased an advertiser success story at Brandcast. Alison Lewis, the Global CMO of Johnson & Johnson, said, “YouTube also gives us a direct line to our audience, allowing us to engage with them on their passions. And YouTube helps us to reach audiences we can’t with TV.”

Lewis added, “We can reach the health-conscious person at the gym; the frequent flyer on the go; the young professional commuting to work and many more. Not only that, we’re able to customize our messages on the fly, evolving as fast as the weather changes.” She continued, “Using data-inspired creativity, we increased our sales. We engaged with a previously untapped audience. And, we converted them into customers. Throughout it all, we relied on YouTube’s insights to adapt again and again. The launch of the campaign was only the beginning.”

Lewis concluded, “Today, we no longer look at digital as an add-on. We know it works and we know it delivers a better return on our investment. That’s why we’ve increased our YouTube spend 250% since 2015.”

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