YouTube’s Brandcast: When the real NewFront celebrities are brands

By Jason Smith, Managing Director, Digital Investment Lead, Chicago

While YouTube’s Brandcast featured no shortage of celebrities per usual (including Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Trevor Noah, and Tyler Oakley), the real heavy hitters of the night were actually the brands and agencies represented onstage.

The event kicked off with a sizzle reel of major brands like Mercedes, Johnson & Johnson, 20th Century Fox, along with agencies such as GroupM’s own Susan Schiekofer, proclaiming support and validation of YouTube being one of the most important digital performance partners for their businesses and the industry at large.  Kellogg’s Deanie Elsner (President, U.S. Snacks) conducted a 5-10 min keynote of sorts reviewing YouTube’s success in driving down-funnel performance for their brand.  She was open and honest about the brand having 0 spend on YouTube 2-3 years ago, with YouTube now making up 60-70 percent of their overall marketing mix (not just digital) and a 300% increase year-over-year.

Overall the entire event was very strategic.  The size of the audience (basically saying, “Hey TV – we’re here, we’re BIG, and we’re only getting stronger”), the overt endorsements of the world’s biggest brands and agencies (serious FOMO strategy for other marketers), and even including Trevor Noah as a way of saying, “Hey, we embrace news” – all very well-done.

What else caught my eye.  It wasn’t so much the new content announcements, but rather the number of tweaks to existing products built to meet advertiser demand:

— YouTube reminding the audience of its recent transparency report, reiterating how the platform flags and manages inappropriate content, and the progress they’ve made in averting some of the noted brand safety challenges over the past year with the use of AI and human review.

— Several updates to YouTube targeting and content, aimed at improving quality and measurement outcomes, including YouTube TV programming within Google Preferred. They also reiterated a number enhanced targeting options, including light TV viewer segments, Nielsen Catalina Solutions shopper data targeting, and TrueView for Action – aimed at allowing brands to buy YouTube against specific performance metrics.

— YouTube also reconfirmed its growing use and acceptance of industry- endorsed third party measurement and validation: Nielsen, MOAT and others.

But most notable of all was that the scale and seriousness of YouTube’s brand and agency endorsements puts non-conforming brands on the defensive. Essentially if you walked out of there and weren’t buying YouTube, you’d feel like an outsider and behind the times. With the addition of light TV targeting, brand safety enhancements, and more, I would be surprised if YouTube didn’t see an increased level of demand, specifically for Google Preferred. Getting in early will be critical for any brand looking to make a measured impact on their baseline video investment and performance.

What was different about this event from the types of deals we drive with partners every day? Given the brand discussions and product developments at Brandcast, it’s spurred some thinking about how to continue positioning YouTube in a measured light TV viewer strategy. Redistributing YouTube investment from saturated, heavy TV viewers into newer but equally as important viewing quintiles can potentially further grow and sustain your brand.