YouTube has been the undisputed 800-pound gorilla of the online video market since the beginning of time. And it's key message to advertisers at last night's "Brandcast" NewFront event was to emphatically remind them of its massive size and its reach into the youth market, factors it believes should drive advertisers' attention and spending.
Whereas last year's Brandcast was all about the 100 new channels that YouTube was funding/launching, this year's event was more of a return to its roots: it's ability to give native digital talent the platform to reach and grow huge audiences. Because a lot of this talent resonates first and foremost with younger digital natives (in Nielsen parlance "Generation C"), YouTube says it's in a unique position to deliver these audiences. YouTube cited Nielsen data that it reaches more 18-34-year-olds than any cable network.
In a blog post, YouTube also revealed results of a new study with Ipsos, which found that 66% of Gen C spend as much time watching online videos as they do TV, with a third actually watching more online video. Other key findings: 46% think of YouTube as an alternative to TV and 51% say a product video on YouTube swayed their purchase decision.
But of course it's not just young people who watch YouTube. Robert Kyncl, VP and Global Head of Content Partnerships reminded attendees that YouTube now draws 1 billion unique viewers per month who watch 6 billion hours of video, up 50% vs. last year. While YouTube wants to be seen as separate from TV, Kyncl also noted that traditional media itself is paying attention, with investments in YouTube-related companies from Time Warner, Bertlesmann, Discovery and Comcast among others. The latest link came just yesterday as DreamWorks acquired AwesomenessTV, the kid-focused YouTube video network.
So on the one hand YouTube wants to position its content and viewer experience as different from TV, but on the other hand it wants to be embraced by mainstream media. YouTube has had a similar challenge in advertising for a while now too - wanting to be seen and bought differently than TV, though still wanting to access TV ad dollars that are spent according to well-established metrics. That YouTube is part of Google, where challenging convention is baked into their DNA, only heightens the challenge.
One key takeaway here is that it is still early days for online video advertising, and even the biggest player, like YouTube, are figuring things out as they go along. However, as audiences continue shifting their viewing patterns to online, it is inevitable that advertisers will follow.