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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A New Realm in Digital Advertising – VidCon 2014

Young content creators at the YouTube convention VidCon  (Source: Los Angeles Times)

As someone who has created popular content on YouTube in the past, I am always keeping tabs on the changes in the landscape of this online community. Over the past few years, one of the notable differences that I’ve observed (as both a creator, and viewer) is the number of blue chip brands (Coke, Veet, Revlon etc) sponsoring the videos of big name YouTubers.

For years, brands have been sending Internet bloggers free products in a bid for them to eventually talk about (and review) them in a blog or vlog post. However, it’s only recently that they have been investing what I assume to be big money in actually requesting a YouTuber to dedicate a whole video to their brand – either demonstrating the use of their product, reviewing it, or even just conveying the brand’s message to their viewers. Part of what makes it so worthwhile for the brands involved is that they have direct access to an existing community of viewers that have similar, or all the characteristics of their target market.

It is therefore no surprise that CNBC reports that YouTube invited over 100 brands to attend its annual online video convention, Vidcon, over the weekend. This is apparently the first time that such a large number of brands have become directly involved with this convention, with the likes of Kia, Penguin Books, Cannon, Taco Bell and even Samsung sponsoring the event. And with over 18,000 fans, and some of YouTube’s biggest creators in attendance, it is no doubt becoming an important, and almost necessary platform for brands to connect with the new wave of influencers and opinion leaders in digital media.

Attendees at VidCon interacting with Cannon photography equipment (Source: Los Angeles Times)

As mentioned in the same CNBC article, Fullscreen (a company managing YouTube talent and advertisers) CEO George Strompoloss is noted as saying that “brands are creators too. The brands want to create more content to touch consumers, and ultimately want to find ways to reach audiences, and particularly young audiences.” What brands seem to be recognising is that younger generations are engaging less with traditional touch points such as TV, or magazine advertising, and instead are curating their own viewing content on platforms like YouTube.

In saying that, although there is great opportunity for brands to connect with consumers through this platform, they still need to understand that part of the appeal of YouTube is the control viewers have in choosing, and viewing content they are interested in. When brands start to interrupt the viewing experience of these consumers, especially by directly sponsoring video content, there is a chance that it may actually disgruntle viewers, instead of inspiring them.

So the real challenge for brands interested in this new advertising activity, and in YouTube advertising as a whole, is to create relevant and interesting content that viewers don’t mind being interrupted to watch. Whether it is extremely engaging ads being played before a video, or sponsoring content that viewers will have a genuine interest in learning about – the opportunities are endless, and no doubt the world’s biggest brands are starting to see this.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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