YouTube made good in lavish style on its vow to bring its most popular content creators center stage with a full-tilt “Brandcast” event April 30 that set a high bar for the many rivals at this week’s NewFronts in New York. Making the case to more than 2,000 ad buyers at the Theater at Madison Square Garden that their clients need to have significant presence on the video platform, the company repeatedly brought home the previously announced concept known as Google Preferred, which favors the top 5% of channels. Some of these creators — chef Jamie Oliver, Vice Media, Funny or Die — are pretty much household names. But others are less so. Rainn Wilson, star of NBC’s The Office, started a production entity and YouTube channel with a spiritual bent called Soul Pancake. Bethany Mota started a channel at age 13 and now, at 18, has 5.4 million subscribers, more than Lady Gaga. Plus, she has a clothing line at Aeropostale and draws massive crowds to mall appearances.
Unlike other presentations in this packed week, there was less emphasis on new series or talent relationships. The goal appeared to be to simply shine a light on the content hiding, at least to some on Madison Avenue, in plain sight. Nevertheless, there were performances from Five Percenters Janelle Monae and Pharrell Williams, extending YouTube’s streak of delivering strong musical acts to the NewFronts crowd. But for all the “Happy” time, there was also a relentless focus — in an event that stretched to nearly two hours — on ROI. Frank Cooper, CMO, PepsiCo, took the stage to tout the company’s 50% increase in spending on YouTube in the past year. Its “Uncle Drew” Pepsi Max spots garnered 52 million views. “While the campaigns of years past have launched, lived and succeeded largely on TV, the data paints a different picture of the future,” Cooper said. “People are now spending more time with online media than they are with traditional med. So the idea of relying solely on TV to drive your brand is not a particularly sane one-especially when Nielsen data tells us that YouTube reaches more 18 to 34 year olds and even more 18-49-year-olds- than cable TV.” DigitasLBi followed to announce that it has signed the first agency deal with Google Preferred.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who has been in the job only since the start of the year, noted that three of the top 10 trending videos of 2013 were ads. In a relaxed set of opening remarks, she depicted YouTube as an all-around resource whose growth is tied to its ubiquity. “My parents always told me if I wanted to learn about something I should look it up in the encyclopedia,” she said. “Today, people learn about the world by looking things up on YouTube.”
The night also brought the first glimpse of DreamWorks TV, the new channel launching this summer. Robert Kyncl, head of content and business operations, noted a series of deals of late — DreamWorks’ $33 million pickup of Awesomeness TV, Disney’s $1 billion buy of Maker Studios and Fox’s $70 million purchase of a 5% stake in Vice — which he said prove YouTube’s viability. He said DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg “finally realized his dream of having a kids network. And he didn’t do that on broadcast or cable. He did it on YouTube, because that’s where his audience lives.”