Too Much Of An Awesome Thing: YouTube's 'Preferred' Gives Advertisers A Top Shelf

Every presenting company at NewFronts hopes to leave this message for advertisers: Now, we’ve got the goods. 

For Google's YouTube, which basically just put on a spectacular show for its customers on Wednesday night, the message was almost the opposite: We have so much content we had to winnow it down for you.

At its Brandcast event, YouTube explained its new Google Preferred now allows advertisers to just buy into a small sliver of the YouTube content universe--its most popular 5% of content in music and entertainment and food.

That presumably lessens the possibility an advertiser’s message will find itself fronting for material that is offensive, off-putting or just awful. Preferred advertisers also get measurement data that helps them know how what they’re buying is really performing and guarantees their ads reach who they want to watch, as often as they want to reach ‘em.

YouTube plays in a different league in terms of viewership. It says it reaches six times more 18-­34s than the top top 5 "full episode" video sites combined. Besides that, it changed the world too, don't forget.

The evening’s biggest business deal announcement was that Digitas LBi became the first ad agency to sign on to Google Preferred. Tony Weisman, the CEO,  said the new ad feature is  “undeniable evidence that there is scarcity in premium online video and it is a marketplace at an exciting tipping point.”

Limiting where preferred commercials can go still leaves a lot of turf, ever growing. YouTube says 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute and 4 billion videos are viewed every day. I’d like to say, so you do the math right about here, but I don’t even know what you’d be adding up.

The “scarcity” bit got brought up a few times from stage throughout the night, but it seems if there is any at all it’s because YouTube tried to create it, the way the Oakland A’s screen off part of the stadium to visually shrink the size of the arena.    

The plain fact is the top 5% of content is still massive, and in a way seems to cut advertisers from the strange ritual of viral discovery. 

Still, the glory of YouTube are all the stars found in the cheap seats. One of those walk-on hits, 18-year-old Bethany Mota, appeared at the YouTube event to explain her innocent first video five years ago, when she was just a bullied junior-high-school student. Now she has her own clothing line and millions of followers. Yesterday, prior to the event, she greeted her 1,000 young fans, who she tried to talk to personally. It’s just kind of sweet, and awesome in a rare, legitimate use of the word, and I found myself using it again when Pharrell Williams closed the night with “Happy,” that became a viral hit with 213 million views.

Last year, Jeffrey Katzenberg from DreamWorks was at the show to announce the acquisition of the Awesomeness suite  of channels. This year, YouTube used the event to announce that a new DreamWorks channel would be starting a family channel on YouTube, completing the loop everyone more or less expected would happen when Katzenberg walked on stage last year. 

It could have been left unsaid (but wasn’t) that DreamWorks could have pursued its own channel in a lot of places, but went where its customers are.

Margo Georgiadis, ­ Google’s vice president of sales for the Americas, boasted: ”YouTube is now the No. 1 place 18­-34­ year­ olds go to learn about a product or passion that interests them. They’re four times more interested in watching ads on YouTube than anywhere else.”

Susan Wojcicki, ­ the relatively new CEO at YouTube, told how her two 18-24 kids use YouTube in illuminating ways; not surprisingly, everybody else on stage did too, from Shane Smith, the CEO of Vice Media to Shabnam Mogharabi ­ CEO, SoulPancake, a spiritual and values channel, to Frank Cooper, the marketing chief for Pepsi, who said the brand’s investment in YouTube has grown 50% in the last year alone.
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