The campaign--which was live for just 24 hours on the Thursday prior to opening--included an ad unit featuring a digital clock counting down to the movie's premiere the next day. That Friday, the movie opened and Walt Disney rolled over in his grave.
I went to YouTube, and sure enough, snapped a screen shot of the Disney ad. The Leaderboard unit featuring a clock and the dreaded yet lovable Pirate Jack Sparrow, served above a video posted by a user name of "pornograhphyking" (sic). The video depicts a scantily dressed young woman in her undergarments, her legs spread, and her hand motioning to the viewer to join her in bed. Is this the kind of exposure YouTube's director of marketing was referring to when she said the deal was a "milestone"?
If advertisers choose to use Youtube to extend their brands' reach, well, it is their money to spend. The issue here is not porn or racy content, but rather, the lack of transparency companies like Youtube choose to operate under. Is Disney aware its brand drove through a red-light district?
Companies like YouTube and MySpace, the anointed leaders in the consumer-generated content space, must have an idea of what percentage of their content is rated R, or lives near X. Yet they both continue to boast audience numbers through the roof, without mentioning what percentage of this user-generated inventory is for adults but not advertisers.
Both MySpace and YouTube could take a leadership position in this space by implementing a rating system for all of their pages. I am sure the technology exists to do so, and this would allow advertisers to to purchase inventory based on these ratings, the way they can choose which movies their ads appear prior to, in movie theaters. Then adult-oriented products like some video games, beer companies and erectile dysfunction drugs can choose appropriate content and inventory best suited for their brands, and companies like Disney can purchase impressions generated by page views that reflect their brand more appropriately.
Until this rating system occurs, advertisers and their buyers, who enjoy the low prices consumer-generated content networks put on the table, should take a step back from YouTube, MySpace, and other less celebrated but similarly postured consumer generated outlets, and look at these opportunities in a more proper context.
First, let me ask, how many advertisers would personally attend a consumer-generated baseball game? Consumer-generated content and the outlets that empower its production are phenomenal on many levels, but traditional forms of advertising on this nontraditional media form, begs the question. Just because you can, does not mean you should.
Secondly and more specifically, YouTube is not an advertising vehicle, but rather a distribution outlet. It is more like a newsstand than a magazine. It may offer millions upon millions of "self published magazines" in a video format every day, but the destination itself is not a traditional place for advertising. If it were, you would see ads placed around newsstands--which may not be a bad idea, but would you hang your ad above the porn section?
This past week, senior media moguls fawned all over Chad Hurley, founder of YouTube, at the annual Silicon Valley media retreat, while millions upon millions of page views served on his site continued to show advertisers why consumer-generated content is not ready to play in the brand advertising space yet. Those who choose to forge milestone deals without proper filters in place should beware of Pirates.
(Note: If you want to see the screen capture I referred to, please email me at Ari@performancepricing.com.)