How the YouTube Masthead Ad Format Connects with Television Audiences

How the YouTube Masthead Ad Format Connects with Television Audiences

YouTube

We’ve blogged about the fact that in an era of connected TV, audiences are increasingly watching content that advertisers can’t sponsor — there are no ads on Netflix (yet), for example. But Google is sensing and responding to this reality, as evidenced by the launch of the YouTube Masthead ad format for TV. Essentially, YouTube is helping brands find a new way to get onto TV screens — and into the hearts and minds of viewers.

What Is YouTube Masthead for TV?

YouTube Masthead formatted for television is a response to changing viewing habits. Audiences can access YouTube on their TV screens, and because YouTube is free, it represents a new frontier for brand advertising. As described in Instapage, “[a] YouTube Masthead is a digital billboard placed on YouTube’s homepage for 24 hours, reaching roughly 60 million people (YouTube receives 1.8 billion users/month).”

The YouTube Masthead doesn’t use search histories to earmark users based on their interests or demographics (note that you can target a country where you would like an ad to be shown, though). The Masthead simply appears right on the network’s homepage, allowing brands to reach consumers as soon as they access the YouTube app on their TV. The Masthead, which takes up some prominent real estate at the top of the screen, best serves brands that have the desire, and the budget, to maximize exposure across a sweeping, non-targeted audience. On its blog, YouTube provides an example from an early tester, Ford.

Why YouTube Masthead?

In adapting the YouTube Masthead ad format for TV, Google is capitalizing on the fact that while consumers may have cut the cord on linear TV, they are still using their televisions to experience streaming platforms like YouTube. According to the Google blog, “daily [television] watch time tops 250 million hours per day.” TV screens are still a powerful place where brands can enjoy maximum exposure.

And YouTube Masthead ads seemingly deliver. According to Instapage, Google and Compete researched the impact of YouTube homepage ads. Their findings demonstrated that users “exposed to a YouTube Masthead were four times more likely to visit the advertiser’s website, search for their brand, or engage with even more of their videos.” And because YouTube’s content is so diverse (everything from baking tutorials to the Coachella music festival streamed live) the consumer base will be large and diverse, as well.

How to Move Forward with Masthead

Given the broad reach of the YouTube Masthead format, advertisers will want to keep a few things in mind before diving in:

  • Even though Masthead ads are not targeted, it’s important to remember who is drawn to YouTube in the first place. Know the platform: what videos are trending, for example. Remember that YouTube has a strong focus on entertainment. Is your product a good fit for the typical YouTube consumer?
  • Avoid inside jokes for a specific group. You don’t want your ad to be so broad that it’s boring, of course, but keep it accessible to the large audience you’ll be reaching.
  • You want to stir curiosity with your ad. But remember, given the wide-ranging audience, not all viewers will be inclined to buy. Learn about the features YouTube Masthead makes available — from videos to social shares — and offer consumers different ways to explore your brand, depending on their level of interest or engagement.

Contact True Interactive

Curious as to whether YouTube Masthead is a good fit for your brand? Wondering if there are other ways you can leverage television viewership in this era of connected TV? Contact us. We can help.

YouTube’s Bumper Machine: No Substitute for Creativity

YouTube’s Bumper Machine: No Substitute for Creativity

Video

YouTube is helping businesses to capture a person’s attention inside six seconds – which is important at a time when it takes just a few seconds for people to form an impression.  At Google’s annual Marketing Live event, YouTube unveiled a product called Bumper Machine, which makes it easier for businesses to create six-second video ads, or bumpers.

For context: in 2016, YouTube rolled out bumper ads. These consist of quick advertisements (six seconds) that are shown before a person’s selected video. A viewer must watch them before the video begins. By contrast, an in-stream video ad is the sponsored video that plays before your video selection on YouTube (and across the entire Google Display Network). You can skip an in-stream video ad after five seconds have elapsed.

According to YouTube, More than 90 percent of viewers say they have discovered new brands or products on YouTube. And as we’ve discussed on our blog, these ad formats give businesses the ability to target audiences and measure results. Not only can you target customer segments, but you can see how many of them interacted with your site, subscribed to your YouTube channel, made a purchase, or watched another of your YouTube videos (other than the ad you just showed them). Advertisers can can also see how much of the video ad an audience has watched. Doing so allows advertisers to determine if a video ad is too long, how much of the video a person watches before deciding to skip it, or see what percentage of viewers are tuned in for the entire video ad. All of these results can be determined the very next day.

But not every business has the resources and budget to crank out bumper ads. So at Google’s Marketing Live event, YouTube announced Bumper Machine, which generates six-second videos from longer video assets. Per YouTube,

Bumper Machine relies on machine learning models that are trained to identify interesting, well-structured moments in a longer video, like those that contain product or brand information, human faces, motion or contrast. It organizes these moments and brings them together to generate several different six-second ad variations for you to pick from, all in a matter of minutes. Before saving your new bumper ads, you can adjust them with simple edits.

Here is an example of how GrubHub took a 13-second ad and used Bumper Machine to create the 6-second version:

That’s right: Bumper Machine can configure your own bumper ad by figuring out what elements of a longer ad will work best in the bumper ad format – without human intervention. During a Q&A with viewers watching the Marketing Live event, YouTube product managers Ali Miller and Nick Rose answered some immediate questions:

Does Bumper Machine replace video editors and creatives?

No. One great way to use it is to gain inspiration for what you actually want to finally build as your bumper ad. You can take a look at what six seconds can do with a video and then build a customizable version of the video with all the expertise and creativity that professionals bring. But if you lack a budget and resources, it’s a way to get started with bumpers right away without spending on video production.

What was the insight behind Bumper Machine?

The six-second slot has taken hold as a way to create a compelling narrative. Bumper machine does the heavy work to help you create a six-second narrative

Is a six-second ad enough?

A six-second ad is an effective for telling a quick story. If you can fit in a single message, a joke, or an example of how a product is used, then a six-second bumper is a great way to get a message across. Also, it’s advisable to work with existing formats together to get the best results, such as skippable 30-second ads and True View to increase effectiveness, reach, awareness, and ROI.

With Bumper Machine, how does machine learning examine contextual relevance to determine a coherent message?

YouTube uses machine learning to identify the elements of the ad that will tell a story inside six seconds in the most engaging way — such as close-ups of someone’s face or a brand message. Then YouTube puts the content together to create a cohesive message.

What You Should Do

At True Interactive, we’ve been urging advertisers to adopt a video ad strategy for some time. Think of Bumper Machine as the video equivalent of your own Alexa skill, or an easy-to-use tool that enables an effective way of storytelling. Machine learning makes the formatting of the asset easier – but you still need human judgment to ensure that your ad captures the essence of your brand and is consistent with how you’re telling your story on other ad touch points (which I call creative parity, or consistency).

As with Google’s AI-fueled ad products, I suggest you view it as a tool to help, not as a substitute for actively managing your creative. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We have extensive experience with online advertising and are ready to help.

YouTube Fights to Keep Its Platform Safe

YouTube Fights to Keep Its Platform Safe

Video

YouTube once again finds itself in hot water.

Recently, businesses such as Disney and Nestle pulled their ads from the platform after a concerned YouTuber called attention to the number of predatory comments and videos targeting children. In response, YouTube terminated more than 400 channels and tens of millions of comments and then announced on February 28 that it will ban comments completely for most videos of kids. In addition, YouTube said it is “continuing to grow our team to keep people safe.” But just as it seemed the uproar was beginning to die down, YouTube was hit with more ugly incidents:

  • The resurgence of the Momo Challenge on YouTube – a viral hoax that reportedly encourages self-harm – caused YouTube to demonetize all videos about Momo.

Events of recent days are not the first time YouTube has found itself in the news over the posting of inappropriate content. Two years ago, I blogged about how YouTube’s lax reviewing standards and an easy monetization process resulted in mainstream ads appearing alongside disgusting content such as videos created by extremist groups. Although YouTube has vowed repeatedly to devote more resources to policing its content, obviously the platform is not completely safe.

Of all the firestorms engulfing social media platforms lately, I can’t think of anything that approaches a level of severity than the exploitation of children. But can YouTube stamp out the problem through the measures it has announced?

Meanwhile, as my colleague Kurt Anagnostopoulos noted in a blog post, social media is a messy place for brands to live. No matter what steps YouTube takes, the site will never be free of inappropriate content. I suspect most businesses will tolerate occasional flare-ups so long as they are dealt with swiftly. It’s the pattern of abusive content that causes businesses to pull their ads. For YouTube, gaining and keeping trust will come down to how well the platform stops the flare-ups before a pattern emerges.

For more insight into how to manage your brand in the digital world, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

How Instagram Can Win More IGTV Fans

How Instagram Can Win More IGTV Fans

Social media

Instagram’s IGTV feature is off to a slow start.

TechCrunch reported recently that IGTV, which allows people to upload lengthy videos in a mobile viewing format, has seen a noticeable decline in weekly installs since its June launch.

As TechCrunch noted, “IGTV risks becoming the next Google Plus — a ghost town inside an otherwise thriving product ecosystem.” TechCrunch speculates that the main reason IGTV is struggling to gain a foothold is that YouTube already owns the market for longer-form video. In addition, IGTV has yet to give us any truly breakthrough, viral content, as other social platforms have. There is no “Chewbacca Mom” of IGTV to help people grasp the potential appeal of the app.

Is IGTV in trouble? I don’t think so. If we’ve learned anything about Instagram, it’s that the app is resilient. And IGTV enjoys a huge advantage: a large built-in audience on Instagram, with one billion actively monthly users. But IGTV does need to take some steps to gain more traction. Here are three ways Instagram could do so:

  • Make IGTV more discoverable inside Instagram. Unless you use the IGTV standalone app, you may not even know IGTV exists. For several weeks, Instagram hid IGTV behind a small icon inside Instagram. It was too easy for users to ignore the icon on their screens. Recently Instagram has been making IGTV videos more visible via a more prominent notification call-out with a clickable “watch” button. A more noticeable call-out should help. When Facebook relaunched Marketplace in 2016, giving the feature more prominent real estate on mobile devices helped Marketplace gain traction.
  • Make it possible to livestream IGTV content. The only way to make IGTV videos is to record them on your mobile device and upload them. The process is easy, but people can do the same on YouTube. IGTV should differentiate by giving people the ability to record in the moment as Facebook does with Facebook Live. Doing so would create more opportunities for real-time engagement through viewer comments as happens with Facebook Live.
  • Promote big names and big moments. Instagram could help its own cause by collaborating with its more popular names (such as blogger and performer Baby Ariel) to build excitement for their content. People might be more likely to stop what they’re doing and make room for IGTV if they knew their favorite internet celebrity was going to post a new song or blogging episode at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday instead of discovering the content after the fact. Building excitement for forthcoming content would raise more awareness and get viewers primed to watch and comment on what they see. If you know that Universal Pictures is going to air an interview with Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson from the set of his latest movie, you just might set aside time to watch if you’re a Rock fan – even more so if you know the event would be livestreamed (see suggestion one above).

IGTV’s biggest threat right now? YouTube already does everything IGTV can except give users an elegant way to upload content created in vertical mobile-only mode. But by building more excitement around IGTV and introducing a live experience, Instagram can succeed in the long term. For more insight into how to use IGTV to build your brand, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Embedsocial.com

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

Social media

Sometimes businesses stay successful by defying expectations. A case in point: Instagram’s recently launched IGTV feature. At a time when goldfish have longer attention spans than human beings, Instagram wants its one billion monthly users to spend more time watching longer-form video.

What Is IGTV?

IGTV makes it possible for users (both businesses and people) to upload video content for up to one hour in length, a dramatic change from the one-minute ceiling that Instagram used to impose on video content posted in the main feed of an account. Instagram understands that even though we have short attention spans, people also reward compelling stories. And businesses are already jumping on the opportunity.

The Mobile-First Platform

As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced on June 20, IGTV is engineered for mobile phones. In other words, the format is optimized for uploading and watching content on a vertical full screen, the way people naturally watch content on their mobile phones. As Instagram noted on its own site, by 2021, mobile video will account for 78 percent of total mobile data traffic, but recording video on mobile phones remains a somewhat clumsy experience. By being mobile-first, IGTV wants to be the go-to resource.

How to Use IGTV

It’s easy to use IGTV. You simply tap on a television icon at the top of your screen and follow the prompts to start recording video. In addition, the icon leads you to content that others have created. You can view what’s popular, who you are following, or what Instagram suggests for you. The videos appear like Instagram stories, but the videos last much longer than stories do. Users cannot livestream on IGTV, though.

How Brands Are Using IGTV

IGTV is not an advertising format – for now. The time may come soon when businesses can create bumper ads or banner ads as they can on YouTube. Meanwhile, businesses are already creating content by setting up their own channels similar to the Snapchat approach. IGTV has been especially attractive to media/entertainment brands. The BBC is posting informational content such as an overview of plastics done with amusing Monty Python style graphics. Guns N’ Roses has been uploading scenes from the band’s concerts, such as soundchecks and an inside look at what it’s like for the band to take the stage before a concert. Shira Lazar, who hosts her own internet show, has been sharing you-are-there segments from her travels to events such as VidCon. The content ranges from organic to very slick. More examples include:

  • Health/nutritional/cooking brands and influencers such as Vital Proteins are posting instructional videos on workouts, recipes, and nutritional facts.
  • Make-up brands are showing how-to videos for their products. For example, Sephora shows skin care routines and how to apply certain products.
  • Clothing/Jewelry brands such as Kendra Scott and Red Dress Boutique are posting behind-the-scenes/sneak peaks of their new collections. Kendra Scott recently gave a behind-the-scenes tour of its new jewelry collection. Red Dress recently took viewers behind the scenes of a photo shoot for new arrivals.

It’s also not uncommon to see businesses posting content they had posted already on YouTube. But brands need to be careful: if your YouTube content is not optimized for mobile viewing, it may render poorly on IGTV.

Influencers on IGTV

IGTV has given influencers another channel to share their content. For example, I have noticed influencers are turning their online blog posts into “interviews” where they basically post a video that describes their blog post for that day. In fact, Instagram has called out IGTV’s potential for helping individual content creators become stars as they have done on YouTube.

“[W]e’ve learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals,” Instagram noted on its blog. Instagram indicated that IGTV will connect users with more individual content creators. But clearly, IGTV has quickly become a format for businesses based on my early experiences.

What Brands Should Do about IGTV

To capitalize on the value of IGTV, I suggest brands do the following:

  • If you are creating video content already on channels such as Snapchat and YouTube (or Instagram for short-form video), start using IGTV, especially if you want to connect with the mobile generation. The fact that Instagram now has one billion monthly users should be reason enough for IGTV to get your attention.
  • As noted, be careful about how you re-purpose video created on other channels. Re-purpose content that has been optimized for mobile viewing.
  • Use the launch of IGTV to examine your influencer strategy. As we have noted on our blog, influencer outreach is getting bigger as brands look for ways to circumvent their content being marginalized by Facebook algorithms. IGTV creates more outlets for influencers and brands to collaborate.
  • Learn from others. Do an audit on all the content exploding across IGTV. Don’t limit yourself to businesses in your own industry. Look for businesses that are already doing a great job posting long-form content that tells a visual story.

Finally, watch IGTV closely for opportunities to advertise. It’s only a matter of time before Instagram opens up the platform for advertising. First things first: get comfortable creating content on IGTV, and get ready to engage your audience. Contact True Interactive for more insight into how to use apps such as IGTV to create more engagement.

 

Google Capitalizes on Mobile with Outstream Video Ads

Google Capitalizes on Mobile with Outstream Video Ads

Mobile

Google’s recently launched outstream video ads are the right format at the right time.

The ads appear as auto plays on mobile devices without sound, with users activating sound by tapping on the video. According to Google, mobile is key to the success of the outstream format: “Over the past year, we’ve been working on a way to extend the reach of your video campaigns to people beyond YouTube, especially as they spend more and more time interacting with applications and sites on their mobile devices . . . Outstream ads drive incremental, cost-efficient and viewable reach beyond YouTube.”

By capitalizing on the growth of mobile, Google is building its presence in the right place. As we noted in a recent blog post, Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018 report revealed that U.S. adults are online 5.9 hours per day, and more than half of our time spent on mobile. Mobile is our preferred way of being online.

In a new column for Adweek Social Pro Daily, I share insight into outstream video ads and their importance to Google in light of the company’s problems keeping inappropriate content off YouTube. I think you’ll find the column to be useful. Please check it out and contact us to discuss how to incorporate video into your advertising strategy.

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Social media

I have heard Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional appearances this week described as the moment when social media began to grow up. And there’s no doubt that the world’s largest social network has started to sound more committed to acting more responsibly with the data of its two billion members, judging by Zuckerberg’s remarks and his prepared testimony. Assigning a $40,000 bounty for the reporting of data abuse certainly makes Facebook look determined to get more serious about addressing data indiscretions.

But despite Facebook’s stated commitment to get better at protecting its users, a simple fact remains: social media is a messy place for brands to live even as social media platforms grow up.

Amid the publication of determined testimonies and bounties, I know these things to be certain:

  • Facebook will not be immune from data abuse. Mistakes are going to happen. Determined and unethical parties are going to look for cracks in the seams. What we can expect to be different is Facebook’s reaction to problems when they happen. There remains an important distinction between a platform having airtight security and a platform that acts rapidly to address problems when they occur. Will advertisers and users appreciate the difference?
  • Facebook won’t be the only platform that experiences abuses of its terms and conditions. As I noted on our blog, YouTube has been hiring more people to train computers to police abuses on its site in order to prevent the kinds of embarrassing incidents that rocked the network in recent months, such as brand advertising appearing alongside inappropriate videos. But YouTube continues to experience lapses, such as a report about ads for adult content appearing on the site, hackers targeting popular music videos, and advocacy groups charging YouTube with illegally collecting personal information from children.
  • Facebook users will complain about data abuses and some will even #DeleteFacebook. But how many will stay off the network permanently after they realize that there’s nowhere else to go?

I’m not saying that brands should simply be patient. Brands and users should expect more vigilance out of all their social networks, including Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all the others we call home. But we need to be realistic. These networks, especially Facebook, remain free because they accept advertising. And to play ball with advertisers, they’re going to share user data – which, when done well, brings about a better user experience. But with the sharing of data comes potential for abuse. And let’s not forget these free platforms are pretty much open to anyone who meets their soft requirements, and advertisers have to accept the consequences, both good and bad.

Advertisers, buckle in. You’re in for a bumpy – but profitable – ride. Remember, these networks offer rewards to those who understand how to use them for targeted, timely advertising. Contact us. We’ll work with you to do just that.