YouTube: The Streaming Ad Giant

YouTube: The Streaming Ad Giant

YouTube

Who knew? YouTube is an advertising giant in the streaming industry. And YouTube is becoming increasingly vital as more people stay at home and stream content in light of recent news events.

According to App Annie, in 2019, YouTube made a whopping $15 billion on ads alone. The news comes courtesy of Alphabet (the parent company of Google): for the first time since Google acquired YouTube in 2006, Alphabet has released YouTube’s ad revenue. And the figures are staggering, accounting for almost 10 percent of Google’s overall $161 billion revenue in 2019.

Why This Matters

The news is important because it underlines YouTube’s dominance in an increasingly crowded arena. As App Annie points out, on Android phones, about 70 percent of time spent on the top five video streaming apps worldwide was on YouTube. The platform, a pioneer in the world of video streaming, continues to hold its own. That’s telling. As Forbes notes, “In a market where new streaming video services seem to spring up overnight, YouTube isn’t losing viewers or ad money.”

Also notable: while many of the top apps are Chinese brands, enjoying strong support in China, YouTube isn’t active in the Chinese market—and yet it is still number one in rankings measuring time spent on the top streaming platforms. By a significant margin.

How YouTube Does It

So how is YouTube achieving this cash cow status?

  • For one, YouTube delivers an audience, and you need an audience to attract advertisers. As Lifewire points out, YouTube is one of the most popular sites in the world. It’s arguably the favorite video-sharing and viewing site on the web today, offering a range of long- and short-form free content. And as Lifewire notes, “Youtube.com is the second most popular website in both the global market and in the U.S for 2020, even though a huge portion of YouTube views are from outside the U.S.”
  • But YouTube also does something else: it continuously offers advertisers attractive products. As we’ve blogged in the past, YouTube’s Masthead ad format for TV allows brands to connect with consumers the instant users access the YouTube app on their televisions. The Masthead format is a response to the fact that while consumers aren’t watching as much linear TV, they are still using their televisions as a tool for experiencing streaming platforms like YouTube. In other words, YouTube understands viewing trends, and is staying nimble in its bid to connect with advertisers in an informed way.

What Can Be Learned from YouTube’s Success?

We can draw two conclusions from YouTube’s enduring popularity:

  • First, streaming platforms, especially Netflix, cannot help but notice how well an ad-supported format on YouTube has been working. Netflix—and other competing platforms—certainly must be feeling more pressure to create advertising products. And that’s good news for brands. (I blogged about Netflix’s potential adoption of advertising in this post, “Why Netflix Might Embrace Advertising.”)
  • Second, YouTube’s growth likely bodes well for apps like Quibi (another destination for streaming video that relies on ads). Quibi is endeavoring to carve a niche in a crowded field; YouTube shows them what’s possible, and arguably creates an environment ripe for inspiration.

Clearly, streaming platforms offer an attractive opportunity to advertisers. Note also that in light of recent events, it is expected that more people will turn to streaming platforms such as YouTube. Per a blog post from PMG, “Popular media platforms such as YouTube and Tik Tok will also likely see a monumental boost as kids and teens spend more time online and at home” during temporary school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. YouTube, with its combination of innovation and reliability, is proving to be a model for succeeding with ad-supported shorter-form streaming. In its quiet bid for dominance, YouTube has become a leader.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about YouTube, and the opportunities that exist for advertisers in the streaming community? Contact us.

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

Google

Get ready for a world with fewer intrusive video ads.

On February 5, Google announced that video ads deemed to be intrusive will stop appearing on Chrome beginning August 2020. Chrome will stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly show the following kinds of video ads:

  • Long, non-skippable pre-roll ads or groups of ads longer than 31 seconds that appear before a video and that cannot be skipped within the first 5 seconds.
  • Mid-roll ads of any duration that appear in the middle of a video, interrupting the user’s experience.
  • Image or text ads that appear on top of a playing video and are in the middle 1/3 of the video player window or cover more than 20 percent of the video content.

These restrictions apply to short-form video content defined as eight minutes or less in length.

Why Google Announced a Change

You might be wondering why Google identified those specific ad formats. Google is following recommendations from the Coalition for Better Ads, the organization responsible for the Better Ads Standards that inform companies such as Google on user feedback about ads that work and ads that do not. On February 5, the Coalition for Better Ads announced the recommended changes to video ad formats based on research from 45,000 consumers globally. According to the Coalition for Better Ads:

The research found strong alignment of consumer preferences across countries and regions for the most- and least-preferred online ad experiences, supporting the adoption of a single Better Ads Standard for these environments globally. The Coalition’s Better Ads Standards identify the ad experiences that fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and are most likely to drive consumers to install ad blockers. More than 100,000 consumers have participated to date in the Coalition’s research to develop its set of Better Ads Standards.

As a result, Google said that starting August 5, 2020, Chrome will stop showing such ads on sites. Google also said that it will review YouTube video content for compliance with the standards. In addition, “Similar to the previous Better Ads Standards, we’ll update our product plans across our ad platforms, including YouTube, as a result of this standard, and leverage the research as a tool to help guide product development in the future.”

Note that the standards for short-form video do not apply to other environments like feeds or over-the-top (OTT).

What You Should Do

Change is coming. It’s time to prepare:

  • Per Google, if you operate a website that shows ads, consider reviewing your site status in the Ad Experience Report. This is a tool that helps publishers understand if Chrome has identified any violating ad experiences on your site.
  • Review your YouTube game plan. YouTube will be affected by the blocking of midroll ads but not the other two types identified above.
  • Ask your ad agency how they will ensure that ads they create are compliant.

At True Interactive, we are monitoring this development closely and are well prepared to help our clients thrive in this new environment. We manage video ads all the time and understand how to ensure compliance.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

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.