A lot of the YouTube discussion in the the last few months has revolved around YouTube influencers working with advertisers. From the Tubefilter’s very own Beyond Rev Share Event and Discussion to John Green’s Keynote at VidCon, multiple professionals and creators have been vocal about the pros and cons of working with established brands to increase revenue and provide alternative revenue streams to traditional online video advertising.
This subject is not exactly new, yet in order for our industry to move forward we must continue the conversation, become more transparent, and all – brands and creators alike – get on the same page.
Advertisers are still approaching brand integrations on YouTube with a watchful eye, comparing results to money spent in traditional media. At the same time, YouTube influencers are adjusting to working with a more regimented, results-oriented third party. The current mindset of both parties is at odds, with advertisers expecting commercials on popular YouTube channels, while talent is expecting the freedom they regularly enjoy when creating content.
When advertisers and YouTubers have a conflicting vision of how a brand integration should look and feel, how can both parties reach a happy middle ground?
Nick Tran, Taco Bell’s Social Media Lead, used his keynote at VidCon to discuss the brand’s recent work with popular online video personalities, including Tyler Oakley. Tran asked Oakley to join him on stage during the presentation. From the moment the burgeoning YouTube star with more than one million subscribers hit the stage, it became evident to everyone in the room that he and Taco Bell had a special relationship. The partnership worked because he loved Taco Bell, a fact that was not lost on his fans, who found his videos and social media activity genuine, sincere, and highly likeable.
This isn’t the first time work between an influencer and a brand has been overwhelmingly positive, nor will it be the last. However, it does spotlight two important facts that seem to be overlooked when advertisers work with YouTube talent.
YouTubers are brands themselves.
They have spent a long period of time building an audience, interacting with their community and achieving a level of influence that enables them to become valuable to advertisers and other third parties to sell products or services. If a YouTuber is not faithful and trustworthy to his or her audience, it could seriously hurt his or her own personal brand. But the pain wouldn’t stop there. The partnership could also have negative effects on the brand, as the YouTuber’s audience will lash out at both parties.
Advertisers also need to view brand integrations as a collaboration, where both the brand and content creator work towards an end product that will engage and satisfy both audiences.
Often times, this seems to be a major issue where both parties have a conflicting view of the end goal. If the partnership is seen more as two equal parties who are both promoting each other, it will result in a more effective and creative piece of content.
A huge difference between traditional media talent and YouTube talent, is the deeper level of connection YouTubers have to their audience. They reply to comments, interact with fans over Facebook and Twitter and provide an authenticity that results in a relationship that mirrors friendship. If authenticity is what allows YouTube influencers to be so desirable to advertisers, forcing inauthentic talking points or other aspects of a brand integrations into the video makes little sense. If viewers feel their “friend” is lying to them, they aren’t going to be happy. However, if the video keeps the authentic tone the end result is the same as introducing the viewer to a friend they haven’t met yet, which might start a blossoming lifelong friendship.
Now, it would be easy to continue to talk about how advertisers need to adapt to work with YouTube talent, but it takes two to tango. YouTubers also need to understand the world of advertising and how their decisions impact people in other companies.
While YouTubers are accustom to creating content on their own schedule, delivery dates are incredibly important to advertisers.
Normally (and especially in cases where a large chunk of cash is spent) a video must undergo a series of approvals in order to get greenlit by an advertiser to share with the world. These approvals are not instantaneous, and delivery delays can have a negative impact on a brand’s marketing timeline.
Like a game of telephone, the amount of people involved in a brand deal is sometimes surprising. The parties often include Multi-Channel Networks, advertising agencies, and the brand itself in addition to the content creator. Furthermore, each of these groups contain multiple divisions with multiple employees. If talent is late when delivering a video, it creates a chain reaction where other parties are also held accountable for the delay.
Unfortunately, if a video misses its delivery date then brands will often shy away from using that influencer again. With the industry still in a phase of education and experimentation, advertisers are more than willing to try new approaches to get better results. Simply put, if a certain influencer doesn’t deliver they will go to someone else who can.
On the flip side, if an influencer does a phenomenal job and is professional in every regard, the end result may be a long term relationship. The injection of money from advertisers is a newer trend, but the money is still very real. It simply comes with the expectation of complete professionalism, to which advertisers are accustomed when spending cash on productions.
Now, that doesn’t mean talent should cater to advertisers if the result is an inorganic video on their channel.
YouTube influencers can help educate advertisers into making the right choice. If an unreasonable request during an integration is made, every YouTuber has the ability to not only suggest a viable alternative, but to highlight why the request would be damaging to the brand in the long run. If the information is delivered in a positive manner, it can go a long way.
It’s easy for everyone with a deep knowledge of YouTube to forget that while we know what works and what doesn’t on the platform, many people from outside industries have little to no understanding of the YouTube ecosystem. This is an opportunity to educate someone looking to work in the space, which we should encourage at every opportunity.
While we have made great strides in showing how valuable YouTube influencers can be to advertisers, we still have a long way to go to reach the happy middle ground we all desire. Yet, if both parties collaborate to create deep, meaningful content that appeals to the communities within YouTube while simultaneously working to educate outside parties on how to best advertise on the world’s largest video platform, we have a better shot at advancing our industry.
In an effort to write about issues that apply directly to you, we are going to try something different in next week’s op-ed. If you have a subject in mind or want my thoughts on something currently happening in the industry, please tweet @Tubefilter & @JewFromUtah and tell us what subject you want covered.
A former Senior Manager in Affiliate Development at Machinima, Chris Landa developed expertise in YouTube after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University’s Master of Entertainment Management program. An avid Liverpool Football Club supporter, he can often be found in a pub on weekend mornings and is extremely hateful of the 8 hour time difference between Los Angeles and the United Kingdom.