At Brandcast, YouTube tells advertisers its real power is in creator fanbases

By 05/16/2024
At Brandcast, YouTube tells advertisers its real power is in creator fanbases

At this year’s Brandcast, YouTube wanted advertisers to know: When it comes to building fan fervor around content, it’s not just a match for traditional TV networks—it’s better.

“The magic of YouTube isn’t just about our scale, or our captivating content, or viral hits,” CEO Neal Mohan told a live audience at the Lincoln Center in New York City. “It’s that we bring everything together in a way you won’t find anywhere else. There’s only one place where you can find a truly unique connection to fans. There’s only one place where you can reach every audience you care about. There’s only one YouTube.”

In this new age of Upfronts-timed Brandcasts (which began in 2022; before that, Brandcast was part of the digital-focused NewFronts), YouTube has always leaned heavily into the numbers. This year, it highlighted how, according to Nielsen, it’s been the #1 most-watched streaming service on living room TVs for 17 months straight–and how, this past March, it accounted for 10% of all watch time on TVs.

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It also called attention to Shorts‘ growing presence in TV viewership, and reminded advertisers that viewers are watching an average of 1 billion hours of YouTube content on TVs every single day.

But as much time as YouTube spent trotting out hard stats, it spent even more time talking up creators, and driving home how marketers should be salivating to tap into their unique connections to fervid fanbases.

“No one is more engaged than loyal YouTube fans,” Chief Business Officer Mary Ellen Coe said. “They excitedly count down to new videos, rewatch old ones, and create their own in response. And they rush to their favorite creator’s channel in the 24 hours after new videos are released. Which presents an ideal moment for brands to engage with these fans.”

“What makes YouTube special is the creators, the fans, the culture around the content and the innovation,” Sean Downey, Google’s President of Americas & Global Partners, added. “This combination exists on no other platform. When it comes down to it, it’s about making sure those unique and meaningful connections people experience on YouTube every day translate to meaningful results for brands.”

To that end, YouTube had a handful of creators join its execs as part of the Brandcast presentation, including Ryan Trahan, Rhett & Link, Kinigra Deon, Zach King, and Shannon Sharpe, and had Billie Eilish as its headliner musical act.

As for how YouTube’s going to connect marketers with those fanbases, its biggest announcement of the night was the formalization and expansion of YouTube Select Creator Takeovers, which lets brands “collaborate with top creators to own 100% share of voice on their channel, making the most of creator-fan connections,” it said.

YouTube Select, which replaced the Google Preferred Ad Program in 2020, is a package deal program where YouTube collects top-watched (and, crucially, brand-safe) channels into premium bundles and sells ad space on those collected channels to marketers. YouTube began experimenting with Creator Takeovers—the first time it’s offered a product to give brands all ad space on a single creator’s channel—with a small number of creators late last year.

Now, Takeovers are available to all advertisers, and are expanding to more creators.

YouTube is also amping up call-to-actions by launching branded QR codes, where a brand’s logo will be embedded in the code square, plus is introducing nonskippable ads on TVs in “a new AI-powered format optimized for CTV,” it says.

Mohan–who, in case you missed it, wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter this week where he advocates for creators to be eligible for Emmys…despite several creators having already won and been nominated for them–wrapped up by telling Brandcast attendees he’s “never been more excited to see what comes next on YouTube.”

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