Dear Susan Wojcicki, congratulations on your recent promotion to CEO of YouTube. We haven’t met, but I reported on your appointment for both ReelSEO and Search Engine Watch. And I even quoted you on Page 21 of the second edition of my book, YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day. So, I hope you don’t object if I “offer expert advice, guidance, and commentary about the world of online video.” It’s what ReelSEO’s videologists and columnists do.
First of all, you will face several strategic challenges as the head of YouTube. You need to figure out how to significantly increase the number of advertisers who are using TrueView in-stream ads as well as dramatically increase the amount of money they spend on YouTube. And an awful lot of “amazing creators” and YouTube Partners are hoping that you can help them build a sustainable career on YouTube and beyond.
The Biggest Battle: Inside YouTube Itself
But the biggest battle you will face will be internal. To increase the number of advertisers well as dramatically increase the amount of money they spend, YouTube needs its own ad sales force.
Yes, I know that Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of advertising and commerce, is a wonderful colleague of yours. But, this isn’t about how well the two of you get along. It’s about how Google’s ad sales force is currently structured, trained, and incentivized. And if you go on a couple of sales calls or read through several call reports, you will quickly observe what Pogo observed back in 1970, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Back in Dec. 16, 2013, Alistair Barr of USA Today wrote an article entitled, “Google seeks brand advertising billions with YouTube.” The senior technology reporter observed that Google had recently reorganized its ad business into two groups – one focusing on brands, where it sees huge growth potential, and the other on performance ads, where it already dominates.
On the surface, this reorganization doesn't seem alarming. What’s wrong with combining YouTube’s online video business with Google’s display ad network and its social network Google Plus and focusing this new brand advertising group on getting top brands and their agencies to move some of the massive amounts of money they spend on TV ads to online video?
Well, for the second time in the past two weeks, it reminds me of the “Kirk Beats Khan SCENE - Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan MOVIE (1982) – HD,” when Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) provides Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) with his analysis of the military tactics being used by Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), “He’s intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.”
And the first time was two weeks ago when comScore announced plans to expand its pioneering cross-platform measurement service, which provides unified measurement of media usage across TVs, radios, desktops, smartphones, and tablets.
Both of these seemingly intelligent moves see video ads as if they are just another form of display advertising – like animated GIFs. And both of these seemingly intelligent moves see video ads as no more effective than TV commercials in building awareness – and incapable of achieving other marketing objectives like influencing consideration, driving sales, or growing loyalty and retention.
But, as I mentioned two weeks ago, online video is social. People are drawn to YouTube because they can interact with videos and channels in ways that they can’t with television. The ability for “inspiring creators” to interact with their viewers is key to the medium. It not only lets them speak to their audience, it also lets them listen to what their audience has to say. And, actively engaging with an “amazing community” through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and other social media will pay off in the long run. A YouTube Partner’s fans will become their social advocates – enabling them to do much more than just increase brand awareness.
YouTube Needs its Own Sales Force
The latest evidence of this can be found in Carla Marshall’s story on ReelSEO, “YouTube and the Beauty Industry: How Brands are Getting Crushed [Report].” If you haven’t read the new report from Pixability already, then I urge you to download the full report by clicking on “Beauty on YouTube: How YouTube is Radically Transforming the Beauty Industry and What That Means for Brands.”
In a press release about the study, Cory Pulice, the VP E-commerce for e.l.f. Cosmetics, said, ““Creating informative and instructional videos for our premium cosmetic and makeup products is only part of the equation. Genuinely engaging with our passionate YouTube community is the other part, and that helps drive our business.”
In the same release, Rob Ciampa, the CMO of Pixability, added, “Brands that mistakenly treat YouTube as a quasi-television station should not be surprised by dismal ROI. Those that embrace YouTube as a critical digital marketing and communication medium, however, will see outstanding results. Pixability’s analysis of the beauty industry on YouTube backs that up.”
That’s why YouTube needs its own ad sales force. For the past two months, its brand advertising group has been out there telling top brands and their agencies that, according to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network.
But, that hasn't accelerated YouTube's ad revenue growth ... yet. And neither has adopting Nielsen's Online Campaign Ratings, or OCR, service, which was supposed to help advertisers measure the performance of YouTube ads in a similar way to how they track TV ads. And according to Barr's story in USA Today, Google has plans to re-package YouTube to look more familiar to TV advertisers. But, making YouTube look more like a cable TV network -- segmented into categories focused on specific topics such as music, comedy, arts, sports, health, wellness and beauty -- seems like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad strategy. It's like asking one of YouTube's top Beauty Gurus to make YouTube look more like Hulu.
A New Approach to YouTube's Advertising Sales
Instead, I would argue that you need a dedicated ad sales force out there telling advertisers that YouTube is radically transforming how consumers discover, use, and purchase beauty products – and how beauty brands market online. This message may initially upset many top brands and their agencies, but it’s more likely to provide beauty brand marketers with the key findings and best practices extracted from brands’ successes and failures within YouTube’s extensive beauty space.
In the short term, it may be easier to “sell” beauty brand marketers on running more repurposed television commercials, even though they’re less popular on YouTube, but in the long term, it also means they’ll continue under-investing in long-format beauty tutorials, which are more popular on YouTube. Ironically, success on YouTube will require beauty brands to move beyond just YouTube advertising and official brand-controlled channels. In fact, partnering with key YouTube creators is more likely to increase the amount of user-generated content referencing a brand, while simultaneously boosting organic (unpaid) views.
Based on the findings generated by Pixability’s proprietary data, beauty brands should be increasing their YouTube brand footprint organically through interactions with YouTube’s beauty influencers and community – as well as investing more in YouTube advertising, content creation, and channel management.
And the beauty industry is just the tip of the iceberg. If you check out the YouTube NextUp development program, I suspect that you’ll discover that similar top brands and their agencies should be partnering with the Next Causes, Chefs, Comics, EDU Gurus, Reporters, Trainers, and Vloggers, too.
Complex Marketing Objectives
A dedicated YouTube ad sales force is far more likely to tackle this complex marketing objective successfully. However, a brand advertising group – which needs to peddle Google’s display ad network and its social network Google Plus along with YouTube’s online video business – is much less likely to do that effectively.
Hey, it’s a whole lot easier to sell video ads as if they are just another form of display advertising – like animated GIFs. And it’s a whole lot simpler to sell video ads as if they’re just as effective as TV commercials in building awareness. And there are a whole lot of top brands and their agencies who want to continue “buying” these stories – even if YouTube is radically transforming their industry and is capable of achieving other marketing objectives like influencing consideration, driving sales, or growing loyalty and retention.
So, what expert advice can a ReelSEO columnist possibly offer to Google’s former Senior Vice President of Ads & Commerce, now that you’ve become CEO of YouTube? Fight the good fight for your own ad sales force.
Convince Google CEO Larry Page that you do have “a healthy disregard for the impossible” and you are “excited about improving YouTube in ways that people will love.” But in order significantly increase the number of advertisers who are using TrueView in-stream ads as well as dramatically increase the amount of money they spend on YouTube, you need a dedicated ad sales force. And with one, you will also be able to help an awful lot of “amazing creators” and YouTube Partners to build a sustainable career on YouTube and beyond.
An Open Invite to Our Video Advertising & Marketing Summit
P.S. I double-checked with Mark Robertson, our Founder and Publisher, and Carla Marshall, our Managing Editor, and we’d love to invite you to be our Keynote Speaker at ReelSEO’s Reel Video Summit. It will be held July 24-25, 2014, in San Francisco.
(You shouldn’t wait until then to announce that YouTube has its own ad sales force. If you want any guidance from me, I’d respectfully recommend that you’d make that announcement at the 2014 NewFronts on Wednesday, April 30.)
But at the Reel Video Summit, we’d be excited if you’d share why and how some of the world’s leading brands are turning to online video, employing it as a storytelling device in order to connect with new and existing audiences in deeper and more meaningful ways. You can also highlight brand stories that use video in a variety of capacities, breaking through the clutter and driving awareness, brand engagement, purchase, and brand loyalty. Heck, you can even come and tell us we’re wrong, dead wrong about YouTube needing its own ad sales force. If you’ve got another way to skin this cat, we’d like to hear it.