The screams were deafening just from the mere mention that YouTube star Tyler Oakley would be pulling up to YouTube's Brandcast at the Jacob Javits Center. Tweens lined up outside the convention center on Thursday evening to get a glimpse (and take selfies with) of some of the biggest viral stars, giving marketers a front-row seat to the fandom that is taking place on the video platform.
At its event during the Digital Content NewFronts, YouTube set out to solve one of the biggest challenges marketers have had on the platform -- identifying viral videos before they take off. To help brands find the next emerging YouTube stars and videos, the company announced the latest version of its Google Preferred product -- Breakout Videos.
While Google Preferred gives advertisers access to the top 5% of its most popular content from established creators channels, Breakout Videos packages the hottest and fastest-rising videos on YouTube. This will allow marketers to feature their brands alongside the next big thing, said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
And marketers will be able to execute their Google Preferred buys programmatically through DoubleClick Bid Manager. This means all video campaigns including TrueView, Google Preferred and cross-exchanges can be managed in one place. And for the first time, brands can use their own data to target audiences.
Google Preferred will now also include all of the NBA's footage on its YouTube channel, announced Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA.
And Big Bird made an appearance to unveil Sesame Studios, a new YouTube kids channel from the creators of Sesame Street.
Of course, there was also mention of virtual reality, with YouTube doling out cardboard glasses following the event.
"We have more 360-degree and VR content than any platform in the world and in fact you can watch every single video on YouTube with a VR headset," Ms. Wojcicki said.
But the night was really about showcasing some of YouTube's biggest stars, with Lilly Singh, aka Superwoman, hosting the presentation, and Mindy McKnight of Cute Girls Hairstyle telling her story about how her YouTube channel is supporting her family of eight.
There were over 100 YouTube stars in attendance.
Alongside these YouTube creators, the company also gave the spotlight to agency and brand executives to tell the marketers in the room how YouTube is working for them.
Toyota's Jack Hollis, group VP-marketing, said the automaker increased its investment in Google Preferred by 400% in the last year alone, and "that's coming from a good base," he said.
And Dentus Aegis CEO Nigel Morris said research has shown that "like-for-like ROI is 50% higher in online video than linear TV."
Earlier in the week, Magna Global said it is shifting at least $250 million from TV to YouTube.
Andra Day performed "Rise Up" and Silento closed out the presentation with "Watch Me."
After the presentation, Sia performed with "Dance Moms" star Maddie Ziegler.