YouTube is moving its flagship Brandcast event to an upfront advertising sales pitch this year, a sign the Google-owned video service is getting more aggressive in its attempt to land TV advertisers.
On Wednesday, YouTube released its plans for May, when the IAB hosts NewFronts and upfront presentations. Brian Albert, managing director at Google and YouTube, said that YouTube would show up at both for the first time, but Brandcast would fall in the upfront week. YouTube typically produces Brandcast during NewFronts, which is the portion of IAB’s advertising event that is reserved for digital platforms like YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, TikTok, Snapchat, and digital publishers. The upfront sales period is traditionally for broadcast and cable TV networks.
“A lot has changed in the world,” Albert told Ad Age in a phone interview this week. “And through all of my conversations with the holding companies and our clients, we certainly felt like this was the time to help our customers bridge this gap between linear [TV] and digital.”
He added: “We want to be able to tell our stories in both places."
IAB has not held in-person NewFronts since 2019, but it plans to return to a live event this year. YouTube will sponsor the NewFront week, starting May 2, and it is working with MediaLink, the management consulting firm, to produce its show. On May 17, YouTube will host Brandcast during the upfront period.
Albert did not disclose the location of both events.
“It’s just a good opportunity to make sure that our streaming story is front and center during the two most important moments of the year,” Albert said, “when brand and agencies are trying to figure out how they are going to allocate their video budgets over the 2022-2023 broadcast year.”
IAB CEO David Cohen, who stepped into the role in 2020, has been pushing to converge NewFront and upfront sales as many of the participants straddle both worlds of digital and TV. For instance, Disney and NBCUniversal run TV networks and streaming services. Amazon is a streaming player with Fire TV and Twitch, but it also has rights to NFL games starting this year. Although YouTube is centered around ad-supported digital video, it also draws a large audience on connected TV screens.
The TV upfront season and digital NewFronts are a time for networks and digital publishers to lock in advertisers for the coming year.
But one ad buyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that YouTube could have a hard time transitioning to an upfront presenter, as the advertising audience is different. “They have to be really careful,” the media buyer said. “If they announce anything TV buyers want to hear at the NewFront, they’ll be pissed they didn’t hear it first.
“If they drag every broadcast buyer and client down there,” the buyer said, “they have to be sharp.”
Albert said YouTube’s team was prepared to speak to distinct sets of buyers in each presentation. “The clients who participated in upfront and NewFronts, over the years, are roughly the same brands,” Albert said. “Some of the actual people, who represent those brands, are different.”
YouTube is known for its two million creators, with whom it splits ad revenue, but TV buyers often are in the market for prestige TV shows to complement their brands.
The upfront TV market generates about $20 billion in brand commitments, according to eMarketer. Digital NewFronts ad revenue is expected to reach $6 billion this year, according to eMarketer.
YouTube, like so many of the digital platforms, has been trying to attract the types of advertisers that are already familiar with TV deals. YouTube’s total ad revenue reached $28.8 billion in 2021, an increase of about 45% from 2020. YouTube, which also runs the subscription service YouTube TV, has had some troubles in past years convincing large brand advertisers to funnel their bulky TV budgets to its ecosystem. There have been some media buyers, used to traditional TV, that require better measurement services and other tools to make buying digital the same as TV.