YouTube plans to run 100 brands through the Brand Partner Program
this year, starting with the seven hand-picked by YouTube's sales
teams to congregate last month. "We try to ID advertisers who have
some engagement with YouTube. They're spending some money and have
some content they've worked on…Some sales teams may ask
clients to meet a spending threshold, but there's no requirement,"
Mr. Byrne said.
The three-day Brand Partner Program kicked off with a "state of
the union"-style address on the TV and online video landscape and
culminated in actual content creation using YouTube's airplane
hangar-sized studio and TV-quality equipment. But the highlights
for many marketers in attendance were the opportunities to hear
from YouTube stars and online video network execs about how they
program for their audiences.
YouTube star iJustine and representatives from YouTube network
Collective Digital Studio joined a panel Monday night to discuss
how creators collaborate one another to combine audiences. On
Tuesday BuzzFeed video execs detailed their business and content
strategies, and that night the marketers partied at YouTube network
Tastemade's Santa Monica studio. Then on Wednesday AwesomenessTV
CEO Brian Robbins took the stage with Mr. Byrne to talk about how
the DreamWorks Animation-owned YouTube network programs for teens
and tweens and informally pitched Pantene on a social-good
"It was really refreshing to hear from the creators. Where we
want to hone our skills is becoming more relevant with the
audiences we want to speak to, and that's what they're king and
queen at," said Ford's digital marketing manager Thomais
Marketers do have one natural advantage on YouTube: the budgets to
buy eyeballs. But just because a brand can force someone to stare
at their video ad doesn't mean that person will enjoy or share it
with their friends. On the flip side, YouTube's homegrown stars
typically have zero funds with which to buy views and rely instead
on their savvy and knowledge of their audience.
"They're genius marketers," said Visa's senior VP-global brand
and marketing transformation Shiv Singh, of YouTube creators. "They
understand concepts like how to do product placement and co-op
marketing, how to build their own brands. There's a lot marketers
can learn from them."
But first marketers had to learn about the digital video
landscape. USC professor Jeff Cole kicked off Day 1 of the Brand
Partner Program with a wide-ranging overview of the TV and online
video realm. Pointing to the rising number of people cutting off
their cable TV subscriptions and the upsurge of TV-quality shows
online, his talk boiled down to the fact that "the only thing that
matters anymore is content."
YouTube BrandLab head Kim Larson boiled a successful YouTube
strategy into three categories of content:
"Hero" marks the large-scale, big-budget work that typically
coincides with a product launch. "Hub" are the videos created for a
specific segment of a brand's audience as a way to reinforce
affinity. And "Hygiene" is the always-on content that is regularly
posted and aimed at a brand's core audience in order to keep in
"Hygiene" resonated with Ford, which has made a point in recent
years of investing in tentpole content and sponsoring shows aimed
at specific audiences. "We're at a point where we're evaluating how
do we take a less marketer-centric point of view," said Ms.
Zaremba. Historically Ford has organized itself around product
launches, rather than gearing its programming around when people
want to hear from the brand. "I think we still have a lot of work
left to do."
To get started on that work, YouTube scheduled breakout sessions
for each of the three days intended to put things into practice. On
the first day, marketers were asked to outline their "hero, hub and
hygiene" content strategy. On the second day, they mapped out a
programming strategy for their channels. And on the third day, the
marketers were actually creating content.
Visa used the final day workshop to get different ways to put
together an officially project using the YouTube ecosystem, Mr.
Singh said. He declined to discuss specifics because the work will
eventually see the light of day.
The Brand Partner Program complements YouTube's BrandLabs, which
are one-day affairs held at the site's San Bruno, CA, headquarters.
While serving as Anheuser-Busch InBev's VP-digital marketing, Lucas
Herscovici has been to both workshops, shepherding Budweiser to
BrandLab and Shock Top to the Brand Partner Program.
The partner program "goes deeper into content creators [than
BrandLab]. BrandLab is showing you more in general how brands have
been successful and goes beyond video. This is much more focused on
YouTube and content creators and the partnerships you can do as a
brand," said Mr. Herscovici, who now heads A-B InBev's consumer
But the Brand Partner Program extends well beyond the three-day
workshop. Each brand that participates gets so-called partner
managers to help figure out how they want to program that content
and the YouTube stars they want to collaborate with.
As a follow-up the Brand Partner Program, YouTube holds
condensed versions at a brand's headquarters in order to get
c-level decision makers to buy into the strategy. "Brand folks may
be all-in and get it, but the COO or CEO doesn't understand
YouTube. So how do we convince them to increase their commitments?"
Mr. Byrne said.