The Case for Rebranding YouTube

One Way to Shed the Cat-Video Stigma (Hey, It Worked for Vevo)

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There's a good chance you read the title of this article and thought, "Blasphemy! How can you propose rebranding the internet's dominant video platform and second-largest search engine? It's cost $1.65 billion for God's sake!"

My answer? It's all about the Benjamins.

To be clear, I am not suggesting rebranding the entire site. I am simply suggesting that YouTube rebrand the portion of their inventory that is largely professionally created and which brand advertisers covet but is estimated to be less than 10% of total traffic.

Why, you ask?

First, there is ample evidence, both factual and anecdotal, that in many people's minds, YouTube is synonymous with user-generated (UGC) video. By the way, plenty of advertisers love cat videos. But determining what's brand-safe and what isn't among the amateur stuff is still a problem. And because of this unavoidable association YouTube overall captures less of global video ad budgets than its market share (40%) suggests it should have.

Second, YouTube is struggling both to fund premium content and sell ads against the premium content it already has at rates that are competitive with Hulu and others. YouTube has large amounts of premium content, more of it in fact than any broadcaster with an online presence. However, it simply isn't commanding the same pre-roll rates as its traditional media peers.

Third, and most compelling of all, is the overwhelming evidence that this rebrand strategy just might work:

  1. The Vevo case study: Let's be honest, Vevo is simply a rebrand of run-of-network music videos. In 2005, when music videos made up 50% plus of Yahoo's video streams, it couldn't sell music video inventory to save its life. Similarly, YouTube had a near unlimited volume of avails in and around music videos in 2007 and 2008 and couldn't sell them effectively. When Vevo took over the music videos on YouTube, it simply created a new brand with a shiny logo. Result: $30 CPMs.
  2. UGC Separation: YouTube has done everything in its power to assure advertisers that they won't run on UGC, including a partner program, channels and automated video recognition technology. Does the solution work? I am sure it does but that doesn't matter. Advertisers don't like sites that have both UGC and premium video because it sounds scary. I challenge you to name one that is successful in any medium, video or display -- MySpace anyone?
  3. "New" Sells: Everyone in the media business knows that if it's "new," it sells. YouTube would benefit greatly by having a completely new, crystal-clear value proposition to sell into the market and compete more directly with Hulu. Even if this is simply the sizzle that sells the steak, they have a lot of steak to sell and their volumes are growing everyday.

So, let the name game begin. Four letter names seem to be doing well in video -- Hulu and Vevo have proven that. Perhaps it should be a blend of traditional (YTV) or leverage the existing Google domain portfolio (they own

My only request is don't call it the Tiffany Network. I own and don't want to get a threatening letter from Google after they file their trademark application.

Tod Sacerdoti is CEO of Brightroll, a video ad network and exchange. You can read more from him at
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