The last few years has given rise to YouTube as one of the biggest resources for online video in the Nordics. Creators, advertisers and new business have been embracing the platform, but for many brands the world of YouTube remains a black box. As numerous YouTube creators have become brands in their own right, more and more companies have become interested in working with these stars.
While the more traditional approach has been to buy pre-rolls against these channels, some brands have trail-blazed and pioneered their way into branded content.
Victor Ljungberg, head of sales at Splay, a multi-channel network in the Nordics, put it this way: “Either you see YouTube as a lot of traffic, or you see people creating their own communities and audiences.”
“In the beginning it was all about the reach. But now it’s more about organic reach,” Ljungberg explains. “Maybe that’s why we have high conversion rates after people see advertising content integrated with a YouTuber. As a result, I think the pioneers of this are clients who are having trouble reaching the right audience.”
“In the summer of 2015, Splay connected Comviq with Clara Henry and Keyyo for a video travel series throughout India. Rather than simply buying ad space on YouTube, or traditional media, Comviq saw a need to go deeper.
Mimmi Sköldberg, brand manager at Comviq, explained: “We do a lot of traditional large media campaigns, where we reach a lot of people. But we are aware that we have a younger target group where the liking and engagement is decreasing, as well as the viewing on traditional TV shows.”
“Using their brand message ‘Prata mer med varandra’ (Talk to each other more) Comviq enabled Clara and Keyyo to travel India, with a little help from the fictional character, Karim, who is the star of the brand’s advertising concept.
In the summer of 2014, Samsung approached United Screens, a Nordic MCN, who created a total sponsorship package for Samsung including advertising buys, the backing of a documentary project, as well as branded content. United Screens connected them with ten leading Nordics vloggers; these vloggers subsequently made videos highlighting what they loved the most about the Samsung Galaxy S5.
We spoke with the creators, the advertisers, and the multi-channel networks in the Nordics highlighting three best practices from these two collaborations between creators and brands.
1. Trust the creator’s creativity
“The creator always has to have the final say in everything. The creator knows how to create content - the companies honestly do not,” says Clara Henry who has been approached by many companies and feels that the tone when collaborating with a creator is the most important. “In terms of tone, the company has to see that the creator has the power, and they know how they want express themselves. The company has to be modest in some way”.
Nicolin Lillhage at United Screens sees it in the same way: “It’s our main job to be the link between the advertiser and the YouTuber to make sure both parties are satisfied. If the advertiser were to come to the YouTuber with a script, it’s not going to work. The collaboration has to be done in a way that fits the YouTuber’s content and integrates the advertiser’s communication goals and messages in an authentic way. It all comes down to trust, and the advertiser has to trust the YouTuber.”
As an example, in the Samsung collaboration, the brand trusted Sp4zie, a gaming creator with a huge following to do something new - integrate the product into a rap song.
Mimmi Sköldberg at Comviq sees the key to the campaigns success to trusting Clara and Keyyo to own the creative process as well. “You shouldn’t tell them how to talk about your brand. When you trust the stars to do it in a way that the audience will appreciate, you get a deeper emotional contact with the target group.” For Comviq, the results were clear - the campaign delivered a 36% increase in engagement for Comviq with a continued lift in awareness among the campaign’s target group.
2. Integrate products and messages carefully
Traditional branded content relies on putting the brand first and foremost. When working with a YouTube creator, you are working with a real person with an authentic connection to their fans.
“It’s about creating entertainment,” says Sköldberg. “In the end, the audience will choose if they want to watch it or not, share it or not. You have find a way for it not to be too commercial, yet still have the audience understand that you’re involved and that you’re the enabler of this great show.”
Comviq was able to implement their character, Karim, but not a specific product. For the creator, this approach made a lot of sense “Some companies think they are buying a TV commercial spot, saying “buy this”! That doesn’t work on YouTube where the fans trust the creators,” says Clara Henry. Brands should think about being associated and producing quality entertainment than hitting specific branding messages.
United Screens stresses that it’s also important for the creators to understand the demands of the brands. “It’s not always easy to be a creator and understand what the advertiser expects,” Lillhage points out, “many of our creators therefore prefer working with a MCN since we can be their content advisers. Overall, it’s about a good video content where the advertiser is presented in a trustworthy or positive message.”
For Sara Beauty Corner, this approach achieved incredible results, where the Samsung collaboration video became one of Sara’s most popular videos, reaching over 12 million views to date. “The collaboration was fantastic, Samsung were very open,” says Tadej Fekonaj, from Sara Beauty Corner, who stressed Samsung’s openness too: “We are so anxious not to force someone to buy something. Samsung had a non-aggressive approach and still, the phone is on the screen for at least 60% of a 15 minute long video.”
3. The best creator for your brand is not always the biggest one
Creators, MCNs, and even advertisers are starting to realise the importance of not just trying to collaborate with the YouTuber who has the greatest number of subscribers or viewing figures; they stress that the character fit is the key to a successful collaboration.
“All too often, advertisers and brands are just looking at subscribers,” says Tadej Fekonja from Sara Beauty Corner. Fekonja reveals that frequently an advertiser will reach out out and it becomes clear that they are not actually interested in the creator, nor have they taken the time to understand what type of content they create.
Mimmi Sklödberg sees the process as much more important than just getting the channel with the most views or subscribers: “You have to choose stars and shows that your target group likes but also, as a brand, we have to be willing to stand next to the characters of the show – do we want to be associated with them and everything that they do?”
Sköldberg continues: “I think a lot of brands right now are doing new marketing initiatives just to ‘do something,’ since brands are stressed out regarding media opportunities the moment,” but she stresses that it’s key to find the right fit between the brand and the context you choose. That’s what makes your collaboration successful and trustworthy.
While some brands still struggle to understand the best way to create branded content, over the past few years, creators, MCNs and even the brands themselves admit that the world has changed, and in the Nordics, branded content is a key piece to marketing efforts.
“It’s great that more and more companies see how great it is to advertise on YouTube this way because they really reach the target audiences,” says Clara Henry, “The older generations now understand.”