Celebrating its tenth birthday in just one month, YouTube has taken us on a weird and wonderful tour over the past decade, punctuated with elephants, live space diving and a certain South Korean pop star called Psy. Before we break out the cake and candles, it seems a perfect moment to look at what the future holds. I sat down with Nick Cohen (Vice President at Little Dot Studios), Lisa Tookey (Commercial Director for Jamie Oliver's Food Tube) and Dan'l Hewitt (UK Managing Director at Maker Studios) to uncover the emerging trends.
Going forward, we’ll begin to see more curation, more programming, more scripted content and increased quality on YouTube. Instead of appearing in all the videos on their channels, creators will become curators. They’ll feature content that they might not star in but that they do validate, offering an opportunity for some YouTubers to become mini-networks in their own right. Alongside this, many will begin to take a programming approach. “When that happens, the level of investment in the content is going to go up massively,” Dan'l says. “We can get big investment into productions and we know we’ll find massive audiences.”
Big changes in the YouTube audience are already afoot. First, the young audiences already firmly involved in the platform will grow up. But at the same time, new audiences – both young and old – are coming to YouTube in huge numbers. While the demographics are shifting already, premium audiences are growing overall. “Whereas historically a lot of brands have seen YouTube as a place for youth,” Nick observes, “it starts to become a more premium space as lots of different audiences move into YouTube who are really attractive to advertisers.”
We’ll soon be past the point where brands treat online video advertising as an afterthought. “A lot of brands right now take their TV commercial and shoehorn it into YouTube,” Dan’l explains. “You wouldn’t take your bus creative and put it in a magazine. You wouldn’t take your radio creative and run it as text in the newspaper. It’s a different medium, and I think it’s really important that brands get their head around that.”
Nike and Adidas both provide examples of a new, smarter way: both kicked off their World Cup ad campaigns with five-minute films, then used cuts from these to create their TV ads. It’s a reversal of the traditional approach that we’re going to see more and more, where brands start with the story as web content, then generate TV ads off the back of that.
So how can brands thrive in this rapidly shifting environment? For Lisa, it comes down to two traits: agility and trust. “We can turn things around in a couple of hours, film them and get them up super quickly – as many creatives can. But to embed brands in that in a really authentic and editorially appropriate way – I do think it’s still quite difficult for brands to be that nimble.” The secret it seems, is relinquishing a little bit of control in order to move fast and maximise existing expertise. “It would be great to see brands be a bit braver, and trust that creators and influencers really understand their audience and how brands can be embedded in their content.”