Lights, camera, upload: The new world of short form video

March 2015

The irreverent, rapid popularity of YouTube creators has proven interesting to brand marketers keen to benefit from the sheen of innovation and exposure to new audiences in a new, authentic way. But far from being a niche channel with which to reach consumers, the YouTube generation is beginning to disrupt traditional advertising through new genres, content and burgeoning talent.

YouTube sketch filmmaker TomSka loves making mistakes. Millions of them. It is, he would say, how he spends the majority of his time. It's just one of the many benefits he can see from working in the online space and the freedom that YouTube gives him to evolve. "If you screw up in the traditional filmmaking world, you're done," he points out.

He discussed creativity and the new opportunities afforded by video at Adweek Europe 2015.

He isn't blindly ploughing a mistake-strewn path however, and he insists that the unique ability to see not just a handful of reviews but tens of thousands of comments is a vital part of his evolution as a filmmaker.

"I'm getting better at my craft. Deconstructing 10,000 comments to find out what they mean is really interesting." He does caution against blindly following the wisdom of crowds however. "Are commenters just having a knee jerk reaction to something different? You have to understand the overall consensus, and not listen to a kid just having a bad day."

What this environment has created is a community of nimble, engaged filmmakers who capture the imagination and have the ability to garner huge support. TomSka himself has over 3.5 million subscribers to his channel and can get from idea to upload in five days. It's unsurprising that brand marketers find these 'new advertisers' attractive.

The freedom and innovation that creators on YouTube are exploring is also proving frustrating for traditional advertising creatives. They see the opportunity to broadcast in a new way to a new audience and want to take the lead from the YouTubers to inform their own traditional media executions. Yet, as Dave Bedwood, Creative Director at M&C Saatchi explains: "It's risk aversion from the client. TV is a lot of money so they want to play it safe. It's very hard to talk them out of it. TV feels sedate. There's sizzling stuff coming out online."

For brands willing to experiment in the YouTube environment - of which there are an increasing number - there are still hurdles to clear, not least understanding the channel's form and function. "The medium will always influence the message." With a distinct skew towards short form video, viewed predominantly on laptop or mobile, the most successful content is of a very specific genre and brands have to be able to work with it, not against.

The best way to advertise on YouTube is to be very upfront, or so subtle it's elegant.

"The best way for YouTubers to work with brands is to either be very upfront about it or so subtle that the content is tasteful. Consumers are so wise to advertising online that the best way is to be satirical, sarcastic and ridiculous," TomSka advises.

This new vernacular is expected to bleed into more mainstream advertising eventually, not least because YouTube is increasingly becoming the breeding ground for new filmmaking talent.

When once famous filmmakers like Ridley Scott cut their teeth in adland, today's budding blockbuster makers are finding their feet with YouTube, where anyone with more than 5,000 subscribers can ask for help about equipment, editing and so forth.

If proof were needed that this will prove to be a rich seam of future talent, YouTube has formalised its 'academy' position with a partnership with D&AD Next Director award, providing mentoring and contacts to allow budding creatives such as nominee Kyra Buschor and her Rollin' Wild series gain a foothold in video - whether advertising, entertainment or more.

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