If you want online video to engage, find a digital native, not a TV producer

Tim CooperIn this guest post, Boom’s Tim Cooper argues that TV production experience is almost irrelevant in online video: marketers need to partner with digital natives to reach audiences.

Snoop Dog wants to sell you Nestle Hot Pockets, and he’s not afraid to play around with one of his classic songs to do it.

YouTube’s march towards global domination as a provider of high quality online entertainment, and not just videos of cute kittens (not that there’s anything wrong with kittens) was boosted in late July this year when it doubled its investment in new channels to US$200 million.

A lot of this money has gone towards getting TV talent and stars like Snoop to generate YouTube content, but as the WSJ reported at the time attempts driven by TV execs such as the MyISH channel flopped before an experienced YouTube talent was brought on board to turn it around.

The opportunity for marketers to launch branded entertainment through online video is huge. Here in Australia, YouTube had a unique audience (UA) of 9.7 million in September alone. And its popularity is growing – the average time Australians spend watching YouTube videos has grown by a staggering 50% since September 2011. But what the MyISH experience has taught us is that a high-end production values approach is not the key to creating successful content for YouTube.
So for campaigns that don’t have the reach to engage a global name like Snoop, what is the best way to get their brand in on the game?

Well, for inspiration why not turn to the people already doing it. Australia’s YouTubers have been flying under the radar of most marketers, steadily posting their content, building large followings and becoming celebrities in their own right. Channels like ChampChong (which is a Boom content partner) or Lauren Beauty have millions of views and tens of thousands of subscribers, but their USP is not just these numbers – it’s their authentic connection with their online following.

Just like Snoop and his Hot Pocket, these digitally native video creators are fluent in the language of the online video eco-system. They know that great YouTube videos don’t necessarily need to be shot with professional equipment and storyboarded to death by a team of marketing creatives. For them, it’s not about endorsing a brand – it’s about creating a video that is different, compelling and engaging. It’s about having fun.

In today’s market, those of us conceiving campaigns are no doubt struggling to retain a sense of fun while balancing the economic realities of the market. However, for a real shot at creating the unique and compelling content that drives a campaign’s online success, we have a lot to learn from YouTubers. It’s time for us to go digital native.

  • Tim Cooper is strategy and operations director at online video Boom, YouTube’s first Australian channel partner. He will be speaking at the Festival of Branded Entertainment next Tuesday.


  1. John Grono
    12 Nov 12
    3:22 pm

  2. Tim, I think the two linked videos argue against your proposition summarised at the top of the article.

  3. nell schofield
    12 Nov 12
    3:27 pm

  4. “these digitally native video creators are fluent in the language of the online video eco-system”

    so they’re ad wankers as well?

  5. Tom
    12 Nov 12
    4:06 pm

  6. +1 for #1

  7. Anne Miles
    12 Nov 12
    4:17 pm

  8. There is a time and a place for content like Tim discusses here, but thinking that this is all that online content is about is pretty limiting and self promoting I feel.

    The treatment of the content needs to fit with the brand authentically, yes – regardless of whether a producer is hired to pull the job together or not.

    Frankly, I think we need to be careful that brands still have stand out with so much content blending together. Entertainment is not guaranteed with this form of shooting either. That ‘digitally native’ look is getting a little worn thin in my view.

    Ideas are not dead IMHO.

  9. Fabfour
    12 Nov 12
    7:34 pm

  10. Nell, I think the digital natives Tim is referring to are the talent behind You Tube channels … those that have created a popular You Tube following with clever content before they get involved in any ad production or promotion.

  11. Shamma
    12 Nov 12
    8:17 pm

  12. I love how some people think the idea of creating ‘low cost content’ is an easy thing only recently discovered by digital mediums.

    Good fast cheap – pick 2 at the expense of 1.

  13. Fabfour
    12 Nov 12
    9:35 pm

  14. Shamma – as a side point … I’m a fan of that that ‘good, fast, cheap’ model … but haven’t been game to raise that point for 3 – 4 years because in this recessed environment everyone just tells you someone else can deliver all 3 for the price of 2!!

  15. Anne Miles
    13 Nov 12
    9:02 am

  16. Agree with @Shamma that ‘content’ is not new. I see it as a rebrand of what ‘corporate videos’ used to be. It is quite amusing to see.

    As @Fabfour says I do agree that there are plenty of people out there that can do fast, cheap and good but the missed opportunity is for the work to be even better. Sometimes though, it is enough and we can’t be too pretentious or demanding on the creative execution when it isn’t warranted. The real trick is making sure that whatever is decided works for the brand and not just for the creatives or the suppliers.

    I see so many people these days working directly with suppliers or creators of content and no one is acting on the client’s behalf to protect them from the wrong execution or the wrong budget. Just because a supplier delivers to the budget that is in the client’s heads doesn’t make it a good solution necessarily. Like with Tim Cooper’s solution – this is sound some of the time, but certainly not a model to replicate across the board as Tim’s article implies.

    I do think the industry is changing and I see people producing content who haven’t had to produce it before – clients directly, media companies, smaller/mid agencies, PR companies, designers, web/digital companies and not just the big agencies now. This is fine but this opens many issues for people that haven’t the experience to discern when something like Tim Cooper’s model works and when they need something else. Regardless of who it is, these companies need a producer that is working for them and their client, and not just rely on producers from suppliers.

    Even a TrinityP3 audit is a good move (gasp horror say many producers – if you’ve done your job you wont have anything to worry about), although having the quote audited is only part of the problem addressed – is the supplier choice right, is the project handled properly all the way through to avoid over-runs and extras? Is the execution the best it can be?

    No offence, Tim – your model is great for certain applications, I just don’t think it applies across the board.

  17. Nicky
    13 Nov 12
    11:56 am

  18. I think Tim is making a valid point here. Youtubers are extremely adept at community building and engagement. THIS is what separates them from those with mere “TV production experience.” Many have independently amassed loyal audiences and sustained these audiences for an extended period of time. Critiquing their content will get you so far, working out how they relate to their audiences and investing in a similar strategy however will take you even further.

  19. Shamma
    13 Nov 12
    12:24 pm

  20. 100% agree fabfour – in sales mode everyone can do all 3 and they can do it even better, with more people, for far less than everyone else!

  21. Tim Cooper
    14 Nov 12
    10:26 am

  22. Appreciate all the comments.

    One of the main points I was trying to make is that when advertisers decide to enter the online video arena (in this case YouTube), they are best served to engage with content creators that actually understand the environment and already have a loyal audience.

    I have witnessed many occasions where brands have repurposed their TV commercial- uploading it to YouTube and then later have been left wondering why no-one has watched and engaged with their content.

    This is a new approach – as these YouTubers understand their audience, and within their property they understand the best way to introduce the brand into the show.

    @ Anne – I do agree this is not a one size fits all model. There is currently still a need and a role for a brand TV style spot, and the ad agency / production companies will still be best placed to know what the brand should be communicating.

    These YouTubers are pioneering this area, and I believe if we can work with them and learn from them, both content creators and brands will benefit.

    The potential is definitely there for YouTubers to work with production companies as talent, and in doing so bring with them an already established online audience.

    A great example of this can be seen in this 15 second ad, a collaboration between a YouTuber and a production company:

  23. Anne Miles
    14 Nov 12
    12:11 pm

  24. Thanks for the clarification @Tim Cooper. I agree the link you show is a great use of the YouTube channel content maximised – I personally think better than the cases above.

    The Skittles (‘Skittelles’) campaign is a good example of making free stuff until someone notices – again a model that is right for some.

    I think Maker have been smart to build their/his own brand and, as you say, there are many good opportunities out there to partner like this. I appreciate that you acknowledge it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ model.

    Keeping a handle on what’s working on the platform is a service in itself. Good one. All the best with the talk at the festival.

  25. Opinions may vary
    16 Nov 12
    6:41 am

  26. Video art is fraud.

  27. Jim
    16 Nov 12
    10:04 am

  28. Wow..All this stuff about Youtube and not a thing about Vimeo.
    Vimeo is rich with amazing content, made by professional and amateur filmmakers.
    If you like watching quality you go to Vimeo, if you want to watch crap infomercials hang around Youtube with all its ads and disrespectful trolling culture. Poorly researched article.