‘Shots fired’: YouTube reminds us who’s boss in video

This is part of Mumbrella’s coverage of the 2024 upfront season. Click here to see other articles in the series. 

Same venue, but a very different story.

On Thursday night, YouTube took over Sydney’s Hordern Pavillion, where Nine held its 2024 Upfront only a week ago, and used its Brandcast to take aim at traditional channels.

It was a not-so-subtle reminder that YouTube is still the video industry’s boss.

Google Australia’s managing director, Mel Silva, said that while there has been an “explosion of video platforms”, YouTube still rules them all.

“From an audience perspective, most of those platforms do one or two things extremely well – they cater to a specific audience, specialise in short or long form, they provide a digital alternative to linear TV,” she said.

Google Australia and New Zealand’s managing director Melanie Silva opened for the Brandcast

“YouTube does all of it. It caters to every audience, from the mainstream to the micro-enthusiasts. It does a snappy 6-second video just as well as a two-hour feature doco, and works seamlessly across devices – from mobile to the biggest screen in the house.”

What’s on the table

While exciting for advertisers, some of YouTube’s new ad offerings could prove to be irksome for users.

For starters, as flagged earlier in the year at the US Brandcast event, YouTube will introduce a 30-second non-skippable ad on connected TVs through YouTube Select – a reserved inventory across the top 5% of popular channels in any region.

The offering will launch locally next month, with content across events such as AFL, NRL, the Australian Open and Coachella.

YouTube did not acknowledge the longer non-skippable ads as an attempt to drive sign-ups to its premium subscription option, which includes perks such as ad-free viewing and offline videos on mobile devices. However, it certainly seems another gentle nudge for those users who may be on the fence.

The company also talked about YouTube Select, which is set to expand next month as well, with more of the platform’s short-form videos, YouTube Shorts. The platform boasts 50 billion plays every day on YouTube Shorts globally, and a 150% increase in average daily views in Australia.

Further down the track, YouTube will introduce a Pause experience on connected TV in 2024, by showing a static ad side-by-side to the video when users choose to pause.

Shots fired on TV

EssenceMediacom’s Sydney head of media solutions and investment, Michael Betts, said YouTube was “less than subtle” in directing shots against traditional channels like TV.

“Many research stats were shared to suggest that YouTube is even more effective than TV, although I’m sure Think TV would have an equal number of stats to counteract this narrative,” he told Mumbrella.

He said the platform will be keen to remove any barriers to nab more of the BVOD budget, especially with the CTV-only 30-second non-skippable ads announcement.

“The announcement of pause screen ads also saw YouTube try to play catch-up in a rare area where the BVOD players have innovated faster.”

Big on Gen Z

Betts further observed that the message around younger audiences is clear from YouTube, which is that the platform is speaking their languages in a way that TV can’t.

YouTube creator Mike’s Mic presenting at Brandcast

There is a focus on creator-led cultural conversations, he said, and little mention of big budget and mainstream content.

“The message was that YouTube is not only the platform to reach younger audiences, but also where brands can be part of the cultural conversation.”

It was also positive to see so many people of colour front and centre, said Betts, in a way that feels “authentic rather than tokenistic.”

“This was an ongoing theme throughout the night with ‘inclusion is mandatory” being one of the key recommendations around effective creative.”

The pitch process also matters

The event enlisted marketing industry personality Mark Ritson, senior marketers Lucinda Barlow of Uber and Kathy De Lullo of Mondelēz International, alongside popular Australian YouTuber Mike’s Mic to showcase YouTube from both content and functionality perspectives.

Ritson moderating a session with De Lullo and Barlow

Case studies from Uber and Mondelēz International were presented on stage, and Half Dome’s digital lead, Euan MacDonald, said they bore great functionality in presenting YouTube’s potential for marketers.

“These case studies discussed strategic pivots from traditional linear video to a digital-first approach through YouTube, highlighting the platform’s role in media plans today,” he said. “Both case studies showed impressive outcomes for both brands.”

“Measurement approaches were also a key focus, with both brands adopting a multi-pronged approach to measurement through a mix of brand lift studies, brand tracking and media mix modelling to understand the impact on sales.

“Brandcast 2023 personally left me invigorated.”

Light on AI and Shorts

Betts said while there were some mentions of AI, it’s nothing Google has not previously been doing.

“Google has always been a leader in this space …  previously [it] would have referenced [the AI offering] as automation or machine learning,” he said.

However, he was surprised by a lack of push on YouTube Shorts.

“It has the potential to compete for some of the dollars currently going to TikTok and Instagram Reels. A stat was shared that there was 150% growth of shorts year-on-year, although this was likely from a low baseline.”


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