It’s very obvious to advertisers to buy media that interupts popular television shows. Supply/demand creates expensive spots for the Superbowl, and bargain prices for reruns of Full House.
But when branded entertainment became vogue, someone smoked bad acid and promoted a ridiculous concept. Get the sponsor before launching a show, and sell ’em based on the quality of the content. This assumes that agencies and video producers know what content will become popular and influential, (and worse yet that advertisering sponsors can). Wrong. Wrong. Who could have predicted ANYONE in the top 10 most-subscribed YouTube list? Who could have predicted that I’d be a most-viewed YouTube comedian, for crying out loud? And yes I know people don’t smoke acid, jerk.
GoDaddy took a sole sponsorship on “Internet Superstar” (a very clever show that’s now RIP). I loved the show, but I also recognize that — for reasons that elude me — audiences don’t flock to a well-produced show about the other video stars and shows. It similarly perplexes me that Pepsi-backed PopTub hasn’t yet developed a larger audience, but perhaps the “Entertainment Tonight of online video” defies the niche nature of online video (then again, I laughed when I saw magazines about the Internet, and some have survived).
Don’t get me wrong. I believe GoDaddy picked well with Internet Superstar, and that Pepsi found a good show on PopTub. But it’s easy and unwise to pitch an idea, get backing, and then search for an audience with the sponsor’s money.
I’d take a more pragmatic approach as an advertiser. I would promote via what people watch and not what “the suits” and focus groups predict will be hot. That means I’d partner with something as inane as Fred (assuming I felt confident that his bit had staying power). And if I found a brilliant concept (iChannel) that hadn’t garnered an audience, I’d let someone else fund their launch. As I said, online-video popularity is not about talent alone.
An exception, of course, would be Burger King sponsoring content by a known animator (Seth Mac Farlane) that is getting traction because audiences like Seth’s style, and BK is pumping it with ad dollars. And who wouldn’t rather watch “Seth sellout” rather than Burger King commercials on a Burger King YouTube channel?
But when a popular YouTuber spawns a spinoff channel, it often develops a quick following without ad dollars to pimp it or a well-known offline personality.
- MrSafety‘s relatively new “Mean Kitty” channel is about to surpass me in subscribers.
- What The Buck Show host, Michael Buckley, has an extremely popular channel where all he does is vlog.
- Another spinoff (BamBamKaBoosh) amassed 50,000 subscribers in days without any videos — just because popular creators promoted it.
- Show me an agency that has developed video content and garnered such a fast and loyal audience without promoting it (with ads that might be better served to sell their product not a lame show).
Now the power of being a sole sponsor is far greater than an interruption ad, and these programs shouldn’t be evaluated on a basis of total views but on the impact of the views (not CPM, folks, but Dynamic Logic pre/post awareness and attitude trackers).
I’d rather have a small product placement on the most popular YouTube channel than be the sole backer of an amazing show that’s in search for an audience. Even in branded entertainment, follow the crowds unless you’re extremely confident you can create your own.