Dr. Who BBC America Campaign: I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

As Hannibal used to say on A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

I love it when a (integrated media) plan comes together.

One of the most rewarding things about participating in online-video campaigns for big brands or network shows is seeing these launch simultaneously with television and print advertisements. We call it “integrated marketing,” and it’s easy in concept and difficult but wonderful in fruition. Okay, I like the payments better, but integrated marketing is still rare enough to be a pleasant surprise… especially when it involves “new media” and social. Of course, it’s difficult for a marketer or agency to time precisely a campaign’s “peak” in various mediums, given paid “insertion orders” (formal booking of space in media) often requires months of lead time. Likewise the “books” (magazines) can require months of advance notice.

I noticed that our YouTube GE Healthymagination campaign was timed well with a series of television spots, and most recently I’ve seen it on BBC America’s launch of Dr. Who (my video below was titled “Time Travel Fail, “What Year Do You Miss,” and “What Would You Do if You Had a Time Machine?” (thanks munchvids for the video response… it’s sad that those don’t get more real estate when the video plays).

The YouTube videos included time-travel themed videos, and included branded ads for Dr. Who

I wasn’t the only part of this campaign, and I’m writing this without any inside knowledge of the agency, budget, timing or execution. Hats of to MysteryGuitarman for this epic video that was also part of the campaign. I’m especially impressed that he found a “rotary pay phone” and managed to add a LED screen. And Joe, it’s making me crazy that you’ve managed to multiply yourself with better special effects than I see in most movies (Freaky Friday, Multiplicity). Vsauce’s video actually made me think, and TheStation participated with “Waiter Takes Out Restaurant.” Check out the whole series (a link to YouTube videos tagged ifIHadaTimemachine, then ranked by views).

The very week these YouTube videos launched, I noticed a prime print advertisement in Entertainment Weekly, a NYC “out of home” component,” and some “earned” media uptake (PR). Furthermore, the YouTube “branded entertainment” video series were wrapped with display and InVideo ads.

I like these “organic” YouTube campaigns that don’t force the brand in the webstar’s videos, but let the creator carry the campaign theme in their own way. The comments I’ve read are largely positive (a contrast from campaigns that require sponsored YouTube videos to have a branded slate at the intro, which is so forceful as to scare people away).

What can producers, networks, agencies and YouTube do to make these campaigns work even harder? A few ideas, but they all have executional nuances so it’s a bit unfair for me to “Monday morning quarterback.” Again- I know nothing more than what I’ve seen as a Dr. Who fan (and the very simple directions got via YouTube to make my video).

  1. Cross-link the videos so Dr. Who fans (I know you’re out there because many of you noticed the picture on my son Charlie’s shirt) would be able to move through them without having to leave YouTube (only a few percent of people leave a YouTube session for an ad, and that’s when there’s a strong reason).
  2. I would suggest the digital agency also run paid-search ads for related keywords (even though I doubt there are loads of people searching “time machine” and “ifihadatimemachine” the cost of that inventory would be minimal). I’d certainly be buying ads for those people searching for “Dr Who, BBC America” and related terms, which would help get more eyes on the campaign website: “TimeMachineTales.” Buzz drives search, and it’s a shame to see Amazon books rank higher than the 2011 version of the timeless show.
  3. Take advantage of YouTube’s “live” programming to augment the April 23 premier with something real time (perhaps one of the webstars watches the debut and invites interaction with fellow fans). If MysteryGuitarMan said he was going live on YouTube on the evening of April 23, I imagine hundreds of thousand would follow.
  4. Recognize that the YouTube aspect of the campaign is valuable far beyond the campaign. For instance, my Fringe promotions have accumulated significant views long after the debut. There’s a perpetual nature to these programs. As Hitviews CEO Walter Sabo says, “Campaign Duration: Forever.” The 105 videos his company has delivered for brands have accumulated in excess of 30 million views.
  5. Finally the real way to “break the fourth wall” is to allow a television show’s cast to interact and collaborate with prominent YouTube creators. This can be difficult, but possible. In the case of my “Meet the Fringe Cast” video, I simply learned the cast was at ComicCon, and I convinced the sponsor (Fox) to allow me the same access the network/producers gave to professional media. In another example, we saw V’s “Anna” (Morena Baccarin) appear on YouTube’s homepage with a custom message for YouTubers, and that was a “bar raising” move. Now imagine iJustine mingling with Mark Sheppard, which would carry as much weight as a local media tour to promote the show. iCarly’s Freddy Benson (Nathan Cress) met with YouTube’s prolific “ShayCarl/Shaytards” in a casual meeting that I would have paid to facilitate if I was Cress’ manager or iCarly’s promoter.
  6. Lastly, and this is really difficult, it would be great to find ways to permit clips from the show intermixed with the YouTube videos. For very good reasons this is rare. Often the network promoting the show doesn’t have the rights to use the content in promotion. The benefit, however, is you can give people a contextual teaser of the show’s actual content… as I did with “Fringe is Scary.” These clips were approved by the producer (JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot) for use with media, and I even snuck in some very tiny snippets beyond those in the media library.
IF I HAD A TIME MACHINE hosts tweets and videos related to the campaign

I’m sure it was not part of the campaign that Elisabeth Sladen died this week (she’s the British actress who played intrepid investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith throughout the classic BBC series’ 30-year run). But only one Guy calls those shots, and he’s not much of a marketer (thank God).

Online-Video to Marketers: Lighten Up, Francis!

In one of the more memorable moments of the incredibly quotable Stripes, a new recruit warns his fellow troupe: “The name’s Francis Sawyer… but everybody calls me psycho… any of you call me Francis I’ll kill you.” The drill sergeant’s response: “lighten up, Francis” (see video).

“Lighten up” was one of the pieces of advice in a column titled, “Four Ways to Protect Your Brand: Throw Away The Script.” The piece, written by former show-business executive Walter Sabo, reflects his learnings as CEO of Hitviews, a company that helps brands leverage online-video stars to produce sponsored videos that reach viewers in a different way than most online advertising.

It’s hard for a marketer to let go of his or her message, especially when the more a marketer cares about a brand the harder it is to see a promotion depart from a well-researched and carefully crafted strategy, message map, and creative brief.

I’d argue that “letting go” or “lightening up” is the second most difficult thing to do (followed almost certainly by gaining approval to engage in non-formatted promotion from conservative legal council and senior management less familiar with the medium). On this blog I’ve recounted my own experience with “giving up control” on social media. I preached it while at J&J but it became a lot more difficult when I saw my own brand (Propecia and “Nalts”) take on their own personalities online. In some cases both Propecia and “Nalts” (if I may call my online persona a brand) was inaccurate or at least incomplete. Fortunately Walter is not asking brands to depart from strategy, but to allow more creative control than we marketers typically afford agencies.

Indeed a video star is different from an agency’s director or producer. They have their own voice, and an audience that expects that voice to carry through entertainment and the occasional promotion. Have you ever heard a spot by Howard Stern? Give him too much copy or edit his script departures and you lose the impact of having him endorse the product — which sounds like an endorsement by a trusted personality.

I’m not familiar with many marketers who will enjoy being told to “lighten up,” but I trust that agencies can help educate their clients that a carefully controlled promotion is called an “advertisement” and is quite often tuned out. But webstars given some creative freedom to make the message their own is what breaks through the clutter.

Disclaimer: I am a “webstar” who has made videos for Hitviews on behalf of such clients as Reader’s Digest, Fox, MTV and Microsoft. One of my favorite aspects of this medium is trying to make widely-viewed videos that promote a brand but, above all, entertain. In most cases when a brand tampers in the creative, the views and persuasive power of the video is not as high. That doesn’t mean we “webstars” don’t need strategic direction and a creative brief… it just means that if we’re allowed to interpret it in our style for our audience the results are far more interesting.

Why Online Video is More Like Radio than Television

Walter Sabo, Hitviews founder and former radio maven, makes it more apparent why radio people seem to have adapted more naturally to online video than television people. At first I thought it was simply that the radio people saw their boat sinking sooner than television people (some who vary their whistling melodies and choose a new route past the graveyard to show they’re flexible).

In fact there’s another reason that Sabo has attracted radio investments and a posse of former radio sales people, and it’s evident in his anti-standard piece and even more succinctly in his “Four Crazy Things My Dad Said About Media Buying”:

Every radio spot he (Sabo’s father and store owner) bought was a live read by personalities. Every print ad was endorsed by a local celebrity. Every TV buy at least had live tags even though TV was too precious to offer live spokespeople. On the Internet he would have bought a webstar video visiting the business and talking about it. We all buy products from friends.

Indeed radio and today’s version of online video are arguably more alike than online video and television. Why? The talent carries the show. You may like the tunes best, but you can’t argue with the facts: when a radio star jumps stations, the audience often follows. Is it any coincidence that one of YouTube’s hottest properties is a former disc jockey (yeah the fat guy- Shaycarl). If Shay loved beets I’d eat ’em.

Online video is about a charismatic human and people who enjoy them… unscripted reality and a fairly intimate relationship (as one-to-many goes). Like radio personalities, online video folks don’t mind plugging a good sponsor. And that doesn’t work as naturally on the boob tube, except for during an occasional talk show (where’d that format come from again) or that radio-like television show we call American Idol.

I’m not entirely unbiased about Sabo’s poetry (see below graphic to find the “Hitviews Pro” series on JackMyers.com) because I have a working relationship and friendship with the radio and online-video media maven… Still, I do believe he’s the Billy May’s of online video. He cuts through a lot of the jargon and states inarguable truisms, and it’s especially charming when he quotes his dad. Get on his good side, and he’ll give you a bear hug, make you feel special, and drive two states to bring you cookies when you’re having back surgery. Get on his bad side, and he’ll pinch your brain. Either way you’ll find him more interesting than the average human, and check your pulse if you don’t find this article about why records in automobiles failed (it’s not why you’d think).

Since my blog’s been a bit slow lately, here are 5 great articles by Walter “Regis” Sabo and Caitlin “Cathy Lee” Hill. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Sabo is his blatant disregard for middlemen, especially media buyers. (Just once I want a media buyer to tell me how prejudice I am, and prove me wrong).

Video Case Study: Efficient Logitech & Hitviews Challenge

PRWeek ran a story titled “Logitech Finds Value in Campaign Video Strategy,” and here are the highlights (the story requires login, but it’s here).

You may remember the video (below) called “Amazing Kitten.” Congratulations to the 5 randomly-selected commenters, and the 5 winners of the video replies (who I just finally contacted).

Client: Logitech (Freemont, CA)
Agency: Ruder Finn (San Francisco, CA)
Campaign: Logitech DVS YouTube campaign
Duration: September – October 2009
Budget: $25,000 – $30,000 –no, I didn’t get all of this… prizes, Ruder Finn, Hitviews


After Logitech acquired WiLife in 2007, home digital video security cameras (DVS) became a part of its portfolio. Logitech PR manager Ha Thai explains that general awareness is low in this category, and the team hoped to change that fact.

Ruder Finn (RF) was hired to work on a broad DVS promotional effort. HitViews helped the team identify a popular YouTube content producer who could integrate DVS into one of its videos.

“We wanted to spread the word in an efficient and budget conscious way,” says Andy Pray, VP with RF. “YouTube provides a good audience with existing affinity— they create content and are used to webcams.”

The idea was to create a video that highlighted the DVS system’s ease and positioned it as valuable for families. YouTube “star” Kevin “Nalts” Nalty, whose videos often involve pranks on his kids and wife, was chosen. Pray says Nalty’s large audience reach and family focus made him a great fit. An online challenge was designed to maximize engagement. The team also employed social media and blogger outreach.

In his “Amazing Kitten!” video (launched October 13), Nalty used the DVS system to catch a kitten in outrageous acts. Pray says it was important that the video feel authentic to Nalty’s audience so it kept with typical tone.

For the contest, audiences could submit a response video to Nalty’s YouTube page or leave a text comment. Contest information and a coupon code were shown at the bottom of Nalty’s video. All entrants were eligible to win a DVS system.

Nalty also created a making of the video clip (“How Kitten Defied Gravity”), which Thai says was a surprise and bonus. Nalty used his Twitter and Facebook pages to spread the word to YouTube influentials and others. The team promoted the video and contest on Logitech’s existing Twitter page, its blog, and their personal social media pages.

Other outreach focused on cat and content enthusiast bloggers. Pray adds that messaging was based on the video (rather than DVS) to maintain authenticity.

As of January 18, “Amazing Kitten!” has garnered more than 160,000 views (more than 2,000 five-star ratings) on YouTube and 38,369 views on Yahoo Video. Pray says it was a top 50 video on YouTube the week of October 13. The making of video drew another 14,200 views. The contest yielded 42 video and 2,270 text entries.

The team reports thousands of tweets from online influencers. Though Logitech won’t disclose sales, Thai says there was a “strong surge” on Logitech’s Web site around the campaign and coupon codes drove sales increases.

Thai says plans include expanding on getting top-tier media coverage of customers’ DVS stories. RF will continue to work with Logitech on DVS promotion.

(Nalts Extra)

I have to thank Hitviews, Andy from Ruder Finn, and Logitech. But I’m also grateful for DavideoDesign, who helped with the concept and special effects. Thanks so much to all of the video replies. It was very hard to select the winners! See them all here. Parenthetically, while using the Logitech System I happened to bust my children with a fight, and was able to find the guilty party!

To purchase a Logitech system:
(enter code Nalty20 to get a 20% discount)

What Media Buyers Need to Know About Online Video

What perfect timing. I watched this “New Media Minute” by Daisy Whitney, and  was interrupted by a Product Director who’s seething over his clueless media buyers. My client, like me, is perplexed and annoyed by the inability of most media buyers to speak succinctly to brands about two simple things: whether the media spend is, simply, “on strategy” and “on budget.”

The details are noise, and we just want to be convinced the media-buying firm is not completely clueless. Like maybe they’re buying based on efficient and high-impact opportunities and not to payback for the dinner AOL bought. I mentioned that some media buyers are the people from high school that could have chosen careers selling cars or mortgages, and generally had C averages (but to be fair, they dressed well and always knew how to tap the keg). He recounted his friend who “was probably 400 in a class of 399” and is now quite wealthy in the media space.

I really shouldn’t poop on media buyers until I walk a mile in their Manolos.

On a particularly good hair day, Daisy Whitney tells us Pepsi's putting its Superbowl coinage into creating its own BudTv.

But imagine how frustrating it is — to a marketer and video creator — to read eMarketer reports that online-video is projected to grow at a bullish 30-40% annually…. but knowing that it’s all in the hands of career buyers of print and television who like driving f’ing awareness & attitudes and CPMs and anything else you can’t connect to sales.

People, video has the great potential of driving awareness, but also trial... dare I call it a “direct response” medium that “traditional media buyers” misunderstand, fear, loathe? Media buyers are to “direct response” and sales what belly dancers are to FIFO. And even the Wall Street Journal (a publication you’ve not heard of because it requires a subscription) says snail mail is still hot.

(Oh- you’re not a “traditional media buyer” if you are reading this article, unless someone sent it to you to chastise you).

I find Daisy’s characterization of marketers and advertisers hoping to “buy not rent” audiences a bit quaint, even if it may well be accurate. How many of us wake up each morning curious to know what entertainment P&G or Kraft has cooked up for us? Seriously? Pepsi is apparently bagging the Superbowl and launching some online thing that may or may not be fabulous. It’s “the next great thing” or BudTV.com all over again. We can’t be sure, but I suspect we won’t bookmark it. It reminds me of pharmaceutical brand managers in 1999 aspiring to have their website as the “home page” of every physician. Fat chance, but sometimes time is the best teacher.

I do like the theme of marketers shifting from interruption ads to the creation of engaging content and entertainment. Yey for that! But we impatient and ADHD-driven online-video carnivores are not likely to find it without some help from PR and ad spending.

Fortunately we’re seeing some new “video” ad networks (Daisy names Yume and Scanscount) that might help media buyers go beyond prerolls. I wonder if these companies are sophisticated enough to monitor their names in social media. First company to comment below wins a free pixel.

Read this TechCrunch piece by WatchMojo’s CEO for some tips for content creators looking to snatch some of the massive online-video spending (the writer leads a company that does branded entertainment, which is about as pervasive these days as ad networks). According to WatchMojo: “Unlike articles, you can’t fool audiences as easily with videos. It’s easier to get away with a slapdash article than with a slapdash video.”

Well that’s news to me. I’ve been fooling audiences a few hundred million times.

So here are some tips for the ambitious media buyer who, at least, wants to sound smart when speaking with a brand:

  1. Acknowledge that online-video is growing, and that budget should follow the audience.
  2. Don’t spend it all on pre-rolls. We hate them as much as you.
  3. Find people who have already assembled an organic audience, and sponsor them or buy product placement. Go direct to the big ones (NextNewNetwork, Revision3) or use Hitviews, PlaceVinePoptent or Zadby to broker deals with smaller guys. Did I miss any intermediary between popular web content and marketers? Don’t be afraid to raise your hand.
  4. Partner with content providers and online media players to create webisodes that are entertaining AND engaging (with an emphasis on the former, since the latter depends on it). You’ll need a “branded entertainment company,” but be sure they have an idea of how to get the crap seen not just make it fabulous.
  5. Buy the crap out of ad inventory that are driven by search (if they’re searching for your brand, you want to be there first).
  6. Customize your content because if I see another 30-second spot as a preroll I’m going to power puke.
  7. Use rich-media ads with compelling video content and an irresistible “call to play.”
  8. Buy every Nalts InVideo ad you can from YouTube regardless of the CPM. I heard his content attracts your target buyers, and that they’re 45% more likely to engage in your ad because his videos are so bad.

“Viral Video is Dead” Echos in Canada & Beyond

Nalts speaking in Toronto

If there’s one thing more fun than speaking to hundreds of marketers before a giant video of yourself like a “Rolling Stones” concert, it’s to read Twitter “tweets” after you speak.

By searching #mweek and @nalts after my talk on Wednesday, I learned what “stuck” with the Toronto “Canadian Marketing Association” audience. Canadians are nice, and apparently quite addicted to Twitter. They surprised me by almost making me sound intelligent in the quotes they shared.

Here are two of the things people most RT’d (aka retweeted, which here means posting on Twitter or sharing someone else’s Twitter post).

  • Viral is dead.
  • An impression isn’t an impression unless it makes one (see TechVibes coverage).

Marketing Magazine led with this article titled “Marketing Week Begins with ‘Viral is Dead’ Declaration.” IT Business was struck that a “viral is dead” statement woud come from “a person who owes his fame and fortune to tons of viewers on YouTube.” Then there’s the Canadian Star, which captured one of the most important points I hoped to make:

But advertisers don’t have to spend millions making YouTube videos, like the Evian Roller Babies, in hopes they go viral, Nalty said. The ad features digitally animated babies rollerskating to rock music. Instead, they can use existing YouTube stars, like Fred Figglehorn, the teenager with the annoying high-pitched voice and the online following bigger than Oprah’s TV audience, Nalty said. Fred makes a six-figure income from advertisers on his YouTube posts, Nalty said.

Certainly there’s a robust future of incredible clips that will gain “viral” fame. But my point was that marketers should not waste time and money investing in clips with hope that they go “viral.” It’s rare for a commercial clip to be shared wildly, although Evian’s babies is a recent exception.

Instead, I encourage marketers to chose the more efficient and guaranteed approach of partnering with online-video weblebrities. These individuals have large, recurring audiences and fans. So their sponsored videos are far more likely to travel the web and be seen by millions. I showed the Hitviews case study on Fox Broadcasting as proof. Two of my Fox videos alone have surpassed 1 million views each, which was half the targeted views of the campaign (for “Fringe” and “Lie to Me”).

I was encouraged to speak with a number of creative directors (or former creator directors) that seemed excited about the prospects. I had feared that they’d feel threatened by an online-video “weblebrity” creating videos that aren’t as easy to control. But they seemed to appreciate the idea of giving a popular creator a creative brief, and some room to tailor the message to his/her audience and style.

Here’s the deck, though most won’t make sense without context. Steal away. Spread the word.

But remember two things above all. US/Canada border guards require passports, and don’t care to be videotaped even if it’s on a Hello Kitty Flipcam. Trust me on those.

Why YouTube Beats Twitter and Facebook for Marketing

I’m so tired of the hype around Twitter and Facebook for marketing, and I recently wrote a satire of the whole social-media racket. Here’s why I like YouTube better for marketers and advertisers, and I’ll end with an example.

  • It’s the second largest search engine
  • You get an assload of data on the video’s performance (see “more” below).
  • People notice ads because they’re in a passive viewing state, rather than a dialogue with friends
  • The messages are more visceral in video (versus text)
  • You’ve got a chance at being seen- organically and via paid media
  • You can control your message

Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter are quite popular, but where does a brand play? Do people really want to “friend” a brand? Maybe if it’s one they already love, but that’s not a good customer acquisition play… just a retention complement.

Twitter is good for content providers, stars, and bloggers… but there’s not a good advertising play. The spam I get saying “earn 87.00 per tweet” is nonsense. I’d unfollow someone that was whoring regularly,  and 140 characters is too limited for most brand messaging. More importantly, your “tweet” has a shelf life of about 10 minutes, and there’s nobody that can tell you how many people even SAW your tweet. Then it’s virtually gone. YouTube videos have a residual value because people can continue to find them, and the view counter speaks for itself.

Should you advertise on Facebook? I guess, but I don’t know of many brands getting a great engagement rate on Facebook ads… maybe a bit more targeted, but ads are as ignored as most banners on websites. And what brand or company has valuable information it can dole out via Facebook messages intravenously?

The bottom line is that Facebook and Twitter are conversations between people, and advertising is an interruption. YouTube is somewhere you go regularly to graze, and a visceral ad will catch your attention if the video is boring. Promotion within a video (sponsorship) are much better because they’re contextually relevant, entertaining and there’s an implied endorsement. And, as you’ll see if you hit “more” below, there’s a wealth of data on its performance.

Let’s “bring this home” with an example. On a per-impression basis, these two promotions probably cost the advertiser about the same…

  1. First we have a random ad I discovered on one of my infrequent visits to Facebook.
  2. Next we have my most-recent sponsored video on YouTube (it’s at about 50,000 views and is one of the most popular videos of the day). It’s a sponsored promotion for Fox Broadcasting’s “Glee,” that I did via Hitviews. Click “more” below to see the data associated with it.

Which one would compel you?

Boring Facebook Ad
Boring Facebook Ad

Continue reading “Why YouTube Beats Twitter and Facebook for Marketing”

Jake Fogelnest Puts Home Phone Number on Web

Jake Fogelnest — who in 1994 started a television show from his New York City bedroom when he was fourteen years old (see clip of Joey Ramone interview on SquirtTV) — put his home phone number on the Internet. Now THAT’S compulsive.

The NYC comedy writer, VH1 guest, and radio host has received thousands of calls from fans and former colleagues who are shocked when he answers or calls them back.

jake fogelnest phone number on twitter

Fogelnest, who hosts a daily show on Sirius, also boasts a writing resume that includes VH1, SNL, and MTV. You may well recognize him as a regular commentator on VH1’s I Love The… series.

Here’s his video explanation about the bold move (see him on YouTube here). We can only imagine what happens when the guys from telemarketing firms, Amway and the “Who’s Who” directories get his number, which is 646-484-5323.

I’ve met Jake through Hitviews, and he’s rather humble despite his hefty experience and tight relationships with the “who’s who” of comedy writing (including Adam McCay). Jake’s an easy going cat, except if you miss a deadline for a Hitviews sponsored video.

We’ll be watching this experiment from a comfortably safe distance, especially given the annoying 4 am ‘private-number’ phone call I received this morning (thanks).

How to Keep Your Videos Copyright Clean

Daisy Whitney Customized Her Hair Based on Viewer Feedback

Daisy Whitney Customized Her Hair Based on Viewer Feedback

New Media Minute‘s Daisy Whitney has published an eBook titled “Keeping You and Your Content Out of Courts.” WillVideoforFood readers can enjoy 50% off the $34.97 by using the promotional code “Hitviews.” (I work with Hitviews to connect advertisers and online-video audiences, and its a sponsor of the book. Stand by for a new Hitviews.com redesign).

We all need to keep our videos from violating copyright laws, and if the $17.48 price saves you 45 seconds of an attorney’s time… it’s paid for itself already.

Keeping Your Content out of court
Some of the book’s topics that we discuss here at WVFF without any authority:

  • The Four Fair Use Factors
  • The Transformative Test
  • The Difference Between Parody and Satire
  • The Four-Pronged Test
  • Understanding Marketplace Harm
  • Is News Exempt?





For a free excerpt and to learn more, check out her eBook page. Just get your 3D glasses ready for her patented pink and gray branding.

Why Marketers & YouTubers Need a Translator

Marketers and their agencies really shouldn’t talk directly to YouTube “stars.” I say that with some authority, since I’m both a product director and a guy who’s crappy videos have been seen 65 million times. You see, the marketer in me is decisive, impatient, driven to move sales and “target” customers. The creator in me is sensitive, procrastinating, egoistic and temperamental.

My sister, a news producer, lived in NYC and California, and refers to the rest of the country as “fly by states.” Indeed, the impatient Madison Avenue and expressive Hollywood are coasts apart, and that’s perhaps out of necessity.


This Great Divide is punctuated by a comment on a recent Fast Company article, titled “Move over Simon Cowell. Make way for Nalts and P0YKPAC” (and we all know this WVFF post is just an excuse to reference that headline). Said the comment by Janet Coldini:

I couldn’t disagree more. I work for a very large, successful media company that has executed 30-plus campaigns (across multiple brand categories) using YouTube talent like the ones described in your post. I can assure you that what we learned is very simple and straight-forward: YouTube celebs can attract people to watch their videos, but they can not deliver against a well-defined set of business objectives. Why? Because these YouTubers are self-absorbed amateurs grappling for 15-minutes of fame. They were inconsistent, expensive and difficult to work with. Worst of all, none of our campaign goals were achieved because the audiences were mostly generated by “bots” – maybe that’s what they call “views” in their world.

Janet’s story isn’t unique, and indeed many YouTube “weblebrities” are sudden (and temporary) pop icons, and can hardly make it to Blockbsusters on time for their shift, much less deliver for a corporate “branded entertainment” assignment. Some can attract a crowd (so can a a loud bipolar person in the park), but can’t find the delicate balance between entertainment and promotion. The result is a crappy cable-tv looking advertisement, or an entertaining video that doesn’t increase awareness, intent or purchase. Yet the vitality of sponsored videos is dependent on the balance, otherwise nobody wins.
As a marketer I know that it’s not scalable for brands/agencies to work individually with YouTube stars. As marketers awaken to online-video “stars” influence and reach, we’ll see more sponsored videos. That’s one of the reasons why, despite doing a lot of direct work for brands, I like working through Hitviews. Brokering between brands and YouTube stars is tough to do well even when it’s a company’s sole focus, and if there are other companies like Hitviews I’m not aware of them.

I am not aware of any credible YouTuber partners using “bots” to drive views  (which is hard to do, and would certainly breach their contract with Google). But I do think Janet’s experience has some merit, and I believe a value-adding intermediary is vital. Someone has to translate the brand objectives into terms that captivate the creator, and keep them focused. More importantly, someone has to know whose side to take when there’s a conflict. If the “star” is being ridiculous, then they need to be told so diplomatically. In other cases, the client may have an unrealistic sense of how promotional the videos should be.

There are so many critical factors to make this work — find the right talent, handling them appropriately, brokering edits — that it’s a specialty skillset that will grow in criticality as the medium matures.