Look at the number of articles under the ‘Youtube’ tag on hollywood mag Vareity.com, and you’ll see how the nature of celebrity has shifted under our feet.
Though it’s still a growing trend, big brands and media buyers are taking note that the A-List is very different for teenagers compared to their parents.
“The tides are shifting – shifting dollars out of traditional commercial time, TV spots, and into that [online] environment,” Jodi Brown, Director of Content at MediaCom Canada told the Dx3 Digest following Yahoo’s Talking Content event in September.
“I haven’t seen a good Youtube influencer collaboration that wasn’t transparent.”
Sponsored content — once thought of as a sneaky payola for news and celebrities to advertise to an unsuspecting audience — is becoming the norm for reaching millennial audiences who consume content online, usually through small mobile phone screens and platforms like Youtube.
Brown believes that 2016 will be the year of “brand as broadcaster”, whether sponsoring content from Youtube stars or creating their own appointment viewing through live media like Periscope. For example, Twitter, owner of Periscope, have been increasingly incorporating the live broadcast medium into its corporate announcements.
“If you’re putting out something valuable that people can only see for a short amount of time, I think that’s a really exciting place for a brand to play in,” she said.
Brown has also watched the nature of partnerships between brands and Youtubers evolve, and she believes that sponsored content requires a particularly transparent and authentic partnership or the results can be awkward and disappointing.
“I haven’t seen a good Youtube influencer collaboration that wasn’t transparent,” she added.
That transparent approach can take two forms, she explained. The old school, scripted celebrity endorsement or – as seems to be the trend – inject a brand into the Youtuber’s content and gain access to their audience.
“They can be themselves but it’s scripted and polished and beautiful,” Brown explained. “Or, you give a few guidelines and then […] it’s not your commercial any more. It’s their channel where your brands should be augmenting the narrative, the story [or] the episode.”
She notes that Taco Bell Canada’s partnership with Canadian extreme-cooking show Epic Meal Time as a particularly good fit between a brand and Youtuber. Epic Meal Time re-created the Taco Bell quesarito with its trademark ridiculous proportions and calorie counter.
Epic Meal Time incorporated an unnamed contest-winner and semi-official mascot Taco Bell Canada Tiger for the video.
Ultimately, Brown is quick to remind, “you have to put on something exciting enough that people want to watch it.”
With Epic Meal Time and Taco Bell Canada, there’s no doubt that they hit that mark with 14,000 thumbs up and more than 1-million views since May 2015.
Taco Bell Canada and agency partner Grip Ltd. represent the bleeding edge of this trend in Canada.
“A lot of our brands are North America-wide or global,” she noted. “Sometimes there’s a bit of wait-and-see.”
More findings from Yahoo Canada’s Talking Content report:
- 54% of Canadians follow brands to receive their content, indicating a clear opportunity for engagement.
- The majority of users agree the #1 thing that will get them to share branded content is if it can deliver emotion.
- It’s critical to fuel users’ creativity and their sense of play: 47% of Canadians say they would share branded content if it’s creative.
- Two thirds of Canadian consumers don’t mind if Entertainment, Beauty/Style, Travel content is sponsored so long as it’s interesting.
- The average Canadian adult displays interest in nearly five different topics of content.
- Lifestyle was the most recalled category of branded content.