YouTube at 10: What marketers can expect in the next decade

May marked the 10th anniversary of YouTube’s public launch. The world’s biggest video platform has undoubtedly had a huge impact on marketing and the way brands create and share content but in order to remain number one over the next decade, it faces a number of challenges.

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Facebook rivalry

Back in 2009 when Evian posted its “Rollerbaby” spot online (video below) an overwhelming proportion (99%) of views came from YouTube. Fast forward to last year and its “Baby and me” ad and that figure has dropped to 60%.

The main cause of that disparity seems to be Facebook. The social network was previously happy to host videos by other networks, YouTube included. Now, however, it has its own video hosting service and is courting brands, convincing them to upload their videos direct to its site rather than relying on a YouTube embed.

Evian-Ad-2013-1Web

Facebook has also reportedly been trying to poach YouTube’s star talent – the likes of Zoella and PewDiePie – according to the Wall Street Journal.

It’s a tactic that appears to be working. The John Lewis Christmas ad saw 40% of its views come from Facebook in the first 24 hours after it was launched.

And in terms of viewing shares for the John Lewis ad, Facebook actually dominated – accounting for 76.9%, according to figures from video ad tech firm Unruly.

Sarah Wood, Unruly’s founder, says: “Facebook’s video player has emerged as a serious rival to the Google-owned video platform.”

Find out more: YouTube vs Facebook: where should your video spend go?

‘The post YouTube era’

Facebook is not the only threat. As TubeMoguls’ Ian Monaghan highlights, YouTube’s successes in part lay in its ability to bring together a fragmented market and create a site that was stable and worked for both users and for content creators.

The likes of Metacafe and Vimeo all tried to be the go-to content portal but were either “too niche or overcomplicated”, he says.

Now, however, there are various places a brand can go to share video content which all serve different use cases. And brands are using all of them – YouTube to showcase their TV spots, Instagram to post backstage clips, Snapchat to share footage, Vine to produce GIFs.

Find out more: What brands need to know about Instagram Boomerang

Wood says: “We’re entering a post-YouTube era. Once synonymous with online video, YouTube’s share of the online video market has shrunk significantly.

“After a decade, YouTube faces more challenges than ever before. Short-form video platforms such as Vine and Instavideo have brought mobile production and GIF-style looping into the social video toolbox.

“These innovations, alongside alternative video sites like Vimeo, have led to an increasingly fragmented video ecosystem, meaning YouTube’s dwindling share of voice will only go down further in 2015.”

Ben McOwen Wilson, YouTube EMEA director, says the company sees competition as a good thing that ensures it focuses on its core purpose “creating a platform that allows people to share their content and engage with other people interested in that content faster and better and more easily than they can do anywhere else.”

He also highlights a key difference between its site and some of its other competitors.

“Lots of other people do video in interesting ways, different ways. One of ours is we don’t have autoplay, the choice of what to watch is driven by users. We don’t force them to watch anything and that’s true for ads and content.

“That is very central to our promise to viewers and to brands and creators,” he says.

Social video

Socialbakers’ CEO Jan Razeb believes the increasingly social nature of the web also poses a challenge to YouTube. Social has never been Google’s strong point – it’s a company good at algorithms not connections.

There’s no doubt that YouTube is the best place to go to search for content and has a strong recommendation engine that keeps people on the site.

Yet discovery remains a problem. SocialBakers’ CEO Jan Razeb says YouTube is suffering because there is no feed of stuff that people can flick through and pick out what they want to watch.

“It’s good for users if they know what they want to see. But YouTube is not a social network it’s a platform,” he adds.

McOwen Wilson says personalisation and targeting is a key focus for YouTube and that its work so far has led to big success. He says the opportunity for YouTube is in keeping people on the site once they’ve clicked through.

“We are really good at keeping viewers in our experience because we know what they want is different from anyone else.”

Ben McOwen Wilson, director YouTube EMEA

“The shared experience is when you click on the link that someone has emailed or listed in a blog. You come to YouTube and that is the opportunity and we are really good at keeping you in our experience because we know what you want is different from anyone else.

“If you and a colleague sitting opposite each other come to the site and watch the same video the recommendations and videos you watch next will be different. It’s an intensely personalised experience that doesn’t feel forced or fake. That is one of our real strengths – its not spooky,” he says.

The education job

Pete Markey, CMO at the Post Office, says YouTube’s challenge as a platform is its “commerciality and application”.

“Is it essential to the marketing mix or just ‘nice to have’? And can it truly work for all sectors? Fine I want to watch the new Avengers movie trailer but do I really want to watch a 20-minute video on fitting loft insulation?”

The job for YouTube is to explain to brands why it should remain the go-to video destination for their content. Richard Armstrong, founding partner at content marketing agency Kameleon, claims 50% of all content uploaded by brands achieves less than 1,000 views.

“That’s a shocking statistic to some extent. But the point of it really is that brands need to realize its about creating content and understanding the power of YouTube as a platform and from a distribution point of view,” he says.

He claims that if brands drill down and look at campaign results they’ll find YouTube has a much more engaged audience than Facebook. However sometimes brands become bogged down in the excitement of millions of views and creating the next viral video hit.

Find out more: Meet the content disruptors

“If you look at the results Facebook delivers you’ll find they classify a video view as three seconds. That’s people scrolling through the news feed and clicking on a video or it autoplaying. In reality is that really a view? Does it add any value or engagement?”

Markey says YouTube is missing some “hero case studies” of how its use as platform has generated strong ROI. It still has a challenge as to what part it plays in the mix, he adds.

“The best examples I have seen are when YouTube works as a companion channel to others not as a standalone – this is a real challenge if YouTube wants to take more spend away from traditional channels,” he adds.

“For pure-play viewing, consuming, searching for content no one comes close to YouTube. But it is part of a content strategy that includes Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook,” says Armstrong.

Find out more: Why social media’s success is increasingly dependent on video

McOwen Wilson says its focus is on helping brands build a really solid content portfolio that helps them link to the conversation.

“A couple of years ago brands were asking the question ‘do we make a viral hit?’ and why not. But if you look at some things that have been viral in the branding world they are the result of a lot of effort.


“Volvo Trucks’ Jean-Claude van Damme spot was the result of an enormous amount of work they had done on YouTube for a number of years before – a huge amount of less sexy content – that showed the real value of their trucks and is their core content.

“We’ve done a lot of work on what it is in that first 10 seconds that is going to make someone say ‘that’s hilarious/terrible/incredible’ but it has to be on top of a base of really solid sound content that helps link them into the conversation that will inevitably be happening around their product or category,” he says.

Marketers from Asda, Nestle and the Post Office have their say

Retailers such as John Lewis, M&S and Sainsbury’s are launching high-profile Christmas campaigns on the site, while brands such as PepsiCo, Evian and Volvo Trucks are seeing huge engagement with their viral hits.

Marketing Week spoke to marketers from brands including the Post Office, Nestle and Asda to find out their views on the impact of YouTube, its challenges and what comes next.

Pete Markey, Post Office

“You Tube is a global phenomenon. It’s become the go to destination for so much content – from movie trailers to music videos, to cats falling off fences. Its become the battleground for brands to showcase their ads and even the making of their ads as well as more content to help them better connect with their customers.

“The numbers of views are staggering and no other platform comes close. It’s taken on and challenged more ‘traditional’ mediums with some audiences relying on it more than traditional channels like TV for their content.

“YouTube’s challenge as a platform is its commerciality and application. Is it essential to the marketing mix or just ‘nice to have’?”

Pete Markey, CMO, Post Office

“Its challenge as a platform is its commerciality and its application. Is it essential to the marketing mix or just ‘nice to have’? And can it truly work for all sectors? In short, it’s missing some hero case studies of how its use as a platform has generated strong ROI which makes it the essential part of the mix.

Find out more: Mark Ritson: Happy birthday TV advertising – still the most effective tool in a marketer’s arsenal

“Its other challenge is the part it plays in the channel mix – its still not seen as the real challenger of the likes of TV. The best examples I have seen are when YouTube works as a companion channel to others not as a standalone – this is a real challenge if YouTube want to take more spend away from traditional channels.”

Jonathan Earle, Telefonica

“Inside 10 years, there is more content uploaded to YouTube in 1 single week than has ever been broadcast by the combined TV stations in the world ever.

“This trend will only continue and accentuate further – for marketing this means if you aren’t on YouTube you need to be, your customers and competitors are showing everything from ‘how to’ videos to reduce call centre costs to content that goes viral and gets more people talking about your brand (e.g. Justin Timberlake and Souza). More traditional media like TV may not already be as cost effective at driving reach and awareness.

“Going forwards, a combination of YouTube videos and augmented reality could pose a powerful cocktail for the marketer.”

Tom Malleschitz, Three UK

“YouTube has been, and will continue to be, an essential platform for us to use as a brand and for our campaigns. It’s perfect for creating emotional engagement by entertaining consumers and to encourage sharing silly stuff!

“YouTube has catapulted the importance of video and user generated content and enabled customers to become influencers, bloggers and advocates. It is a great communications tool that is a key ingredient to telling our brand story and a springboard for our growth. It’s had an exciting impact on us as a brand and users and we can’t wait to see how it develops during the next 10 years.”

Find out more: Tom Malleschitz: How to get the most out of user-generated content

Dom Birch, Asda

“As a brand we have struggled for about 5 years on YouTube hiding a load of not very exciting content there and I think lots of brands are struggling to find their way little bit.

“About 18 months ago, with YouTube influencers, we finally got our heads around how we can play there in a way that makes sense for Asda.

“We have a channel – Mums Eye View – where we showed how to cook an Easter nest cake and it got 150,000 views. Anna Saccone Joly and her husband are serial bloggers and they brought their audience across and promoted it and the reaction we got, the numbers that clicked the link, was unbelievable compared to Asda doing it on its own channel.

“For Red Bull, Pepsi, Nike, YouTube is more obvious because they have big brand-led activity, high budgets – it’s a great place to get viral reach for blockbuster content. For harder working marketing budgets, where you’re trying to shift baked beans, it can be harder for brands to find a way.

“The most exciting thing is the YouTubers – they have massive influence that spreads across Snapchat, Tumblr, Facebook. They are born off YouTube but are developing their own brands.

“We try to pick YouTubers whose audience overlap our customers and allow them to do what they do best with a fairly loose brief. We get editorial approval but we’re quite light touch. Over the next few years it will be interesting to see how that develops into a more credible and mainstream part of marketing – it’s still at the innovation side at the moment.

Find out more: Why transparency is key in relationship between brands and vloggers

“YouTube isn’t displacing press, TV, radio but it has the opportunity to prove it has more value than other forms of media. We can see who is watching and remarket to them, we get an immediate sense of who likes it, leaves a comment – the engagement metrics and how shareable it is. What the pay off is for us.”

Haseeb-ur-Rahman, Nestle

kitkat youtube break


“Youtube has been a revolutionary platform as it has given consumers access to so much content with a link to their past (i.e TV shows, songs, cartoons). However we have also seen the platform become a ‘launch’ platform giving people at the grass root an opportunity to express themselves in a visual format leading to the creation of YouTube-based celebrities.

“These celebrities might never have become the stars they are today had it not been for YouTube. I think in the future there is a high likelihood we will see a shift as more content is premiered on YouTube as a ‘launch’ platform in addition to being a ‘catchup’ platform.  With the culture I have seen personally working with them, I have no doubt that YouTube will continue to remain the strongest player within this market.”

The UK’s Top 10 YouTube videos of all time

Even with music out of the equation, only one ad made it into the UK’s most viewed YouTube videos since the site’s launch ten years ago.

1. Charlie bit my finger – again !

While three-year-old Harry’s wound may have stung, the reception of this home video, showing two English brothers, certainly didn’t – it has topped the UK charts and gained nearly 820 million views globally since it was uploaded on 22 May, 2007.

2. FROZEN – Let It Go Sing-along | Official Disney HD

The official Disney UK sing-along version of Idina Menzel’s Academy Award-winning Frozen hit places second on the list, despite the fact it was only uploaded in January 2014.

3. Ultimate Dog Tease

Surprise – a “talking” animal made it into the top three! Launched on 1 May, 2011, this cute video shows a dog upset at the lack of bacon in his owner’s fridge.

4. The Annoying Orange

Though this video lives up to its name, it comes in fourth on the list, has over 165 million views worldwide since October 2009 and has since been created into a comedy web series, TV series, video game and range of products.

5. The Sneezing Baby Panda

Though the fifth place contender is only 17 seconds long, the video, which shows a mother panda at the Wolong Panda Breeding Centre started by her sneezing baby, has gained over 217 million views globally since its upload in November 2006.

6. Cher Lloyd’s X Factor Audition (Full Version) – itv.com/xfactor

The world has tuned in to watch 16-year-old Cher Lloyd’s X Factor audition nearly 45 million times since September 2010, and the video is the sixth most viewed in the UK. Though she didn’t win the competition, the singer went on to by signed by Syco and Epic.

7. KONY 2012

Invisible Children’s video, promoting the charity’s “Stop Kony” movement to find and stop war criminal Joseph Kony, went viral in March 2012, putting it in the UK’s top 10 and gaining over 100 million views worldwide. It also garnered massive criticism regarding the project’s legitimacy.

8. Nike Football: Winner Stays. ft. Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Rooney, Ibrahimović, Iniesta & more

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XviR7esUvo

An ad, an ad! Squeezing its way into the top 10 is Nike Football’s “Winner Stays”, part of its Risk Everything campaign from April 2014. The four-minute film features top footballers including Rooney and Ronaldo, alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Irina Shayk and The Incredible Hulk.

9. Look Up

This five-minute spoken word video about unplugging from social media and embracing the outside world ironically went viral after it was uploaded in April 2014, was shared by the likes of Andy Murray on Twitter and has gained over 50 million views worldwide.

10. Harlem Shake (Original Army Edition)


While countless Harlem Shake videos have made their way to YouTube fame, this Army-style version rounds out the top 10 most watched videos in the UK since YouTube’s launch, hitting over 107 million views worldwide since February 2013.

Youtube’s EMEA boss on its plans for marketers

EMEA director Ben McOwen Wilson explains how YouTube plans to stay ahead of its competitors for the next 10 years.

Staying at the heart of the ‘creative revolution’

Technology has meant more and more people have the ability to film video in their palm of their hands. Equipment that might have cost thousands of pounds 10 years ago is now found in most people’s smartphones. That means ordinary people have been able to create their own footage, while brands have been “unleashed”.

“YouTube has found itself at the centre of a creative revolution. Technology has meant anyone that has got a phone capable can try their hand at producing videos. We’ve not directed it or demanded it but creativity is being unleashed,” says McOwen Wilson.

“Brands have taken advantage of that. The 30-second spot is not the thing that has been leading on YouTube, it goes way beyond that. Brands are not constrained by the time limit TV imposed and they are creating formats that didn’t exist on TV, were not possible, wouldn’t have found shelf space for distribution.

“This is not what the founders set out to create but YouTube found itself as the world’s water cooler for video.”

Staying ahead in tech

Much of YouTube’s success has been centred around its ability to stay ahead of the technological curve so that when the ‘next big thing’ comes along it has the tools and software to offer to brands and marketers.

It has recently launched 360-degree videos and the capability to load 4K videos to the site and is looking at new areas such as augmented reality.

Find out more: Three reasons marketers should embrace Periscope live streaming

McOwen Wilson says: “Our job is around pushing and making sure we offer the greatest tech capabilities to creators. [This technology] might not be in the hands of everyone at the moment but as the cost to create that content becomes accretive and broadband more prevalent we can make sure the site is the easiest place in the world to share content.

“When the pretty unremarkable ‘me at the zoo’ video went up it wasn’t amazing content but what was amazing was that it simplified the process of sharing content with anybody interested in the same topic.”

Ben McOwen Wilson, director YouTube EMEA

“When the pretty unremarkable ‘me at the zoo’ went up [the first video on YouTube] it wasn’t amazing content but what was amazing at the time was that it simplified the process of sharing content with anybody interested in the same topic. Brands are taking simple [tech advances] and taking them in new ways we never dreamed of.

“Augmented reality is one of the things we are looking at. It’s an easy extension from 360-degree uploads to see how creators could start using Google Cardboard [Google’s augmented reality tool]. It’s relatively low cost so available to the widest possible audience base.”

Personalisation and retargeting

Personalisation is a key focus for all brands as consumers increasingly expect to be offered content that is relevant to them. YouTube has offered content recommendations for some time but is working on finetuning the types of both videos and ads they see dependent on factors from their location and the time of day to videos they’ve previously watched and what other viewers are watching.

“People don’t come and only watch one video. If you and a colleague are sitting opposite each other, come to the site and watch the same video the recommendations and videos you watch next will be different. It’s an intensely personalised experience that doesn’t feel forced or fake. That is one of our real strengths – its not spooky,” says McOwen Wilson.

Find out more: Personalisation: a short-term fad or long-term engagement strategy?

For advertisers, YouTube has recently released TrueView – an ad tool that means brands only pay when people actually watch an ad. McOwen Wilson says all of the top 100 global brands are using the tool, which allows them to choose how they are target ads from genre driven to audience driven.

Watching the competition

The online video space is becoming increasingly competitive as everyone from Facebook to Twitter and Snapchat up their focus on the space. There is also competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon – who are attracting viewers with premium content.

McOwen Wilson says competition is a “good thing” because it ensures YouTube focuses on its core aim.

“Competition helps us remember what we need to focus on but the core for us remains the same – creating a platform that allows people to share their content and engage with other people interested in that content faster and better and more easily than they can do anywhere else.”

Making the most of celebrity bloggers

Brands have started to realise the power in tying up with some of YouTube’s video bloggers. The likes of Zoella and PewDie Pie get millions of hits on their videos and have a hugely engaged audience.

Find out more: How MTV is using vloggers and Instagram to boost its brand appeal

When TopShop recently tied up with Zoella, a discount voucher she offered was redeemed by 40% of people watching the video. Compare that to the tiny percent of people that click on banner ads.

zoella topshop copy

YouTube is building out its content creator network – most recently opening a studio in Berlin that offers them a space to try out new techniques and share and work with other vloggers. It also wants to get more brands on board and has been running workshops with companies such as Asda.

“Brands are awakening to the relationship that lots of our successful talent has with their audience. Those guys have a very different relationship than the traditional movie star – its authentic, direct, two-way.

“YouTubers want to work with brands they are authentically connected with if they’re going to recommend a product. That remains a bar brands have to clear and it’s a harder pitch than writing a cheque,” says McOwen Wilson.

Find out more: ‘Brands must be transparent in dealings with vloggers’

“What we will continue to push in the UK is that we’ll be very active with a full range of partners and work with brands on our core ad products – Google Preferred and TrueView – but also on the unique YouTube piece around being able to work with creators.”

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