Vevo takes swipe at YouTube as it pushes brand safety message

The music video platform says it wants to be known for more than “just the watermark” in the corner of YouTube videos and has plans to become a true youth culture brand.

Vevo is looking to capitalise on the YouTube scandal by pushing a message of “quality” to attract ad dollars.

During a press lunch last week, Vevo’s CEO Erik Huggers explained that since joining the company two years ago, he has been on a mission to overhaul the business.

This has primarily been focused “on getting the basics right” by relaunching its app, producing its own content and by bringing out new features such as ‘Watch Party’, which allows audiences to virtually bring their friends together and curate a playlist of music videos. Or as Huggers describes it: “A crowdsourced music video channel with chat.”

He added: “In the last two years, we’ve completely overhauled our technology stack top to bottom. There’s not a single line of code left from what I found when I joined the company two years ago.”

Vevo is primarily known for distributing its content through YouTube, but it is eager to change this perception. Now the brand claims to have its technology sorted out, it plans to make a push for establishing the Vevo brand as “more than just that watermark you see on YouTube playlists”. Instead, it wants to become a youth brand and rival to YouTube that stands for “true quality”.

Huggers said an upcoming marketing campaign will not involve any above-the-line activity but will instead be pushed out through its own videos on more than 60,000 artist channels. It will also run the campaign through other social platforms.

Of the campaign, he predicted: “I have high hopes and expectations that we’ll start to create a bit more [of an understanding] among people that YouTube and Vevo are two different things.

“Our house inventory is at such mind-blowing global scale that we think it will have real cut-through and be an opportunity to establish ourselves as a youth culture brand.”

Capitalising on the YouTube brand safety scandal

This focus on quality seems a deliberate attempt to capitalise on the recent YouTube brand safety scandal following an investigation by The Times, which saw advertisements placed next to extremist and pornographic content. In response, many brands pulled their ads from the platform – although some have since returned.

As it unfolded, Vevo said it checked in with other publishers on YouTube, who claimed they had all seen a decline in revenue due to brands pulling back from the platform. Vevo, on the other hand, says it saw the opposite – it has already hit its commercial targets for the first half of the year.

“The brand safety piece plays into our favour. The message that professionally created premium content distributed on an open platform like YouTube creates a brand safe environment has resonated really well,” he said.

“All these open platforms, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, they have real challenges that anyone can upload anything. While machine learning, AI or whatever fancy buzzword may in the future be able to solve it, at this point in time the safest way is premium licensed content. It’s all we do.”

We have more than 1.3 billion subscribers globally. But we do not know who they are – we haven’t got the foggiest.

Erik Huggers, Vevo

Getting to know their audiences

Vevo distancing itself from YouTube is also linked back to its eagerness to collect its own unique audience data – something that the Google-owned video platform currently does not share with brands.

“We have more than 1.3 billion subscribers globally. But we do not know who they are – we haven’t got the foggiest. We have no way to communicate with them, and that’s not specific to Vevo; that’s true for any premium publisher on that platform,” he explained.

As a result, the brand is expected to promote its own app, where people have to register to use the service, more heavily in future. Huggers is in no rush to copy competitors such as Spotify and roll out a subscription service, however.

While he is “excited” about having a dual revenue stream of advertising and audience subscriptions, he is concerned about the current landscape of subscription services.

He concluded: “I got very concerned about what I’d call ‘subscriptionitus’. There are so many niche subscription services out there now. I got worried about the ability to get to scale with that, given there were so many different competing alternatives out there. Does that mean that’s never going to happen? No – it’s a matter of timing.”