Google Inc. is launching an advertising campaign on Monday aimed at attracting more advertisers to its online video service, YouTube.
The ads, which will appear online and on billboards and transit ads in Toronto, are part of a larger effort to increase YouTube's audience and the star power of its highest profile video creators. It also follows on changes the tech giant has made to how it sells ads on YouTube, which have been a success in the United States and are now rolling out in Canada.
In recent years, online video companies such as Google and AOL Inc. have hosted presentations modelled after the annual TV "upfronts," where broadcasters pitch their shows to marketers, their ad agencies and media buyers. (YouTube's "Pulse" presentation will be held in Toronto in mid-April.)
But Google has not always made it as simple for advertisers to know which channels reach the most people in their desired demographics.
Last week, the company announced the Canadian launch of Google Preferred, which allows companies to buy ads on the top 5 per cent of YouTube content – measured by views and engagement – and guarantees reach to those marketers' specified target audiences.
"Advertisers had been asking us … 'What is the prime-time of the Web?'" said Fab Dolan, head of YouTube marketing for Canada.
When Preferred launched in the United States last year, the advertising inventory sold out among 100 companies. Thirty of those had never advertised on YouTube before. The video creators who were included in Preferred selling saw their revenues go up 70 per cent in 2014.
The campaign starting Monday is another piece of that puzzle.
The ads will feature creators such as fashion-themed video blogger Bethany Mota and AsapSCIENCE, a duo who produce videos that explain things such as Type A personalities or déjà vu through a scientific lens.
They follow work the company has done in the United States. In 2013, YouTube aired its first television commercials there. Last year, it ran a TV campaign promoting three creators: makeup tutorial host Michelle Phan, baker Rosanna Pansino and Ms. Mota. Combined, just those three channels have more than 19 million subscribers, making them attractive vehicles for advertisers. After the campaign launched, viewership on those channels rose 72 per cent.
Google will be sending a "Look Book" to Canadian companies and their ad agencies, with professional photographs of some popular YouTubers alongside data about their viewership numbers and the content they cover. It also touts YouTube's most attractive stats for advertisers: for example, and 77 per cent of Internet users in Canada visit the site, half of the overall video views happen on mobile devices.
In early May, YouTube will also be holding a "fan fest" in Toronto, giving viewers a chance to meet some video creators.
Expanding those audiences is important because the more sway YouTubers have, the more they are likely to sell ads to run before their videos, or be paid for partnerships with brands.
For those companies, it's a chance to gain authenticity among younger consumers: 63 per cent of teenagers said they would try a product recommended by someone they follow on YouTube, according to a survey of 500 teen Internet users done in November by Defy Media. Less than half of those teens said that TV and movie stars have the same influence with them.
People who create things online, some of whom you may never have heard of, can wield enormous influence. Facebook Inc.-owned photo sharing service Instagram is busily promoting itself as a marketing vehicle, helping advertisers to fine-tune their own accounts. But increasingly, popular accounts are also targeted for partnerships with brands.
Last week, Adweek reported that U.S. retailer Lord & Taylor paid 50 popular Instagrammers to post photos of themselves wearing the same dress. The barrage of photos was intended to promote the stores' new "fashion forward" clothing collection. The dress sold out in one weekend.
"Marketers are playing catch-up with consumers who have long since adopted a whole new celebrity ecosystem," Google's Mr. Dolan said. "It's not the DiCaprios and the Clooneys that we're all used to. … It's a new generation. These are not like celebrities. They're people you can talk to, and they develop their own content so they are in control."