YouTube is taking its show on the road.
Following its YouTube Pulse event last month – where Google Canada executives took to the stage with a slick presentation on the power of advertising alongside online video – some of the ad executives and media buyers in the audience asked for a repeat performance for people back at their agencies.
It was the first time Google had done this kind of event in Canada, hosting its own presentation to ad buyers during the "upfront" season when TV broadcasters usually trot out stars of their hit shows, announce their fall schedules, and kick off a selling spree for 30-second spots.
YouTube first launched its own upfront-style "Brandcast" event in the United States last year, and is now bringing its pitch to Canada. And it is not the only one.
Just a few days before the YouTube event, Twitter hosted another gathering for agencies and advertisers. While designed more around the launch of Twitter Canada than overtly as an upfront-style presentation, it included many of the same elements, such as some star power (Montreal Canadiens player and VIT, or "very important Twitterer," P.K. Subban was on hand) and explanations of how Twitter can be a complement to other media for advertisers, extending the reach of their campaigns.
And in May, AOL Canada took four agency representatives to New York for its second annual "Newfront" presentation, where Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Richie promoted content in which they star on AOL's digital video network.
After the trip, Research In Motion Ltd. signed on to advertise before some AOL videos that relate to technology and business, and AOL is in talks with other Canadian advertisers and their agencies. It was such a success that the company is looking into bringing Newfront to Canada next year, said Vivian Ip, head of agency development and sales operations for AOL Canada.
"We purposely did it this way. We wanted to get ahead of the upfronts. All of the broadcasters did theirs in late May or early June," Ms. Ip said. "A lot of [advertisers] are starting to shift dollars from TV to online video, because they can actually get incremental reach by using both. It's become a really important part of media buying. We wanted to be sure our ad agency partners are aware of the investment we're making in online video."
There is greater evidence that people are paying attention to ads online – especially in video. According to research released this week by Ipsos, 44 per cent of Canadians reported having watched a commercial for a brand or product at least once in the past month. By comparison, 42 per cent had looked at or read an ad, and just 19 per cent said they clicked on a banner or pop-up (either intentionally or not). Among people under 35, those numbers were even higher.
Video is particularly well-positioned: Among the top reasons people in the Ipsos survey gave for paying attention to ads was that they had to look at it to get to the content they wanted to see. Pre-roll video ads offer exactly that kind of gated access. Consider that, according to Google's statistics, by 2016, 70 per cent of the televisions shipped to stores around the world will be Web-connected, and its potential grows.
It also targets a sweet spot for advertisers: people under 35. But YouTube's presentation was devoted to the notion that marketers should be looking beyond demographics like this, and focus instead on psychographics. Google refers to the most valuable cohort as "Generation C" – a generation defined not just by age (they skew young) but by their connectedness.
According to Google, this group will make up more than 40 per cent of the population in most countries within the next seven years, and will influence hundreds of billions of dollars in consumer spending. And they are watching online, socially shared content, including some of the four billion hours of video viewed each month on YouTube.
"I used to work in cable TV at Rogers … Traditionally there was this life-stage effect: People in university stole cable and spliced the wires, and when we all turned 25 and got enough income, we got tired of the headaches and the life stage led us to get cable," said Jeremy Butteriss, director of partnerships at Google Canada.
"Increasingly, we see more of a cohort effect. The behaviours we see are behaviours we believe will persist with consumers throughout their lives. The activities they're doing on the Internet … are not going to stop one day."
Most of the presentations stressed that their digital advertising offerings are not in competition with television, but are a complement. YouTube says its research shows that brand recall among consumers is 50 to 100 per cent higher when campaigns combine YouTube with TV advertising.
The head of Twitter Canada, Kirstine Stewart, holds up examples such as Oreo's live reactions on Twitter during the Super Bowl broadcast as a perfect example of this complementary relationship. "It's an opportunity to react and look like you're right there with the viewer, with the consumer," she said. "A 30-second commercial takes a long time to produce and do well, but the opportunity to do something like that in real-time is really inspiring."
At the Twitter presentation, Mr. Subban mentioned that his profile in the digital space has helped him be more attractive to corporate sponsors. "Endorsements are more significant when you're tweeting," he said.
Ms. Stewart said her team has been in negotiations with advertisers ever since the launch – helped by major deals the company has signed with advertising and media agency giants such as WPP Group PLC and Starcom MediaVest Group, as well as with Canadian broadcasters such as Shaw Media and Bell Media. Twitter also hosts television days in New York and events in other markets such as San Francisco and London.
"What brands and advertisers can do with Twitter is to give a little more meat on the bones of what in other places [online] could be just straight-up display advertising," she said. "…We're having conversations around how best to deliver that."
"Increasingly, advertisers need to move away from interruptive experiences," Google's Mr. Butteriss said. "Advertisers are following the consumer, which is great."
Advertising sales are much higher this year than when AOL began its "Newfront" event last year, Ms. Ip said, as has the company's investment in creating original programming.
"It's not just about user-generated content. There's a lot of that online," she said. "What advertisers are looking for is content that's high-quality, that has real value to it, versus cats on skateboards. There's a difference."
To keep pace with consumers' changing habits, these digital companies are making bigger, more elaborate pitches to advertisers – and increasingly, that's true in Canada as well.
"That in itself brings it to life, comparing ourselves to TV as a destination," Ms. Ip said. "I think people are starting to understand that consumers watch TV and online video differently. They're evolving how they view content."
MADE YOU LOOK
Among the Canadians who Ipsos surveyed who said they had either clicked on a banner or pop-up ad, looked at or read an ad, or watched a commercial online recently, respondents chose the following reasons:
41%: "It is for a brand or product I like or am interested in"
37%: "It is for a product I am currently shopping for"
36%: "I'm forced to look at it in order to get to the screen I want to see"
32%: "The content of the ad is interesting"
32%: "The ad is funny"
31%: "It is from a company I like or am interested in"
27%: "The ad is entertaining"
26%: "The ad is informative or useful"
20%: "Great/catchy music"
19%: "A friend told me about the ad"
15%: "I have nothing better to do"
14%: "The ad has special effects or interesting cinematography"
10%: "It has a fun game"
10%: "The spokesperson/celebrity is someone I recognize"
9%: "There are attractive/interesting people in the ad"
17%: None of the above
Source: Socialogue study from Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (Ipsos OTX) and Ipsos Global @dvisor