When YouTube kicked off its creator marketing campaign in May, the Google-owned video site hoped to attract new viewers. More than that, YouTube wanted to get advertisers keen on the site’s homegrown stars. It was the site’s way of saying, “Hey! Look at our stars, aren’t they just primed and perfect for brand deals?”
But it’s not working—at least on the advertising front.
It’s not like YouTube didn’t try. A huge billboard featuring Michelle Phan near my office’s San Francisco doorstep hailed the makeup guru’s cosmetic mastery and her collection of 5 million-plus subscribers.
For weeks, YouTube chef Rosanna Pansino extolled her love for video games and baking in video ads that seemed to play before every video I tried to watch on the site.
Bethany Mota—the teen who gained six million subscribers showing off her shopping spree purchases on YouTube—popped up in a full page advertisement in Seventeen magazine’s May issue.
And it’s pretty hard to miss all the ads for Epic Rap Battles, the YouTube channel where historical figures throw down at 16 bars each. YouTube even shelled out for an Epic Rap Battle TV shot during the World Cup’s first match.
These aren’t cheesy home videos that YouTube is asking advertisers to sponsor. The production value of Epic Rap Battles, much like the other YouTube series mentioned here, is absurdly high. Weird Al and Key and Peele are just some guests that have performed on the channel.
YouTube’s first serious attempt at promoting its superstars wasn’t a total failure. The promotions did succeed in increasing views and subscribers, AdAge reports. Advertisers that partnered with popular channels previous to the campaign are still on board. But new advertisers have not shown any interest.
Millions Of Millennial Wallets Ignored By Advertisers
YouTube stars have dedicated fans in the millions, so why don’t advertisers bite? Likely, they don’t know a Freddie Wong from a Jenna Marbles, and you probably don’t, either. These YouTube stars just aren’t household names— not yet.
YouTube video game star PewDiePie hasn’t starred in a blockbuster film or television series, but that doesn’t mean the Swedish gaming channel mogul is not a big deal. His 29 million subscribers and ranking as the “most subscribed channel on YouTube of all time” would suggest otherwise.
Most of the stars YouTube promotes are young, with an even younger fan base. Perhaps YouTube has been pushing its millennial-skewed homegrown celebrities towards mainstream media a little too hard, leaving those with a broader demographic appeal out in the cold.
That hasn’t been true for a while. The reach of YouTube stars goes beyond the realms of YouTube itself, and even beyond that of Hollywood.
Variety reports that for U.S. teens, YouTube stars are more popular than mainstream celebrities. According to Variety’s poll, teens aged 13 to 18 prefer YouTube’s own comedy duo Smosh, gamer PewDiePie, and filmmakers TheFineBros over Hollywood mainstays like Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen.
Is YouTube Pushing The Wrong Stars?
The thing is, YouTube could easily fix its advertising problem. The site has quality content from channels with broader appeal. Channels about sports, gaming, education, channels for kids, channels for parents. The possibilities, like the hours of content on the site, are endless.
Advertisers are missing out on these lesser-promoted channels and passing on huge marketing opportunities.
Brand deals fuel YouTube stars’ budgets, giving them more resources and incentive to create better videos—thus gaining fans and revenue. It’s no wonder why YouTube is trying hard to make their top stars look primed for advertising deals.
Michelle Phan has partnered with Lancome in the past, and Bethany Mota has worked with Aeropostale to launch her own clothing line. The Fine Brothers have worked with Friskies to make cat versions of their Web series.
Even though the larger ad community hasn’t been interested in the marketing campaign so far, YouTube reports that views and subscribers have skyrocketed.
In a four month span, charts via Tubular Labs show that Epic Rap Battle’s total views had gone from a little under 887 million to over 1.1 billion. The YouTube channel for Vice News saw an increase in close to 80 million views in the same amount of time.
We can’t be sure whether or not these increases occurred because of the help of the marketing campaign, or if it is just the reflection of a popular channel’s natural growth on the site.
YouTube plans to unveil the next group of YouTube stars to be promoted in its creator marketing campaign later this year, and maybe it will showcase talent with a broader appeal. We’ll see then if YouTube’s stars will get more recognition from advertisers than just a nod and a wave.
Lead image courtesy of Rosanna Pansino’s YouTube channel