What Works On YouTube

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An interesting article in Advertising Age focuses on a debate within the advertising industry about how to approach the new world of user-generated content for marketing purposes. And nobody’s seems all that sure about it.

The debate is no so much do-we-or-don’t-we as much as it is how-thick-do-our-kid-gloves-need-to-be? Do we advertise around the content? If so, is the level of control acceptable? If we create our own content for video-sharing sites, how much do we put into production and what is the return?

These are boardroom type questions – queries for suits and bean counters and gamers. But, from a reasonable distance, it makes one wonder if they’re over-thinking it.

Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, is concerned with filtering. Because, really, you don’t want your travel guide advertisement popping up next to a guide to New York cocaine bars.

Even then, you wonder how many people notice and how many people (other than the advertisers care.

The rest of the panel, which includes, bigwigs from Avenue A/Razorfish (kings of the surreal), Art Sindlinger of Starcom, and MasterCard, seemed torn on production costs.

Like any creative endeavor, when salesmen and suits get involved, it’s ruined. Like any creative pursuit, success is 90% imagination, 5% placement, and 5% timing. Great things don’t go anywhere because of bad timing, mediocre things take off for the opposite reason.

The Celestine Prophecy, anyone? Not exactly a triumph of literature, but caught the right wave.

So the 90-5-5 formula I put out there is completely arbitrary (and you should have called me on that already), because it seems to me this type of discussion surrounds arbitrary topics. What catches, catches. What doesn’t doesn’t. It’s almost all intuition.

And suits hate that. Like Schrodinger’s Cat, measuring something changes it.

But if we have to have something – something more tangible than "you just gotta feel it" – to go on, we can turn to YouTube for our data, to see what scores and what doesn’t.

Paris Hilton’s channel when she launched her (abysmal) pop song was met with some concern as YouTubers complained their beloved space would be invaded by marketers. One commentator complained the music video was too polished, too Madison Avenue.

They like it raw; they like it real; they like something they can connect with. (In Paris’s case, watch it catch fire for the opposite reason, as she scoots out of jail for bogus reasons, while the po’ folks serve their time.)

Alright, so we know how not to be – salesy and invasive. (Door-to-door may work an acceptable percentage of the time, because it’s hard to shut the door in someone’s face. If it’s just a click that makes the annoyance go away, it’s a different story.) But what scores on YouTube?

The all-time most viewed list shows us patterns that we should recognize already. The people like music, sex, and laughter – if all at the same time, so be it. The top 10, which seems to belie a bit the unwashed masses preference for raw reality, are:

1.    Evolution of Dance, viewed 49.9 million times.

2.    Avril Lavigne’s "Girlfriend," viewed 33.3 million times.

3.    My Chemical Romance’s "Famous Last Words," viewed 29.3 million times.

4.    Pokemon Theme Music Video, viewed 24.5 million times.

5.    SNL’s "A Special Christmas Box," viewed 22.6 million times.

6.    Guitar (guy on bed playing guitar), viewed 21.7 million times.

7.    OK Go’s "Here It Goes Again," viewed 18.1 million times.

8.    Quick Change Artists on America’s Got Talent, viewed 17.8 million times.

9.    Porn XXX (actually a My Little Pony cartoon), viewed by 17 million suckers.

10.    Hahaha (a baby laughing), viewed 16.2 million times.

So while that shows what type of entertainment YouTubers really value, what about videos that are closer to true advertising? My favorite example is the "Will It Blend?" series, where a seller demonstrates a blender by chopping up an iPod, golf balls, marbles, pens, a rake handle, hockey pucks, you name it.

Simple, transparent, direct, a little violent, with a nice punch from the wow-factor. The "Will It Blend?" series hit its peak with the iPod blending, viewed 3.6 million times – not bad for a blender commercial. 

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  • mark

    why has youtube stock tanked so bad since the owners got all that money from google what did the owners do with all that money stock is now worth .07cents a share now

  • Ramakrishnan – Ramki

    You tube seems to be the one of the best way to do free video campaign about the business, products and services. Secondly youtube videos gains top results in Google Search. But the disadvantage is tracking the visitors from youtube. Daily 1000 times of news visitors coming to youtube. Youtube has twin advantage.

    * Youtube is itself is a high traffic generating website
    * more chances of visibility from Google Search

  • T.C.Roberts

    My response to this is ‘sponsorship/investment’.

    If business or any other medium wants to advertise effectively in the new world of user-generated content then it should consider the merits of sponsoring or investing in independent projects!

    Traditonal advertising agencies or marketing depts. can facilitate this process.

    To find out more about this concept refer to: www.SunCityMedia.Com


    T.C. Roberts (AKA ThomBob)

  • SteveK

    Your point that discerning what catches is intuitive is entirely true. On the one hand, when TV execs get together to green-light new shows for the fall line-up, they measure market data on what genres, actors, themes, etc. are being successful. But on the other hand, market data can only go so far – it’s nearly impossible to use market data to evaluate a TV show’s actor performances, directing, and writing to determine if it will catch on. Only a person with an aptitude for intuitively identifying hits can really judge that with any sort of consistency. That is why you see the same names attached to all the hit TV shows (J.J. Abrams, for example).

    On a different note, your error was in reference to Shrodinger’s Cat. That particular thought experiment is more about quantum entanglement and uncertainty than the observer effect. I would have used Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle for your example. Interestingly, Wikipedia tells me that even that is not correct for the situation.


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