It’s easy to see that YouTube is finally emerging into the entertainment mainstream. YouTube stars are gracing the cover of magazines, presenting at award shows, and even taking home prizes themselves. The world has finally begun to wake up to the huge influence and potential of the YouTube community.
However, one segment of the population is catching up more slowly than most. Ad spending on YouTube has been steadily climbing, but it hasn’t come anywhere close to what advertisers are willing to spend on television. Adage estimates that advertisers spent in excess of $19.3 million for YouTube based advertising in connection with this year’s Super Bowl. It’s an impressive figure, but it’s a fraction of the $395 million in total ad spending estimated by WalletHub. Given the impressive demographic reach of YouTube and its stars, that’s something advertisers should aim to change, and soon.
The most popular creators on YouTube have instant access to millions of fans and subscribers, and it’s not just the size of their audience that counts, but who it’s composed of. Unlike television whose audience, especially on major networks, is growing incrementally older over time, YouTube viewers tend to be young. A 2014 study by The Intelligence Group found that 74% of 14-18 year olds and 68% of 18–24 year olds reported spending at least and hour a day consuming YouTube content. By contrast television viewership among 18-24 year olds fell by 10.6% last year as more adult millennials tuned in to streaming and OTT services for content. YouTube’s future content plans are likely to attract a larger share of older viewers as well, but the majority of subscribers to top tier creators are teens and young adults, two groups that advertisers have traditionally been eager to reach.
Beyond simple numbers, advertising on YouTube has other more subtle advantages. YouTubers are communicators at heart. They built their large social media followings by speaking directly to fans in a way that feels personal and authentic. No amount of spending on any other platform could match the effect of that personal connection. Advertising on YouTube has already shown dramatic results when brands make smart choices about who to partner with and give creators the freedom to work their magic.
YouTube beauty star Michelle Phan is one of the platforms most successful creators with over 3.7 million subscribers, her own line of cosmetics products, and a monthly subscription box service. She’s not a movie star or a model, but she knows how to reach her fans and in turn her fans know they can trust her opinion. When Phan lent her name to a campaign for Lush Cosmetics sugar scrub, the product sold out nationwide in a matter of days. Phan has spent years building a reputation of trust on YouTube. In between executing styling looks and reviewing the latest beauty products, she’s made it clear to her fans that she knows what they’ll like.
YouTubers are at the forefront of a media revolution. They’re changing the way that we think about media and entertainment as a one-sided activity and they’re connecting with a whole new generation of fans in the process. Increasingly the flow of ad dollars into the YouTube space will only allow creators to do what they do best on a larger scale. It’s a win-win proposition and advertisers will soon need to get on board or risk being left behind.