The online video conundrum: Should brands invest in YouTube, Facebook or look elsewhere?

As YouTube celebrates its 10th anniversary, Natan Edelsburg looks at the battleground over online video advertising spend and how Facebook plans to lure advertisers to its own video offering, while many other pretenders lurk in the shadows with brand incentives and big audiences who are moving away from the television.

In recent months the behemoths of online video have entered a battle not seen since Apple and Microsoft drew swords in the late 80s and early 90s. YouTube, the mainstay for online video, boasts over a billion users after 10 years in existence and has never had to sweat much before. However, Facebook has entered the fray and begun to make big investments in the video space, leaving YouTube clinging onto its talent.

The last figures released by Facebook in January claimed that the number of videos being posted globally by users had increased by 75 per cent, only months after founder, Mark Zuckerberg claimed that within five years, most of the platform would be video.

The shift can be seen through the decision by entertainment brands, which had traditionally used YouTube to post and promote movie trailers, having begun to test using Facebook as well, with the trailer for Marvel’s Avenger sequel having racked up 33 million views on YouTube, and seven million on Facebook.

However Facebook has the power to socialise its content in a way that YouTube cannot, and the trailer’s 180,000 likes and comments that run to almost 12,500 pages, proves the case against YouTube’s still impressive 25,000 comments.

As a result, brands and marketers are now faced with harder choices as they develop their already young online video strategies. A report by eMarketer has predicted that, “2015 will see a rapid increase in video advertising,” because of all the new options available. In October last year, Comscore claimed that Google held a video audience of 162.3 million unique viewers while Facebook had 93.8 million. Both are continuing to grow, but Facebook can argue that it has a more personal connection with its audience.

So where should brands invest their online video advertising dollars? Where should they publish their videos?

Building an audience

“Our watch time is growing 50 per cent year on year,” says Derek Scobie, head of YouTube brand propositions for Northern and Central Europe. “Subscriptions are growing four times year-on-year with tremendous amounts of content, 300 hours uploaded every minute,” he adds.

According to a report by YouTube video marketing company Pixability, only one of the world’s top 100 brands doesn’t have a channel on the platform, with the total view count having grown by 39 per cent since May 2013.

Scobie says that far fewer brands are acting as publishers versus leveraging YouTube’s advertising products like their skipable pre-roll ads.

Meanwhile, Facebook UK’s head of agency relations, Ed Couchman, offers the case as to why brands should use video on Facebook. “Facebook’s ability to combine real identity and sophisticated targeting means that it is uniquely placed to help brands ensure they reach the right people – every day – on a massive scale,” he told The Drum.

“Personalisation is a key element to Facebook’s video offering – Facebook has unique, sophisticated targeting tools available to marketers to help them interact with their audience in a much more meaningful way," Couchman added.

The targeting on Facebook combined with the fan pages that brands have already been heavily investing in make it a perfect place to introduce video, not to mention the recent addition of user ad ratings.

Talent

As the saying goes, “content is king”. YouTube has birthed an entire new kind of celebrity. Facebook and others are now trying to lure them away from YouTube. There are even “multichannel networks” like Makers Studios, Fullscreen and StyleHaul cultivating and packaging these talent.

“Identification of partners for brands is where we play an important role,” Scobie claims. “YouTube has made tens of thousands of people famous – for brands that can sometimes be a complex web,” he says, adding that YouTube knows how to take a brief and figure out which stars are the right ones for the campaign.

The concept of a “Facebook celebrity” is not nearly as big as on YouTube, but with Instagram under the giant’s umbrella it might be able to leverage talent there. Most major celebrities, YouTube stars included, still have Facebook pages that they use in a big way.

Autoplay

Facebook’s auto-play has been one of the main drivers of its growth as a video platform. Marketers love that a consumer need only see a few seconds of their video that auto-played for it to count as a view.

YouTube relies on actual viewership numbers sans Autoplay and while that might not seem sexy right now, it might end up winning the industry’s sentiment in the future as views need to opt in to watch the video.

Examples

Couchman pointed to “the recent John Lewis Christmas ad, which racked up over a million native video views on Facebook within six hours of launching”. He says that “the video was discovered on Facebook and after 24 hours we accounted for 40 per cent of total views and 76.9 per cent of social media shares.”

Scobie pointed to Nike’s amazing work during the World Cup on YouTube in addition to the way Xbox and PlayStation have been working with YouTube talent.

The Future

While the market might be showing fierce competition right now in the numbers and in the press, an industry that’s pretty much only 10 years old has probably yet to see its fiercest competition. “We expect there will be more platforms,” Scobie predicts, adding that there is a “lot of space for all of us to grow” and that he’s extremely confident with YouTube’s 1 billion users and growing.

There’s no doubt that Facebook seems to be vying to become the king of online video. “On average, more than 50 per cent of people who come back to Facebook every day in the UK watch at least one video daily, while 76 per cent of people in the US who use Facebook say they tend to discover the videos they watch on Facebook,” Couchman says.

Regarding the competition he says that, “while you may think of another platform when you think of watching video online, the reality is that the last place you discovered new video content was probably on Facebook – unlike other video channels, where most video viewing is search-based, Facebook has truly become the discovery channel for video.”

Compliments instead of competitors?

Of course, there are several other video platforms that will all have a say in the war Vimeo, Daily Motion, Showtime, Netflix, Yahoo Screen, Hulu and several more – but none have quite the global impact of the main two players at this current time.

According to social media analytics company, Socialbakers,“instead of sharing YouTube videos, brands are now uploading more videos to Facebook directly”. While YouTube might not be happy about this, it doesn’t necessarily need to worry.

Facebook might be the go-to place for initial buzz and conversation when it comes to video but for the foreseeable future brands will continue to need YouTube as the staple for where they upload and where consumers discover video later on when searching. We have seen with the company’s massive outdoor advertising campaign in the US and the UK before Christmas that Google is willing to invest in the fame of its ‘YouTubers’ and make them household names. That President Obama is willing to be interviewed by some of them on camera does the 10-year-old platform no harm either as it continues to innovate.

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