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Happy Birthday YouTube – What the platform means to brands, vloggers and agencies

Today marks the 10th anniversary since the first video was uploaded to YouTube. The Drum takes a look at what the platform means to brands, agencies and vloggers and how it's changed their world in just 10 short years.

In a decade YouTube has grown from a platform for amateur videos to one that distributes original content and has the power to propel brands, pop stars and vloggers to stratospheric heights.

Originating from a dinner party idea in February 2005, three former PayPal employees – Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim – registered the trademark, logo and domain of YouTube, forever changing the media landscape.

It was on 23 April 2005 that the first video – ‘Me at the Zoo’ – hit YouTube, and in five months the platform racked up its first million-hit video in the shape of a Nike advert in which footballer Ronaldinho received a pair of golden boots.

Google didn’t take long to cotton on to YouTube’s potential, acquiring the platform in October 2006 to the tune of $1.65bn. A number of business opportunities followed with the ‘Partner Program’, enabling users to get paid for their viral content, introduced in May 2008 and the first advertisements appearing in August 2008.

Along the way YouTube has brought us Justin Bieber, who sparked a bidding war between Usher and Justin Timberlake when his homemade videos won the hearts of tweenagers worldwide; Psy, the Korean popstar whose megahit ‘Gangnam Style’ cracked the 2bn view barrier and broke YouTube’s hit counter; and a string of young YouTube stars who have redefined the way British media stars are born.

In addition to entertainment YouTube has become a credible and vital news source for millions worldwide. CNN partnered with the platform in 2007 to host the presidential debate for the 2008 election, during the 2011 Arab Spring YouTube played an instrumental role in disseminating messages of freedom and democracy and in 2012 people were able to live-stream the London Olympic Games thanks to NBC’s online video experience. And earlier this month, Hillary Clinton used the platform to announce her intention to run for presidency with an online video.

With a brand’s YouTube channel predicted to become its primary means of reaching and engaging with its target audience within the next five years, The Drum caught up with a brand, a marketer and a YouTuber to find out what the platform means to them.

The brand: Thomas Malleschitz, director of marketing, Three UK

As a brand all social media platforms are important to Three; we have a social media team that manages to go from strength to strength and we know that a lot of people love us for what we do on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and, of course, YouTube. They’re early sounding boards for us but it’s about brand building, not just ‘this is the price’.

The successes we’ve had on YouTube just go to show how powerful it has become. #DancePonyDance has had over 10m views and counting and more recently Sing it Kitty and #HolidaySpam have been massively popular with our audience.

We stretch our YouTube channel to the max. As a platform it’s crammed with additional opportunities to personalise our content and that’s massively helpful to us.

On YouTube we’ve managed to figure out the people who are engaging with us and as such we can personalise content for them. As a result we find our audience to be much more engaged and YouTube is about encouraging that engagement.

The funny thing is with YouTube you don’t have to push too hard. There are people on there who are interested in you and what you’re creating, and because of that they come to you. What we figured out is that people love silly stuff on the internet and we’ve used that to our advantage. Remember, what is silly to one person is very much appreciated by another.

Three UK has over 36,000 subscribers to its YouTube channel with over 280 video uploads. At present the company is using the platform to further its #HolidaySpam campaign.

The YouTuber: Tanya Burr, blogger, YouTuber and founder of Tanya Burr Cosmetics

Without YouTube I wouldn’t be able to do my job; it’s such an important platform. Being able to have a channel where I can upload long video content, as opposed to Vine and Instagram where you’re limited to six-15 seconds, really means I can grow my relationship with my audience.

Last year I had a year-long partnership with Unilever for its All Things Hair YouTube channel which involved me using its products in six hair tutorials across the year on my channel and 18 spread out across the year on the Unilever channel.

I helped Boots grow the subscriber base on its platform and the brand was really easy to work with because I love its products. It was a great fit as I’ve used their products for so many years.

Brands should be working more with the YouTube community as it’s a great way for them to launch a product or increase an audience for brand campaigns. YouTubers have a real and genuine relationship with their viewers and the audience trust their opinions. It makes for really effective collaborations.

Tanya Burr has over 2 million YouTube subscribers on her channel where she discusses fashion, makeup and baking amongst other things.

The marketer: Danny Weitzkorn, director, Kameleon

The lines between advertising and content have become blurred – times are changing.

We live in an opt-in world and the only way to reach audiences effectively is to create campaigns and content that they actually want to spend time with. YouTube has not only become part of everyday culture, but integral to a brand’s marketing mix.

Audiences have become more receptive and engaged with brand content on YouTube. With over 100 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute there are more opportunities for a brand to feel more personal and relevant to the consumer – traditional channels fundamentally lack this opportunity.

One example of a brand willing to shift its approach is Kia. With consumers only taking on average 105 dealership visits and 2.2 months from research to purchase, the selling process is now happening online and central to this is YouTube.

In a world where you are no longer just competing with people that sell products and services but constantly competing for consumers’ time and attention YouTube ensures you are heard.

Content marketing agency Kameleon specialises in digital and social video, storytelling and partnerships. Founded in 2008 Kameleon work includes P&G ‘Thank You, Mum’, City Index ‘Training Academy’ and Volvic ‘Unstoppable Volcanicity’.

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