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The key stats behind YouTube’s pitch to brands and advertisers

YouTube highlighted its ability to drive purchase decisions during its 2021 Brandcast

YouTube’s brandcast saw the video platform share usage stats for the UK and Ireland. While the consumption stats are compelling, what YouTube said – and didn’t say – about its future priorities indicates how brands can tune into the huge audiences it commands.

YouTube is the de facto source of entertainment for a huge number of people. The video platform reaches a vast audience across a huge array of devices. The brand has expanded into paid-for video and music via YouTube Music, and has just hired a new global lead for its podcast offering.

This week Google UK and Ireland shared its usage stats for the video platform, with a focus on what brands can achieve when they advertise on the platform. We’ve pulled out a few key insights – and what they say about YouTube’s priorities for the future.

Whenever, wherever

According to the brandcast, the average “online adult” in the UK watched an average of one hour of YouTube content per day. Crucially, a growing proportion of that was across connected televisions, which indicates that YouTube is increasingly seen as indistinguishable from most TV content by many consumers. In the UK that amounts to over 25 million people streaming YouTube via their televisions every month.

Per Google’s 2020 statistics, “watch time on TV screens of YouTube content greater than 30 minutes has increased more than 90% in a 12-month period in the US.” Additionally, over 100 million people in the US now watch YouTube and YouTube TV on a TV screen, with similar stats elsewhere.

That encroachment on traditional television territory means that there’s competition for real estate on connected televisions. For example, Sky recently announced the launch of televisions with Sky built directly into the set, in part to counter that expansion from digital video like YouTube. Despite that, virtual marketing professor Mark Ritson stated: “But it also means recognizing that YouTube isn’t TV’s enemy [but] complimentary, partly because of its addressability, scale, ability to target ... but partly because it fills a demographic gap that sometimes TV suffers from.”

Purchase decisions

For brands, the key advantage of that growing audience across mobile and non-desktop devices is that it allows access to users at the start of a purchase decision. The brandcast states that half of YouTube users in the UK use the service to help them make purchase decisions.

The brandcast saw testimony from Rimmel and BT about how they achieved greater reach using the platform – with BT seeing 15% incremental reach over television alone. Additionally, as the panel made clear, it also allows brands to dig into the demographic data with more specificity than would be possible with television.

One thing that was not mentioned, however, is the fundamental disconnect between how each video platform – such as traditional television, YouTube, social video platforms or Netflix – measure their viewer numbers. Currently the lack of any universal measurement has led to a buying ecosystem that is confusing for advertisers. As a result, YouTube spent the brandcast highlighting its ability to influence purchase decisions.

Beyond video

The brandcast also highlighted YouTube’s push into the music streaming world. YouTube Music – which is bundled in with its Premium ad-free service – has over 15 million subscribers, and has reportedly provided $4bn in the last 12 months to the music industry.

YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen stated that the wider service is complementary to YouTube Music: “It’s just not the premium music video, it’s interviews, it’s old concerts. It’s when a fan wants to dig. It’s like a treasure chest of information. It brings contacts to storytellers, it helps artists engage with their fans on a global basis.”

As further evidence of how seriously YouTube is taking audio – primarily for its ability to drive subscriptions though in part due to the growing amount of ad revenue it is attracting – it is also hiring an executive focused primarily on podcasts. It is a belated recognition that YouTube is already a key destination for podcasts, despite the company not having really invested in creating a dedicated environment or app for the medium.

For brands, then, the big sell was that YouTube should be a part of the media mix when it comes to reaching audiences. Huge audience figures are all well and good, but the ability to drive purchase decisions will be what really helps sell the service to advertisers.

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