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YouTube introduces AI-powered music ad solutions targeting Gen Z

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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

April 26, 2023 | 6 min read

The news arrives at a moment in which a growing number of major tech brands are investing more heavily in AI, a technology that has existed for decades but has strongly captivated Silicon Valley and the marketing world in recent months.

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YouTube has long leveraged AI to recommend videos to users. / Adobe Stock

Google-owned video-sharing platform YouTube has unveiled two new AI-powered features designed to make it easier for brands to advertise to Gen Z through popular music.

The new ad features are being launched in an effort to position YouTube both as a robust musical platform and as something of a one-stop-shop for brands that are seeking to leverage music as a means of connecting with a younger audience.

In an announcement today, just days after the end of this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, YouTube described itself as “the ultimate destination for content during festival season, especially among gen Z who come to the platform to share and engage with videos ranging from performance highlights to outfit inspiration, vlogs and more.”

The brand also wrote that it “has always been where audiences like gen Z go to experience music on another level.”

The first of the new features announced today, Gen Z Music, uses AI to identify the songs that are trending among Gen Z users on YouTube. Some of those might come as a surprise to advertisers: the brand notes in the press release, for example, that hit songs from Cindy Lauper have become a favorite among some Gen Z users on the platform.

The second feature is intended to help brands leverage Shorts, a TikTok-like, short-form video feature designed primarily for mobile which YouTube first introduced in September 2020. Gen Z “uses short-form video to participate in pop culture, discover new hits and engage with their favorite musical artists,” YouTube writes in the press release. “YouTube Shorts has amassed over 1.5 billion monthly logged-in users and over 50bn daily views.” Though details in today’s press release are scarce, YouTube suggests that its upcoming Trending Music on Shorts feature will, with the help of AI, strategically place ads within popular, music-themed Shorts videos.

YouTube will be piloting Trending Music on Shorts in the coming months.

“Much like YouTube creators, brands have the same potential for innovation and creative storytelling,” said Nicky Rettke, vice-president of product management at YouTube. “YouTube’s array of creative tools and ad formats, powered by Google’s AI, means brands can tell the stories they want to tell and reach the world’s largest video-viewing audience. That means more ways to reach viewers across all the ways they watch - and stronger ROI compared to TV and online video.”

YouTube is no stranger to AI; the platform has long used algorithms to personalize user feeds. But as evidenced by today’s announcement, the brand clearly intends to lean more heavily into technology as a means of connecting advertisers with key audiences.

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Google has also been driving its AI research and development recently, largely in an effort to remain a step ahead of its competitor, Microsoft, which announced earlier this year that its Bing and Edge platforms have received some AI-powered upgrades. Meta and Amazon have also both taken steps to capitalize on the growing enthusiasm surrounding generative AI, a subset of AI models that are designed to produce text, images, video and various other forms of content from text prompts.

The sudden surge of corporate interest in generative AI can largely be attributed to the rise of ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot released by OpenAI in November which – according to some - went on to become the fastest-growing consumer product in history.

Google and YouTube parent company Alphabet stated in its latest earnings report yesterday that YouTube’s ad revenue for the first quarter of 2023 tallied at around $6.69bn, compared to around $6.87bn during the same time period last year – a drop of approximately 2.6%.

For more on the latest happening in AI, web3 and other cutting-edge technologies, sign up for The Emerging Tech Briefing newsletter here.

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