Shameless plug - I’ve got my own comedy cooking channel on YouTube called Cheesy Does It. It’s not my day job, but it’s my creative outlet, and I’m committed to making the best video content I can for my viewers. Imagine my surprise when my actual day job gave me a rude awakening when it came to the brand safety of my videos.
During the day, I run product at Channel Factory, where we recently introduced a brand safety score for every creator video we manage on YouTube. These scores reflect the number of brand-risky elements present in the meta-data and content of a video - from the title to the script and description. A perfectly brand safe video gets a score of 100, with a score of 85 indicating a reasonable cut off point for a brand looking for safe advertising environments.
After rolling out the scoring system, I was horrified to see that my own videos were coming in well below the 85 point cut-off. I had always tried to keep my content high quality, but after reflecting on my style, it became clear that a lot of typical creator tricks that I employ to get views were actually brand turn-offs.
Click bait stinks
The first element of my videos that needed an overhaul were my over-the-top titles and descriptions. Many YouTube creators rely on superlative language to attract viewer attention, including crazy titles that promise the Fucking Best Video Ever! I admit, I was guilty of doing the same thing but it's no real surprise that brands don’t like it. Even seemingly innocent and popular phrases like 'epic fail' or 'graphic' can limit a video’s appeal. What’s more, the promise of an 'epic fail' to a viewer means that the fail better really be epic, or some credibility is lost on their side too.
It's better to manage viewer's expectations while also improving brand suitability. Crazy captions, titles and descriptions are signals that something intense or out of control might be happening. Simply toning down my titles and descriptions of my videos brought my brand safety score up.
What this shows, is that creators need to strike a healthy balance between attracting viewers and attracting brands. While crazy content can catch a random viewer’s eye, there really are no shortcuts. The average YouTube viewer is happy to click through an array of out-there content, but encouraging clicks discourages bids (and possibly viewer loyalty), and the revenue earned can be limited.
Brand safe isn’t a sellout
Content creators are a hugely diverse group. From makeup tutorials, to Game of Thrones fan sites, there are thousands of channels for viewers to choose from. A lot of creators can feel compelled to amp up their content to cut through the competition to their channel. I’m no exception (although, to be fair, the Comedy/Cooking arena is a little less competitive than some of the others.) I took a look back at some of my videos and realized, just like my text descriptions, I was exaggerating my personality in ways that simply weren’t necessary. Without realizing it, I was telling racier jokes and throwing around more negative language than I really needed to.
With a more thoughtful approach to my videos, I started to mature my comedy style and slowly my score started to improve. For many content creators who are feeling unsure about how to grow their revenue on YouTube, focusing on brand safety is a sure way to improve. A brand safe channel can attract bigger brands that have higher standards, who are also willing to pay more for their video content.
Brand suitability is a rising tide across YouTube, and creators like me need to jump on board or prepare to sink. YouTube is beginning to consider a wider variety of elements in videos on their site, employing visual detection and production quality to name two new ones. These additional considerations raise the bar for creators who want to be prioritized in the rankings.
Creators might read these words of caution and worry that YouTube and their brands want them to “sell out,” but there’s already a commercial agreement happening if a creator has ads on their videos. Of course, as a creator my loyalty is always to my audience first. I scan the comments and the audience retention analytics of all of my videos to see what they like and which parts they’re watching. I see if they tune in more for the food or the jokes. I look at what time viewership drops off in a video.
When I have this data, I start my plan to produce more content based on these facts. Only then, once I have an idea that I know the audience will like, do I then think about the advertiser. How can I make this joke or shoot this bit while keeping advertisers happy? How do I adjust the wording or the syntax to keep it PG?
Sometimes it can get tricky but that’s part of being a creator! So far, it’s working, and I’m seeing my viewership improve as my CPMs do.
Bryan Ngo is director of sales operations and product at Channel Factory