An Unsolicited Advertising Suggestion for YouTube

An Unsolicited Advertising Suggestion for YouTube

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YouTube, like their parent company, has some pretty slick programming applications. The most impressive, in my opinion, is Content ID. Content ID monitors uploaded video and alerts copyright holders whenever copyrighted video content is used illegally – automatically. At that point, the copyright holder can either request the video be removed, or they can place ads on the video to turn the copyright violation into a money-maker.

Content ID helps to fight copyright violations and fight piracy, but also makes money for the brand and YouTube at the same time. It’s genius. So… why doesn’t YouTube have a similar system in place to help pair up advertisers with the amateur creators of unexpected viral video hits?

Making The Case:

Currently, there are a ton of options for advertisers who wish to reach YouTube viewers; pre-roll, post-roll, banner ads, etc. But when it comes to placement, there is always an automated aspect. Advertisers can choose certain topics, keywords, or genres… but, as with Google’s Adwords, ultimately the ads are placed by an algorithm.

While thinking about the recent viral rocket-ship known as Emerson, the baby who is alternately horrified and tickled by his mother’s nose-blowing, I realized something: the right brand could make quite an impression with consumers by swooping in and “sponsoring” this video.

To help jog your memory and set the stage for my argument, here’s another look at the clip in question:

In less than two weeks, that clip has racked up 12 million views, and could easily be on its way to being the next Charlie Bit My Finger or David After Dentist. And it seems to me that these videos represent a huge marketing potential for brands, and for YouTube, if only there was a way to rapidly identify them on their way up the charts.

In the case of Emerson’s video, I specifically thought about Gerber, or Pampers as decent brand partners. But any baby or mommy-related product would be a great fit with a video like this. And there are natural brand matches for most amateur viral sensations–Friskies & Pedigree ought to be salivating at the prospect of attaching their brand to the latest hot cat video.

An average branded viral video does well just to get a million views, and is considered downright lucky to get any more than that. The branded viral clips with 10+ million views are more rare than you might think… we just don’t hear a lot about the millions of unsuccessful branded viral attempts.

So when a video captures the Internet’s attention the way that Emerson has, it represents a chance for a brand to grab more viewers than any video they themselves have put out. Only there’s no easy way for them to do that.

Sure, a brand can call Ererson’s mommy directly, I suppose, and offer her money. Lots of brands have done this sort of thing, but it almost always ends with a second, follow-up commercial that features the star of the original clip, like Tay Zonday’s Cherry Chocolate Rain for Dr. Pepper or Double Rainbow Guy’s Microsoft Windows ad. And the follow up commercials never score as many views as the original clip… not even close.

I’m talking about a way for a brand to spot an amateur video going nuclear, then quickly secure exclusive sponsorship rights for that video, then place that sponsorship ad or notice on the video page or on the video itself while the clip is still gaining in popularity. The uploader would have the choice of whether they want to make a little money off their unexpected hit (splitting some with YouTube, of course) or ignore the brand and let the ad stand on its own.

Reasons It Could Work

  • YouTube already has the capability to track emerging viral hits–that’s what Trends and the Trends Dashboard are all about. So they’d have no trouble spotting these rising amateur clips.
  • Advertisers are already spending more and more on YouTube ads–not to mention those that try to produce their own great videos from scratch. So the precedent is there: brands want to reach YouTube viewers.
  • Given YouTube and Google’s history with search and keywords, you would think that it wouldn’t be too difficult to automate a way to match emerging amateur viral hits with potential brand partners.
  • Like most companies, YouTube is always looking for ways to make more money, particularly when it involves advertising.


It’s not that I see a problem that needs fixing… it’s that I see untapped potential for advertisers and YouTube and its users in these unpredictable homemade videos that go from unnoticed to mega-viral in a matter of days.

If YouTube could put their engineering power to work behind a program like Content ID–only specifically to sniff out emerging amateur viral hits and connect the creators with likely brand partners–it could be a home run for all parties involved.

Frankly, I’m surprised they don’t have something like this in place already.


Video Industry

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