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Client are anxious YouTube will ‘do a Facebook’ and squeeze branded content says BNM boss

A panel discussion at Digital Matters this afternoon on multi-channel networks – companies that sell the audiences of online video creators to advertisers –  was centred on whether brands were relying too heavily on YouTube in their content plans.

Gwendolyn Regina, Gautam XXXX, Nick Fawnbert, Ivy Wong, Richard North and Henry Stokes at Digital Matters in Singapore today

Gwendolyn Regina, Gautam Anand, Nick Fawbert, Ivy Wong, Richard North and Henry Stokes at Digital Matters in Singapore today

Sitting next to the regional head of YouTube, Gautam Anand, was Nick Fawbert, the Asia MD of Brand New Media, a multi-channel network. He questioned the wisdom of brand content creators focusing their energies and money on YouTube, suggesting that they might be better off creating their own platforms where they can “own the audience, own the data and own the means of conversion.”

“YouTube is strong and delivers. The challenge is that brands are saying that it is not about traditional advertising anymore, it’s about developing a relationship over time,” he said, referencing YouTube’s introduction of new light-touch rules that only allow branded content on the platform if customers have also paid for ads.

“It’s not about just putting your content on YouTube, you need to spend money to amplify it,” Fawbert said. “And if you’re spending money to amplify, why spend money to take people to another website?”

He described YouTube as an “incredible channel,” and acknowledged the need for the video-sharing platform to generate income, but said that there was a need for brands to “find independence” within the YouTube environment without being at risk to sudden changes to the algorithm, an issue that confronted brands on Facebook after the social network put an end to organic reach for advertisers.

While the audience that YouTube can generate is not in doubt, Fawbert said that “it only takes a small set of tweaks and the only way to drive people to a brand’s page is by spending cash.”

“Once the rule is there, it is waving a red flag; if you invest in the YouTube channel that money could be wasted, as you’ll keep burning money to keep the channel alive.”

Whether that’s a right or wrong thing for YouTube to do from a business perspective, “that’s an anxiety that advertisers have,” Fawbert said. “Yes, you can get content on there. But when will YouTube do a Facebook?”

Anand later said in response there was no requirement that “spend needs to be associated with branded content.” He described YouTube as a “fantastic environment” for branded content, and said that YouTube is seen as a “home for creators.”

“Beyond [YouTube] there are opportunities, such as Line in Thailand, Kakao in Korea, Facebook and Twitter. But we’re still seining tremendous growth year on year,” he said.

The regional VP of client development for programmatic buying arm Xaxis, Henry Stokes, described YouTube as “massive for us,” but said his company was “agnostic about where our audience is.”

Referring to his company’s own data, Stokes said: “We find the audience on YouTube is as big as much as the next 20 websites, but added that Xaxis had the technology and data to target people across those platforms just as easily.

“We spend heavily but not exclusively, ” he said. The other sites in the top 20 were sizeable enough not to be considered the long tail. “It’s the mid tail – it’s almost the head,” he said.

Amid a long debate about YouTube, Ivy Wong broke up the session with the reality that in the world’s largest internet market, China, there is no YouTube.

“So we have to work with 10 different portals. But creators have shifted away from making advertiser funded content. They’re into e-commerce,” she said, sharing the story of a popular female video star who asks her viewers to buy the snacks she eats on her show. “She was making RMB12m (US$1.2m) a year.”

“In China, we’re shifting from a pure ad model to a pure B2C model,” she said.

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