NEW YORK — Radio City Music Hall was packed and abuzz at YouTube's 2018 Brandcast presentation to advertisers on Thursday night, which, on top of the strictly business stuff, included elaborately-staged video montages and performances from OK Go, Camila Cabello, Ariana Grande and "The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah.
It was a lot to digest — not uncommon for a show during the notoriously busy upfronts season — but contained a few big bits of marketing news for Google's video platform. Perhaps more interesting than the celebrity appearances for marketers, YouTube announced it's teamed with Nielsen Catalina Solutions to better track how YouTube campaigns affect brands' offline sales. Unveiling the partnership, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki cited Nielsen Matched Panel Analysis findings that 70% of YouTube campaigns drove a "significant lift" in offline sales over the past few years.
"To help brands deliver better, more useful ads on YouTube, we expanded the ways you can tap into Google's broad ecosystem based on the kind of searches people do or the kind of places and apps they like," Wojcicki told an at-capacity audience of nearly 4,200. "Now, we're bringing these enhanced affinity signals into Google Preferred campaigns.
"[W]e're continuing this work by extending sales lift measurement to Nielsen Catalina Solutions," she added. "You will soon have a new solution to show that YouTube campaigns are effective at moving products off the shelves."
The presentation also delved into the recent unveiling of two new products for advertisers that narrow YouTube's gap with TV providers, including plans to introduce TV screens as a device to AdWords and Doubleclick Bid Manager. YouTube TV, the company's over-the-top streaming package that bundles together TV networks and original programming like YouTube Red, will also offer full-length TV inventory in Google Preferred, Google's premium advertising program.
"Starting next broadcast season, you will be able to advertise against cable TV shows using the best of Google Preferred," Wojcicki said.
Her comments underpinned how much YouTube now directly threatens an already languishing traditional TV landscape, with television screens being YouTube's fastest-growing channel boasting 150 million hours of collective view time per day. To ride on that momentum, YouTube announced a slate of new programming at Brandcast for its originals network launched last year, such as a show starring Will Smith; "Jack Whitehall: Training Days," centered around the lead-up to the World Cup soccer tournament and sponsored by Wendy's; and a series for the NBA's official channel executive produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter called "Best Shot."
While much of the night was celebratory, Wojcicki also acknowledged the brand safety problems that have plagued the site over the past year or so, where ads have appeared next to inflammatory or offensive video content, leading marketers to freeze their spending. CNN reported last month that ads from over 300 brands like Nike, Adidas, Hershey and more were still appearing next to channels featuring white nationalists, Nazis, pedophiles and other unsavory figures.
"There is not a playbook for how open platforms operate at our scale," Wojcicki said. "It's critical that we're on the right side of history”
While the executive's comments were about YouTube, they could've just as easily applied to competitors like Facebook, which is facing intense public scrutiny over its handling of users' data privacy. Wojcicki reinforced YouTube's commitment to hiring 10,000 human staffers by year's end, who will work alongside the platform's machine learning algorithms to review and flag down offensive material.
Much of the night was more lighthearted, centering on YouTube audience benchmarks and its work with creators. Tyler Oakley, a YouTube personality with more than 7.8 million subscribers, spoke about partnerships with brands like 23andMe and Procter & Gamble on his channel. With P&G, Oakley traveled to the 2018 Winter Olympics for content featuring the CPG giant's brand ambassador Gus Kenworthy, a freeskier and one of the few openly-gay athletes at the games.
Oakley, who also identifies as LGBT, imparted some words to advertisers in the audience whose curiosity was stoked by some of the offerings coming out of the night.
"[P&G] did not look at me as a billboard," he said. "They didn't give me a script and talking points to regurgitate. It's content that I'm proud of and it’s content that my audience loved."