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Why Advertisers Should Think of YouTube as a TV Channel

For years, digital platforms have jockeyed to get a piece of the larger TV advertising budgets. Digital media devices across desktop and mobile, existing as well as new publishers, and platforms across search, social, display, native, programmatic, and video are all a testament to the fact that digital media is ubiquitous in consumers’ lives. This year, the money spent on digital advertising in the United States will surpass that spent on traditional ads for the first time, according to forecasts by eMarketer. Advertisers typically silo their ad budgets into two groups, offline and online or TV and digital. Yet given how audiences now consume content, there is an argument to be made as to why YouTube should be thought of as a TV channel, albeit with unique advantages to the more traditional TV model.

Think about it: consumers don’t think about “TV” vs. “digital”— they watch what they want, when they want, on any device or screen they want. Consumers don’t care if content they want to view is on broadcast, cable TV, Facebook or YouTube. They care that the content they want to consume is in front of them at the right time. The aim of the marketer is to meet the consumer at a time and place of their choosing, and move that consumer along the conversion funnel toward the desired response. We all carry sight, sound, and motion around with us in our pockets. We can engage with a second screen when we don’t like what’s on the first. In fact, two-thirds of people say they pick up another device during a television ad break.

Consumers may be cutting their cable cords, but they’re still using their televisions or Smart TVs with OTT and streaming devices and gaming consoles. In the case of YouTube, it is increasingly an icon available right on one’s TV along with every other channel a viewer subscribes to as well as on-demand content such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. Such ready access to varied content contributes to the blurring of lines that are occurring in the mind of the consumer between traditional linear TV and digital video.

In your average day, YouTube reaches more people over 18 than any TV network. TV is one way to achieve fast reach, but it should not be viewed as the only way. In many cases, you can reach significantly more of your audience by combining YouTube and television—blurring the lines just like your consumers do. One recent Comscore study found that advertisers on prime-time broadcast television could have reached 56% more 18-49-year-olds by also advertising on YouTube. So, we need to start buying media the way our audience is consuming it. A savvy advertiser should be media and video neutral, focused instead on reaching their audience where that audience is engaged.  YouTube is not simply a website; it is a search engine. YouTube’s user-friendliness, combined with the soaring popularity of video content, has made it the second largest search engine behind Google. With 3 billion searches per month, YouTube’s search volume is larger than that of Bing, Yahoo, AOL and combined. If YouTube’s user base were a country, it would be the third largest in the world.

For advertisers, it is important to note that YouTube creates efficiencies simply by virtue of how it charges advertisers, which is based on a cost per view (CPV). YouTube defines a view as the completion of the video, or 30 seconds of the ad; whichever comes first. YouTube TrueView for action is the platform, and it works like this: A YouTube TrueView video occurs before the content the user is intending to view.  A YouTube user cannot skip the ad until it has been viewed for at least 5 seconds. The charge for the view occurs either at the completion of the video, or at 30 seconds viewed–whichever comes first. Compare this to Facebook, which charges on a cost per thousand (CPM) impressions basis, which is predicated upon just one second of viewing for any video ad in the feed. Which advertising model do you think is likely to make more of an indelible impression?

Advertisers are also able to align their message and video with specific, relevant content. Demographics such as age and gender, as well as interest, topics, keywords and in-market audiences are all prospect targeting options available for advertisers on YouTube. Advertisers can also target specific videos and channels for even more granularity. Remarketing past visitors to a website is also available to achieve the lowest cost per acquisition. Not only do audiences pay closer attention to YouTube ads, they’re also more likely to take action. YouTube generates almost twice as many searches per impression than TV. That means online video doesn’t just captivate, it activates. When your audience is on a device, they interact with hundreds of times a day they’re primed to take action, and that readiness to satisfy their every whim can be leveraged into response to your advertising.

Beyond action and efficiency, YouTube also achieves better viewability than TV. According to Moat Analytics, which measures attention, the visual attention paid to YouTube ads averages 83%, whereas the average viewer of a linear television ad is about 45%. That means YouTube viewers pay nearly twice the amount of attention to ads in that environment – a testament to the platform’s ability to tie ad relevancy to relevant content. These scores essentially create an effective CPM much lower on digital video with YouTube than on traditional TV.

In order to best reach consumers, leveraging both TV + YouTube together will maximize reach & smooth out frequency across light and medium TV watchers. Treating YouTube as a channel as part of your video offline media mix, reaches the consumer at a time and place of their choosing, and gives the advertiser the best opportunity to achieve the desired response.  At DirectAvenue, we take a media agnostic and video neutral approach which allows us to leverage the entire conversion funnel to the benefit of our client’s ROI.


Oscar MariaOscar Maria

Author: Oscar is responsible for leading DirectAvenue’s clients digital marketing strategy and execution and is the analytical leader to leverage multiple digital channels including paid search, social media, display, video, and SEO to drive full funnel, connected response campaigns at scale.

With over 10 years of experience in digital media, launching products and optimizing profit performance, Oscar has sold thousands of products through hundreds of websites, reaching millions in revenue, while implementing data driven strategies and revenue insights to achieve the ultimate CPA and ROI for his clients.

Oscar holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Gonzaga University and a Juris Doctor with emphasis in Internet & E-Commerce Law. He resides in Encinitas with his wife Tanya and their two children.