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Can YouTube commercials be credible?


Mr. Deep (as I call him, because he calls me Mr. Steve), the young (21) guy who works at my local UPS Store, is a YouTube junky. Everytime I go in there, he’s grinning about some video he found, or that one of his friends sent him. Most recently, it was of an Indian (subcontinent) guy standing on top of a train who grasped an overhead electrical wire and then went up in a flash and a puff of smoke, falling onto the platform below, quite dead. It was shocking, but illustrates the fact that Deep and his friends’ favorite pastime is surfing YouTube, then sharing the things they find cool with each other.

YouTube’s popularity with Deep’s generation surprised me. So it wasn’t all that shocking to hear, over the weekend, that “YouTube, the Google-owned video sharing website, has become a major platform around the world for news,” as an online publication reports on a Pew Research Centre study. Of course, we all knew that breaking events can go viral on YouTube, especially when they have a dramatic visual component: the Japan tsunami, the uprising in Tahrir Square. But there apparently are tens, maybe hundreds of millions of Deeps around the world who don’t read newspapers or watch news on T.V. or listen to news on the radio or get news in any of the traditional ways. (I asked Deep if he and his friends have any news sources, and he said no, “because it’s all made up.”) Instead, they surf YouTube. Did you know that according to Pew, YouTube “is now the third most visited destination online, behind only Google, which owns YouTube, and Facebook.”

That fact hasn’t evaded the attention of people interested in knowing what eyeballs are looking at these days. When eyeballs (or, rather, ear drums) started listening to radio, advertising dollars flowed there. When eyeballs looked at magazines and newspapers, ad dollars flowed there. When eyeballs turned to T.V., ad dollars poured in, in unprecedented amounts. Now, eyeballs are looking online. We know (those of us who follow this stuff) that the challenge for online content providers has been to figure out how to lure those ad dollars to their sites. In this, they’ve been less than successful.

However, the existence of people like Deep proves that there’s value on Youtube beyond generating revenue–namely, branding. Kerrin Sheldon, founder of a site called Humanity.TV, has written an interesting article for, in which his two salient points are, (1) “online video will soon dominate your time spent on the web,” and (2) “the next 5-10 years will be huge for video marketing online.” He argues that marketers should help their clients master the art of posting videos (which is not terribly difficult, as the technology gets easier to use), instead of relying on the written aspects of twitter, Facebook and blogs. (One picture, as always, is worth a thousand words.) The hope of marketers, of course, is that a video will go viral, launching the product or service to overnight stardom.

But will it? Mr. Deep and his friends enjoy finding videos that were not “produced”, but those where the “videographers” just randomly stumbled across cool stuff on their iPhones or whatever. Can Deep, who doesn’t trust anything corporate, be persuaded to like a produced advertisement? That would entail him overcoming his resistance to being manipulated. (Of course, he would have to know that the video was produced.) It may never be possible for a produced video ever to attain the level of surprise, amazement and delight achieved by a truly accidental great video, which calls this whole issue of YouTube marketing into question.

  1. It seems that I must not be in your demographic as I am older (53) and I love wine but I can only take so much blogging about social media when it is one blog after another. What drives me crazy is you go to these great tasting events or visit these incredible wineries and we only get a cursory amount of information on the wines. Since I am commenting it does mean that I have been following your site as I do like to hear about Napa Valley wines, the winemakers and owners, the state of the wine business and what is going on in Napa Valley in general. If people are following you I would think that more people are interested in wine related information than media related issues, but maybe the wine side gets a little old hat for you since you are exposed to it all the time…but for wine lovers that is what we want to be informed about.

  2. Steve,

    As an adviser of a high school publication by day ( and new blogger by night, I spend hours each day with those who want to create and watch YouTube and Vimeo videos.

    While they love to find goofy and embarrassing clips to view, young people are savvy and many do have the ability to dream of an idea, storyboard and shoot the clips, edit the short and produce it. In fact, my students have already talked about placing merchandise in the clips and are trying to sell “ads” that way.

    Video journalism is here to stay and I am amazed as to what the kids discuss in the lab and there is no limit as to what teenagers can dream up and accomplish. The quote I have daily driven into them and live by is “Content is king.”

    I believe the best of them know what they are doing and instinctively can see that in the best videos.

  3. Dear Ed: I suggest you subscribe to Wine Enthusiast, where you’ll find my reporting on all these great tasting events I go to, as well as my reviews! I have some fantastic articles on Napa Valley coming up in the near future. For this blog, I like to write about other things that interest me, including the evolution of social media, which is very important.

  4. You know what, I agree with Ed. I recently visited the vineries and tasting rooms in Cottonwood AZ, and while I did get some tidbits about the wine from one place, the majority was too busy for much interaction. I drank the wine, chattered with friends and left with just as much knowledgeable as when I arrived. And as for YouTube ads, I click on the X every time I see one. They are just as annoying as the forced ads you have to watch when you click on a news video. But, people need to make money.

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