More than 30,000 online video fans, creators, and brands will unite at VidCon US 2018, the world’s premier online video conference hosted in Southern California. VidCon has attracted YouTube influencers and their fan community since its inception in 2010. As video continues to dominate all types of media, VidCon’s attendance grows each year, attracting fans, creators, brands, and industry leaders from around the world. Major brands like Instagram, Entertainment Arts, and Nickelodeon co-sponsor the event, hosting everything from keynote speeches to musical performances to mini-experiential events on the expo floor. Industry professionals attend VidCon to network, attend product demonstrations, and participate in workshops.
In an exclusive interview, we spoke with of VidCon’s CEO Jim Louderback about Viacom acquiring VidCon in February 2018 and how the conference has evolved over the years.
“You won’t see any changes at VidCon itself this year, the acquisition happened about four months ago and we were well into planning. As part of the acquisition, we were really adamant that we needed to stay independent, we needed to stay Switzerland.
“The one thing you will notice, which I’m super excited about, we’ve had Nickelodeon as a sponsor for the last couple of years. They’ve always sponsored our arcade, but this year we got even more parts of Viacom to sponsor VidCon. MTV, for the first time, is going to have a booth on the floor and they’ll be talking about Cribs and will have a great setup. I got the integrated marketing group Velocity and the Paramount network to do sponsored sessions. So, the thing you’ll notice about Viacom is that they’re actually spending more money with us, which is great.”
“It’s been an organic process over time. At the first couple of VidCons there were a few smaller brands. Brands like Orabrush and this little online video company called Revision3 were early sponsors. The activations were….in some cases there weren’t any. We gave out M&Ms for Revision3, there was some guy dressed up as a tongue for Orabrush and was running around.
“Now, you have bigger brands coming in, and more and more doing things that are fun for the attendees. The Nickelodeon arcade is just one of them. You’ve got NBC with their American Ninja Warrior setup where you could do ninja training.
“There are all sorts of amazing things that you’ll be able to do on the show floor that the brands bring in. They do that because they want to be exposed to this hard to reach audience of 13-20-year-olds—this is the most digitally social video savvy group ever, and when they come they’re always snapping selfies and taking videos. If you engage them in a fun way, they are going to take a video. The amplification of a brand’s message at VidCon as a sponsor is epic and that’s one of the reasons that it’s grown and changed so much. If you can amplify your brand’s message through this army, this cadre, of tens of thousands of teens that are going to be there and there’s no other place you can do that.”
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“It depends on what audience and what track you’re trying to reach. VidCon’s really three shows in one: it’s a conference, festival, and summit. If you think about the brands on the festival side, which is the expo floor, they’re doing things to engage the audience in ways that would then allow them to share what they’ve done with their friends and followers. Nickelodeon, for example, is bringing back Double Dare. There were will be a giant nose on the show floor, so I’m told. You know people are going to want to take a picture of themselves with the giant nose. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are rebooting and they’re going to be there.
“If you’re on the industry track, it’s all about thought leadership and lead gen. Merch by Amazon is a big sponsor — they’re really going to be focusing on ‘how do we get the top companies and top creators to use us as their merchandise platform.’ So it just depends on what they’re trying to accomplish and what audience they’re trying to reach.
“For the feature creators that we bring in, Instagram and others will be doing lounges that are really curated, high-end experiences that both give them a great entrée into the world of Instagram but also a great opportunity for them to create Instagram-focused moments and hopefully post on Instagram and other social [platforms].”
“The way that we’ve crafted Vidcon — it’s the only conference…where you can learn tactics that you can put to work in the office on Monday that will push your business and brand forward. [Marketers can gain] strategic advice about where the industry is going and looking in the future so you get a sense of what’s happening.
“And then at the same time, an immediate and visceral connection with the audiences you’re trying to reach. Because we’ve got these 20 thousand fans at the expo who are just having fun with different creators and brands and sharing it. So, there’s no other conference in the world where you can learn how to push your business forward and then be immersed by your audience at the same time. Really, it’s eye-opening for anyone who hasn’t seen it and it’s a great way to gain that understanding, get that advice, and meet other people you can work with the push your brand’s business forward but then really immerse yourself in how the new media consumption world is being embraced and changed by these teenagers who are incredibly passionate and loving what they do. And you can be right in the middle of that as well.”
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“Nine years ago when VidCon started, it was an emerging class of YouTube stars and their fanbase. Now, there are so many different video platforms and social video platforms and VidCon is Switzerland – we embrace all of them and all of them will be there. So, yes, YouTube is a huge presence and they are a huge part of the show, but Facebook and Instagram are there and a bunch of sessions and sponsorship activations. In fact, one of the top people from Facebook and Instagram are going to be onstage for the first time. I think it’s the first time two companies have every done something jointly at an outside event, so we’re psyched about that. Fidji Simo, vice president of product for Facebook Video and Mike Kruger, co-founder of Instagram [will be] on stage on the industry track.
“But that’s not all, Twitch is going to be there doing a bunch of stuff and Twitter. We’re going to have a bunch of stuff on LinkedIn, how to build a business on LinkedIn. We’re doing the first LinkedIn video creator summit on Saturday, where the people who building audiences and community and getting huge views on LinkedIn video are coming together for the first time. A year ago, there wasn’t even LinkedIn video.
“Pinterest is doing more and more with creators and video, the guy who’s running creator products at Pinterest is coming in to talk about how to build your business on Pinterest from a video perspective. Musical.ly is there big time and a lot of Musical.ly stars will be there and on the show floor.”
“There are different fans and different formats across different languages—some are universal and a lot of them aren’t. Just like we talked about a platform dependent approach, you really have to take a geographically dependent approach. You have to be focused on how that geography works. So we’re very geographically intentional when we go out to these different markets. The creators that appeal to somebody in France are very different than the ones in Germany or Italy or the United Kingdom, so you really have to think of them as individual areas.
“There will be more VidCons in more places throughout the world.”
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