By 2020, video is projected to account for 80% of total internet traffic and U.S. digital video advertising revenue is expected to reach $17 billion. YouTube, the online video veteran, is the second largest search engine in the world with more than a third of all internet users on the platform.
As YouTube commands a larger presence among global consumers, companies large and small have shifted their attention—and ad dollars—to the video behemoth. The massive turnout of brand advertisers has resulted in 90% of users learning about a new brand or product on YouTube, with a 110% increase in watch time of “which product to buy” YouTube videos.
These positive video trends make a compelling case for marketers: invest in YouTube sponsored videos to take your brand’s digital marketing to the next level. Next, we’ll walk through the ways your brand can run an impactful YouTube marketing campaign with influencers and different video ad formats.
With nearly 2 billion YouTube users worldwide, YouTube’s status as a publishing giant and one of the world’s largest social media networks attracts significant attention from brands eager to engage with millions of YouTube users. Though there is more than one way to advertise a brand’s product or service on YouTube, brands typically leverage sponsored content and product placement YouTube marketing campaigns with top YouTubers and high-reach YouTube channels.
A study by Defy Media showed that 87% of respondents between the ages of 13 and 24 think it acceptable to include product placements in videos (vs. 53% who think for pre-roll ads are acceptable); the same study found that 60% of YouTube users would try a product or brand recommended by a YouTube influencer.
As the reach of YouTube creators expands, brands are upping their investment in influencer marketing in tandem. We explore several ways that brands can successfully launch YouTube influencer marketing campaigns with YouTube creators, as well as other creative YouTube video advertising methods.
YouTube sponsored videos integrate the brand, product, or service into an influencer’s content while providing social endorsements. Influencers are careful to align themselves with brands that fit their interests so that the sponsored content resonates with their audience. This ensures that YouTube sponsored videos are effective in driving valuable reach and engagement.
Below are five different ways YouTube influencers may choose to run YouTube sponsored videos:
In an integrated sponsored YouTube video, YouTube influencers incorporate the brand into their video by fitting the brand’s products, services, and/or messaging naturally into their content. Integrated videos, the most common type of influencer sponsorship, typically run between 30–90 seconds.
YouTubers can also create entire video integrations featuring the brand and brand messaging. This type of video typically involves a more creative type of integration and lengthier content planning process. YouTubers are cautious of dedicated videos for risk of alienating their audience.
Post roll ads and end cards are advertisements appearing at the end of a YouTuber’s video, typically in the last 15–30 seconds. During the post roll, viewers can be directed to the sponsoring brand’s site or channel.
In a shout out advertisement, the YouTuber mentions the sponsoring brand’s name and/or product at some point in the video. With shout outs, YouTubers simply mention the brand and may link to the brand in the description box rather than putting the sole focus on the sponsoring brand.
With “brought to you by” messaging, the brand acts as a sponsor for the video without an explicit endorsement by the influencer or brand messaging in the video content. The brand may be mentioned at the beginning or end with a simple mention (“This video was brought to you by…”). This type of sponsorship is typically reserved for high-level branding or with YouTubers that only offer this type of sponsorship.
Beyond different sponsorship disclosure styles, YouTube influencers employ a variety of video types to produce effective YouTube sponsored video campaigns:
Incorporating a brand’s product, service, or logo into a YouTuber’s video is one of the most common and effective tactics in YouTube marketing campaigns. By collaborating with a YouTube creator to recommend a service or showcase a company’s product in a favorable light, brands leverage the attention of the YouTuber’s large, highly-engaged audience and benefit from the trust that the digital influencer has earned from their followers. In fact, many consumers trust recommendations from YouTubers over advertising with traditional celebrities.
For example, YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen worked in partnership with Frank Body in her skincare spring cleaning video. Ingrid creatively integrates the brand’s body scrub into her video review of her skincare routine by showing snippets of her using the product. She puts the product on full display while explaining its benefits and tips for using it. Product placement was an effective way to expand brand awareness to nearly 80,000 engaged consumers with just one YouTube sponsored video.
For a YouTube marketing “unboxing video,” a YouTuber will unpack a new product and explore the product’s features and often give a short tutorial on how to assemble or use the new item. Initially popular with technology brands like Samsung, unboxing-style videos have now become a favorite YouTube marketing campaign, especially beauty and lifestyle brands.
In a spring themed YouTube sponsored video, YouTube creator Samantha Schuerman partnered with FabFitFun to feature her own box of branded products. Introducing the brand to consumers who’d be interested in the convenience, simplicity, and variety of their lifestyle goodies, Sam highlights each individual product with a touch of funny and bright commentary. Her unboxing video successfully reached just under 60,000 viewers and generated positive feedback from fans who were excited to use the discount code.
Working with a popular YouTuber to develop a helpful tutorial, demonstration, or how-to guide is one of the best ways for companies to reach millions of engaged consumers while providing value to a YouTuber’s subscribers and global audiences. Because this type of YouTube marketing collaboration serves to educate audiences or provides a solution to a problem, how-to guides, demonstrations, and “life hack” videos typically see high levels of engagement and are a cost-effective way to influence purchasing decisions.
To market to Steph and Matilda’s (Primrose Makeup) large millennial audience, online consignment store thredUP partnered with the social media influencers to create a video entitled “Top 10 Weird College Life Hacks.” The video not only provided the YouTubers’ subscribers with valuable advice, it also introduced thousands to the brand, described the benefits/tenants of thredUP’s services, and included a promotional code to drive purchases.
For top YouTubers, documenting an experience and/or creating an authentic dialogue with subscribers through vlogging (or video blogging) is one of the most engaging, relatable, and shareable types of YouTube videos. For brands, leveraging a social media star’s attentive audience by developing YouTube marketing integrations within a vlog helps gain exposure to millions of followers.
Creative YouTube marketing campaigns typically involve integrating a company’s product or service within or around a creative video concept. Because creative campaigns often feature a unique take on other types of YouTube marketing campaigns (e.g. product placements, tutorials, unboxing videos), creative campaigns are likely to generate high levels of engagement (in the form of likes, comments, and social shares) among a YouTuber’s subscribers and have a greater chance of going viral.
To integrate an element of creativity into their YouTube marketing partnership with top YouTube gamer The War Owl, World of Warships captivated audiences by filming the intro to their Let’s Play video in front of an actual U.S. Navy battleship. In addition to showcasing World of Warships gameplay, the creative video also incorporated a promotional code to increase brand awareness and drive purchases of the new strategy game.
Not every marketer will rely solely on influencers when launching a Youtube marketing campaign—some choose to leverage the power of Google’s ad network. Here we briefly review how brands can advertise on YouTube through six different video ad formats:
Display ads on YouTube appear as banners on the YouTube video page. Display ads on YouTube are part of Google AdSense and only visible on desktop (not mobile).
Standard display ads offer limited formats and capabilities. Though pricing varies, CPMs for YouTube display ads are between $2–$5.
YouTube overlay ads appear as banners that cover the lower 20% of a YouTube video. These advertisements are only visible on desktop (not mobile), and YouTube viewers can dismiss the ad at any time.
CPMs and engagement for overlay ads are higher than display ads because they appear over the video. Impressions, clicks, and click-through rates are some of the KPIs you can measure through overlay ads.
The most popular way for brands to advertise on YouTube, TrueView ads are full-screen ads that appear before, during, or after (pre, mid, and post roll) a YouTube video. They run in-stream and are skippable after five seconds.
TrueView ads can be targeted using a variety of criteria, including demographics, interests, etc. Brands only pay when a viewer engages with the ad or watches 30 seconds. CPV is between $0.07–$0.12.
Non-skippable YouTube ads are in-stream ads and are typically over 15 seconds long. Unlike skippable ads, however, non-skippable advertisements do not allow viewers to bypass the ad after five seconds.
Non-skippable advertisements are sold on a CPM basis and typically cost between $15–$20. Because users have to watch the entire ad, they may result in high video abandonment rates.
Bumper ads are non-skippable video ads up to 6 seconds in length preceding a video. Bumper ads are designed with mobile consumption in mind but play across both mobile and desktop.
Bumper advertisements are sold through the AdWords auction on a CPM basis and may work best on mobile with brief, easily digestible content.
Sponsored cards are interactive ads that brands may integrate into videos. Though sponsored cards all function similarly, they are subdivided into video, playlist, associated website, merchandise, fundraising, and fan funding cards.
A subset of sponsored cards, Shopping Ads implement TrueView and appear, initially, as an icon at the top of videos. Once a user clicks the icon, an ad will appear with display information about products featured in the video.
By producing a creative, integrated branded product placements in collaboration with YouTube influencers, brands are able to “cut through the clutter” in a time when consumers encounter hundreds of advertisements every day. Below, we look at some of the top examples of YouTube sponsored videos with top YouTube creators and major brands.
Created by identical twins Jack and Finn Harries, JacksGap is one of the top YouTube channels with over 180 million views of travel-inspired storytelling content. For this brand-sponsored video, JacksGap collaborated with Marriott to share travel stories with the viewers. Featuring beautiful scenery of New Orleans and its unique jazz culture, the video ends with JacksGap wrapping the night at Marriott.
JacksGap successfully integrated their video project with the Marriott brand in an organic manner that both reinforces Marriott’s brand image and also fits naturally with the YouTubers’ content on the JacksGap’s channel.
Destin Sandlin is the man behind the popular science YouTube channel SmarterEveryDay, which shares informal education videos with audiences. In Harry’s sponsored YouTube video, Destin ties the theme of “manliness” together in the two activities that he discusses: archery and shaving. Destin initially presents Byron Ferguson’s (aka the world’s most amazing archer) archery skills along with some archery tips, then smoothly transitions into another manly activity: shaving. Destin is transparent with his audience that Harry’s is his sponsor for the video, but adds, quite frankly, that he uses the product even before approached about the sponsorship.
Ingrid Nilsen is one of the top beauty and lifestyle YouTuber with over 4 million YouTube subscribers. In this sponsored video, Nilsen uses a “Favorite/Best Of”-style video (one of the most popular types of YouTube videos) to introduce a dry shampoo product by Dove to her audience. By tackling her viewers’ common gripe (i.e. how to deal with your hair on a busy day), Ingrid provides her audience with a few of her favorite hair tips & style.
SHAYTARDS is a family blogging channel developed by Shay Carl with over 2 billion video views. SHAYTARDS teamed up with Disney Parks at the All-Star Creator’s Conference and, in addition to having their vlog on the official Disney channel, SHAYTARDS posted their own recap video on their channel. SHAYTARDS shares personal memories and footage taken a couple months back in Disney World and invites the viewers to “hang out with them” while they “stay here and chill in the hot tub.”
By sharing this fun, creative, semi-interactive content, SHAYTARDS was able to garner over 1 million views on this video and earn an amazing “likes-to-dislikes ratio” (over 24,000 likes and less than 700 dislikes).
Lauren Curtis is a beauty YouTuber who posts weekly videos of her make-up tutorials. In this sponsored video, however, Curtis switches things up a bit and shares her daily morning routine, including practicing good dental hygiene with Colgate products. Although this video isn’t about makeup or beauty tips (which constitutes the majority of her content), Colgate’s sponsored YouTube video has been viewed more than 2 million times to date.
Fans idolize their YouTube stars, and they are very curious to find out about every little detail of a YouTuber’ life. For this collaboration, Curtis successfully leverages this enthusiasm to create sponsored content that viewers want to see.
As YouTube creators gain more subscribers and prove their value within a niche community, they can strike brand sponsorships with companies looking to collaborate with top YouTubers. Depending on the influencer tier and a brand’s partnership criteria, YouTubers qualify for varying levels of YouTube sponsorships.
YouTubers can acquire sponsors by submitting a sponsorship proposal to a brand’s partnership department or by signing up for a YouTube MCN or influencer marketing platform that helps pair influencers with brands. As influencers become more high-profile though, brands will seek out top performing YouTubers to sponsor in influencer campaigns.
YouTubers can monetize their channels through two main ways: 1) YouTube advertising through AdSense and 2) YouTube sponsored videos with brand partners. YouTubers can also earn money through affiliate commissions and selling their own merchandise.
By signing up for the YouTube Partner Program and connecting their channel to YouTube’s ad network, YouTubers can learn which videos to monetize with different ad formats. By partnering with brand sponsors, YouTubers can also earn money by publishing sponsored videos that the sponsoring brand agrees to pay for in exchange for valuable impressions and engagement.
In order to get paid as a YouTuber, creators must apply to join the YouTube Partner Program. YouTubers are eligible for the program if their channel has at least 4,000 watch hours in the past 12 months and at least 1,000 subscribers. From there, YouTubers must have a linked AdSense account that will enable them to monetize their channel.
Alternatively, brands can partner with and sponsor YouTubers whether or not they’re a part of this program. These price of these collaborations are dictated by what brands are willing to pay for and what influencers determine is a fair market rate.
There are several top-earning YouTubers that make upwards of $10 million annually. PewDiePie has commonly been considered the richest YouTube star with 95 million subscribers and counting. As the YouTuber with the most subscribers all-time and the most prominent gaming influencer, Felix Kjellberg has gained worldwide attention and makes a reported $15.5 million per year.
But other YouTubers have taken the lead as the richest Youtube stars. At the end of 2018, Ryan ToysReview took the lead at $22 million annual earnings. Jake Paul follows closely behind with $21.5 million per year, while sports trick shot channel Dude Perfect rakes in $20 million in yearly revenue.