YouTube at 10: A Decade of Videos Chosen by You

In honor of YouTube’s tenth birthday, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on how video has changed over the past ten years, what marketers can learn from the most successful creators and brands, and what the next ten years may hold.

Ten years ago, brands could reach most of their audiences on just one screen: the television screen. Today’s media landscape is much more diverse because the audience has fragmented across a whole host of devices and platforms. YouTube’s tenth birthday is a great moment to reflect on how video has changed over the past ten years and what marketers can learn from the most successful creators and brands.

The biggest change in the past ten years of video is choice

We are living in a golden age of video with a dazzling variety of content available. Online, people can choose to watch everything from how-to videos to Frozen covers. It now seems impossible to recall how hard it was to discover videos before websites like YouTube appeared. Globally, over 300 hours are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Who would have thought that Korean artist Psy’s “Gangnam Style” would get more than two billion views all over the world?

It’s not simply the platform that has changed the game. Across the world, but especially in Asia, the smartphone has forever transformed how we consume media. In Singapore, Korea, and Australia, smartphones are ubiquitous. In India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, the next billion users are quickly embracing mobile. Not surprisingly, mobile is fast becoming the preferred screen for watching videos since viewers can choose to watch videos on the go. On YouTube, more than 50% of global watch time already happens on smartphones—a number that’s grown 90% since last year.

How brands should adapt to the era of choice

Now that consumers are able to find content at the flick of a finger, brands need to work harder to earn the audience’s attention. Over the past ten years, brands of all sizes—from a small NYC fashion brand called WREN, which shot and produced “First Kiss” for less than $2000, to Hyundai, which created the epic “Message to Space”—have realized that the “hard sell” no longer works. To win brand love, today’s ads have to be engaging and authentic.

When we launched skippable (“True View”) ads five years ago, marketers may have wondered who on earth would choose to watch an ad. However, when brands such as WREN and Hyundai have an engaging story to share, viewers really do choose to watch ads—more than 100 million times in some cases. In fact, last year four of the top 10 trending videos of the year were created by brands.

What marketers can learn from the top creators and brands on YouTube

Top creators such as The Viral Fever videos (India), Hikakin (Japan) or Troye Sivan (Australia) have built an audience of millions at an unprecedented rate on YouTube. The question is 'How can brands match that success?'. Looking over the past ten years of YouTube, we’ve come up with two principles for finding a loyal audience:

  • Be authentic. Tell real stories to real people. Laphroaig, a Scottish whiskey company, might be 200 years old, but for its bi-centenary celebrations, the company brought its marketing right up to date with a whacky, creative idea. Laphroaig asked drinkers to sip its whiskey and share their opinions. The weird and wonderful feedback (for example, “a nip of Laphroaig is akin to licking the wet residue from a chimney sweep’s broom and liking it”) was then given to a choir that sung these comments as the lyrics to popular Christmas carols. Across all clips, Laphroaig got close to a million views, which is impressive for a brand with such a niche audience.
  • Be relevant. Brands should uncover what their audiences are watching on YouTube, then create content around those passions. IKEA wanted to appeal to a young, tech-savvy crowd, so it made a tongue-in-cheek video about a spoof Silicon Valley-style “product launch” of their latest catalogue, or as IKEA called it, the “Bookbook.” The video attracted more than 15M views in less than two weeks!

What will the next ten years hold?

Of course, we don’t know. But billions more users are going to come online, and most of them will come from Asia. Most will come to the web for the first time via smartphones, and they will reshape how we think about content. Brands that are in tune with this evolution will be well positioned for the future.

Finally, I’d like to end with a short selection of my top YouTube ads moments since 2005:

Gap Kim

Head of Ads Marketing, Google Asia-Pacific

Think w/Google APAC on LinkedIn

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