NEW YORK Justine Ezarik might not be a household name, but the 25-year-old has a cable TV-size audience. The only difference: Ezarik's audience is on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks to Google, she's also now part of Carl's Jr.'s effort rolling out this week to sell the Portobello Mushroom Six-Dollar Burger to young men. The search-engine giant drafted Ezarik and eight other popular YouTube creators to participate in an ad campaign for the fast-food chain on the video-sharing site. They were commissioned to put their own spin on the CKE Restaurants brand's infamous Paris Hilton-eating-a-burger commercial by showing how they would eat theirs.
The YouTube stars were chosen not only for their creative flair, but for the networks of followers they can mobilize. Ezarik, for instance, not only has 94,000 subscribers to the iJustine YouTube channel -- the nine YouTube celebs combined total 3.8 million subscribers on the site -- but also boasts 590,000 followers on Twitter and 25,000 Facebook fans. These networks, in essence, comprise a new kind of media buy.
By promoting Carl's Jr. with their own videos, the content creators are giving the brand the crucial personal endorsement so important in social media, said Ezra Cooperstein, vp and director of innovations at Initiative, the Interpublic Group shop that put together the campaign. "They've spent the time building community around themselves," he said.
Google is adding such deals to its advertising arsenal as it attempts to turn the video site into a moneymaker. YouTube, while far and away the most popular video service, has struggled to find its footing with advertisers leery of associating with user-generated content. Other new tools include tying advertiser videos to search results and matching high-profile creators like Seth MacFarland with brands.
Google is also clamping down on unauthorized product-placement deals. It sent letters to popular creators who have inked such deals, reminding them that using the service for commercial purposes without permission is against its terms of service. YouTube is now spearheading these types of deals itself.
Continue to next page →