Why Marketers Need a Content Targeting Strategy for YouTube

Brand librarians need to create better alignment between messages and content

This past week, the Twittersphere exploded after YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki referred to YouTube as a “library” for video from the stage at SXSW.

This comparison seemingly infuriated the populace. Twitter comments ranged.

Another commented:

I believe both of these comments are symptomatic of the misunderstanding. The comparison Wojcicki was making was clearly meant to underscore the sheer size, vastness and helpfulness of the content that is offered on the platform.

That content ranges from anything to everything, supported by the fact that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. A recent YouTube study revealed the power of this content diversity, as 67 percent of YouTube users go there for help on how to fix their home, 65 percent use the platform to be entertained and 56 percent of its users go there to learn something new.

Content targeting, just like audience targeting, is specific to each and every brand, and that nuance is the responsibility of brands and marketers themselves.

However, the commenters weren’t entirely wrong in their critiques, either. Unlike libraries, YouTube is an open and non-curated platform that is funded by brand dollars, hence the need for librarians—or curators—that can assist brands in creating the perfect alignment between brand messages and viewing content. The issue over harmful content uploaded to the platform recently forced Google to hire 10,000 manual reviewers, which will begin to help resolve that issue. But with the massive increase of content being added to the platform every minute, brands need to start targeting content as an active strategy if they want to be successful on the platform.

The idea of content targeting follows the principles that have always been important to marketers, from print to radio to TV; however, it’s a fairly new concept in the era of new video platforms. While brands have turned to verification and measurement partners like comScore and Nielsen or DMPs like Krux and BlueKai to provide effective third-party verification on audience data, a huge gap still remains around the ability to specifically target at the content level.

And that gap is being felt by brands and their consumers. Media agency Hearts and Science recently revealed in a new study that 51 percent of consumers feel negative about a brand if they experience an ad that’s misaligned to the content. Clearly, brands are in need of a better solution—a Dewey Decimal Classification system, if you will—that helps connect their message with diverse content on YouTube, and content targeting is that solution.

Prior to YouTube, the need for content librarians was not as critical. In the era of micro video publishers and private marketplaces, content alignment was not an issue, as marketers had the ability to choose the content that would most effectively reach their audience. But marketers cannot expect platforms to act like publishers. Content targeting, just like audience targeting, is specific to each and every brand, and that nuance is the responsibility of brands and marketers themselves.

Without clear librarians, several leading brands are taking matters into their own hands. Chase announced earlier this year that they have created their own algorithm to ensure that they’re aligned with suitable content. In his keynote address at dmexco late last year, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of P&G, questioned the value and impact of their brands being aligned with cat videos. In the near future, every brand will start to define their content preferences on the platform and begin to activate and learn as it evolves.

Lastly, for those marketers and agencies that can’t accept reality and want YouTube to be just a publisher and not a powerful platform, you are in luck. YouTube’s newest invention, YouTube TV, is that. For those who see YouTube for what it is, the world’s largest open repository of video content, the responsibility of content targeting rests on your shoulders.

I intentionally used the word “repository” rather than “library”—now all you industrious librarians can stop being upset and get back to work.