At YouTube’s upfront week event today from Lincoln Center, the video platform wanted to emphasize that it not only has a right to play among the TV networks but that it’s the best option for reach.
“It’s a place where [advertisers] can build their brands because it’s the place people come to watch,” Sean Downey, president of sales at Google and YouTube, told Adweek. Downey cited recent Nielsen figures that YouTube was the No.1 most-watched streaming platform in April.
YouTube was less focused on particular TV shows, though it highlighted its NFL Sunday Ticket programming. In addition, the platform will bring creators like Mr.Beast behind the NFL games.
The company’s status as a platform of user-generated content served as a particular asset this year since YouTube was a rare upfront week presenter not faced with pressures from the Writers Guild of America strike, though that didn’t stop protesters from planning to march outside the event anyway.
Still, YouTube fulfilled other upfront staples, including populating the stage with major talent like Jacob Collier, Amelia Dimoldenberg, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Doja Cat performing.
Instead of introducing new shows or a Thursday night lineup, YouTube used the event to announce new ad formats. The platform is bringing back 30-second unskippable ad slots to YouTube Select, which it had phased out in 2018.
The format will be available across YouTube Select, a slate of content that is among the top 5% of most viewed and most engaging content on YouTube. The 30-second ad will replace two 15-second video spots currently available on YouTube Select CTV video content.
“We’re making it easier for advertisers who normally use linear television to advertise on YouTube,” Downey told Adweek, noting that 70% of YouTube Select impressions are watched on TVs, making them ideal for the lean-back experience of a longer ad.
In addition to the 30-second spots, YouTube is introducing ads when users pause videos, which will start with a static format.
The Select ads will be available immediately, and the pilot for pause ads will start later in the 2023-2024 upfront year,
“We’re going to play with it and learn along with the brands, and then we’ll launch more definitive products to the marketplace,” Downey said.
Other publishers, like Hulu, have launched pause formats, though advertisers have had mixed reactions to their effectiveness.
“From a reach and brand awareness view, pause ads do an OK job, but not great,” said David Mirsky, group director at Crispin Porter Bogusky. “They are limited in brand storytelling opportunity but offer a valuable format that recognizable brands can use to cement themselves in a consumer’s minds.”
Mirsky added that pause ads could be more compelling with the addition of audio and other creative options.
Earlier this month at its presentation during NewFronts, YouTube also announced expansions in ad inventory, focused on Shorts, its short-form video product.