Smosh Says Sponsored Videos Need to Feel Authentic

YouTube stars downplay desire to be on TV

The hit YouTube duo Smosh has a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to folding sponsors into their videos: they only feature brands they are passionate about.

And since Smosh founders Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla are self-proclaimed video game buffs, it made sense to create a video to promote the game Assassin's Creed III, explained Hecox on Friday at the Web video extravaganza VidCon in Anaheim, Calif.

"It's just perfect, too, because our audience loves video games just as much as we do," Padilla added.

That video, released in October 2012, has proven to be a success: it currently has more than 37 million views. Smosh also released a video for Sun Drop soda back in May, which has now attracted more than 5 million views.

When it comes to working with brands, authenticity and independence are important, Padilla said. "You have to be really careful to make stuff that your audience likes and not to give the brand too much say in what you're making," he said. "You need to be able to put your foot down and say, 'This is the kind of stuff that we make. If you're going to be a sponsor, you need to support what we do and not try to control it.'"

And if the content is good, Hecox added, the audience "could really care less if it's sponsored or not."

The duo—which boasts more than 11.5 million YouTube subscribers and roughly 2.5 billion video views—also played down their desire to make a jump to television (Variety reported in May that Smosh owner Alloy Digital was in talks with cable networks).

"We're not saying definitely no, but it's not something we're seeking to do," Padilla said, explaining that the Smosh brand still has room to grow online.

"We definitely wouldn't use the Internet as something to spring off of and then leave Internet," Hecox added. "The Internet is our core—and then everything else is just supplemental, I guess."

To get a sense of the reaction Smosh receives at VidCon, here's a Vine of Smosh before filming at the Alloy Digital booth Friday (yes, they're wearing masks of themselves):