This year, VidCon was bigger, and marketers who chose southern California over southern France are already a step ahead with the digital generation. Brands had an opportunity to connect with creators in real life along with their 30,000 fans who descended on the Anaheim Convention Center last week. Whether they were enthusiastic about presenting sponsor YouTube or the event’s new owner, Viacom, is yet to be seen. However, we’ve seen three things that cannot be ignored and that brands should take note of.
These fans are die-hard, and it was a great place to see firsthand how relentless young people can be when given the opportunity to be close to their favorite influencers. More interesting is that fans don’t care about the distribution, only the content. Whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube or Twitch, the fans will go to whatever platform their favorite creator is on at that moment. There is no one-stop video shop for young people in today’s media landscape, so it is important for brands to build authentic relationships with these creators and their audiences.
We call them influencers or creators, but they are truly celebrities—just not to anyone over the age of 21. For Viacom, today’s equivalent to Carson Daly and Carmen Electra are Zach King and Lilly Singh. That is why the convention organizers kept the top influencers in a hotel a half-mile away. VidCon delivered a modern fan experience—they brought young people together, showed them a good time and provided access to their favorite celebs.
Brands are starting to see it, but they haven’t scratched the surface in owning the experience or making it better for everyone. These modern celebrities are sophisticated media and production partners, leveraging the production capability they already have and maximizing distribution by having the content they create live across your media plans. This will get the content working hard on all platforms that are relevant to your audience. With this approach, everyone wins.
If we think back 20 years ago, we can see a parallel approach to how Viacom built the youth entertainment powerhouse that was MTV and what it might do with its new influencer assets. MTV Spring Break gave teenagers a live look at the wildest annual party of the 90s, Singled Out gave teens a taste of what speed dating in their 20s would be like and TRL introduced a generation of kids to new artists and music before they got started on their homework. Viacom may have the keys to the influencer castle, but forcing partners to work together on your behalf will get you the best everyone has to offer.
So what does VidCon’s future look like with Viacom at the helm? There is no doubt Viacom will want to monetize their shiny new acquisition, but will other networks be pushing it as hard? And will there be a new place for brands to play at this conference? All of this will be answered soon, but in the meantime, we should keep our eyes open and remain curious.