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YouTube Throws Itself a Tenth Birthday Party at 2015 Brandcast

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The YouTube Brandcast is one of the more popular tickets during NewFront Season, and also one of the least newsworthy events. Its popular because YouTube knows how to throw a party—this time at Madison Square Garden with performances by Nate Ruess and Bruno Mars. It's lightweight because YouTube doesn't create content, and presenting new content to advertisers is what newfronts are all about.

Last year's Brandcast saw the introduction of Google Preferred, which turned out to be one of the year's big online video advertising success stories. Would this year's event bring a new spin to Preferred? Offer some massive partnership announcements? Nope. Nothing like that.

This year's Brandcast was a news-free affair designed to alternately charm and browbeat advertisers into getting on board. In one appeal Ze Frank, the president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures and the creator of viral sensations both old and new, urged ad-makers to examine why they themselves share content, and to create content that has value for the target viewers.

"How are you as a brand testing and learning?" Frank asked, declaring that it's time to start asking those questions and "more importantly, it's time to start doing something about it."

The night's second big talk came from John Green, co-creator of VidCon and the author of The Fault in Our Stars, who proclaimed "I am here to scare you" at the outset. Young viewers don't want simple distractions, Green said. They want content they can engage with. Advertisers who are simply in the eyeball business risk losing relevance to an entire generation.

"I can say 'Our videos have been viewed more than a billion times' and it sounds impressive, but it’s not actually an important number. I don’t care how many people watch or read something I make. I care how many people love what I make," Green said.

YouTube's CEO Susan Wojcicki started the night with fresh research that YouTube now reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds on mobile alone than are served by any cable network, and that the site's visitor numbers are up 40 percent year-over-year. Later, Robert Kyncl, YouTube's head of content and business operations, announced that mobile watch-time grew by 90 percent year-over-year.

"The story of online video has largely been the story of YouTube," Kyncl said. He also announced that the evening was the most expensive tenth birthday party ever, then drew gasps by thanking the advertisers in the audience for paying for it.

Since YouTube's executives didn't have any programs or partnerships to announce, the event had the strange feel of a rocket taking off but with no one guiding it. There's no telling where it's going, but advertisers were urged to jump on board just the same.


Ze Frank at the 2015 YouTube Brandcast.

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