Home >Industry >Advertisers look to stream onto YouTube with branded channels

New Delhi: As Indian Internet surfers’ appetite for online videos increases in line with a global trend, advertisers are seeking to launch branded channels on YouTube, the video sharing site owned by Google Inc., to connect more closely with consumers.

Heads of digital media firms say 2014 will be a big year for YouTube channels started by brands showcasing original content for deeper consumer engagement.

Among the early embracers of the trend are big advertisers such as ITC Ltd, the maker of cigarettes and packaged consumer goods, and car market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, both of which plan to launch their own YouTube channels in the coming months.

ITC plans to launch a recipe channel in the next six months to push its foods business, said two people familiar with the development who did not want to be named because the company’s plans are confidential.

Maruti Suzuki, which has used YouTube to showcase its advertising, is also looking to step up its engagement. “We are looking at starting our own channel sooner than later," said deputy general manager (marketing) Sunila Dhar.

Although both Facebook and Twitter have had branded channels for a while now, Indian companies have used them sparingly, mostly to air advertisements. Since June last year, when YouTube launched its One Channel feature, a new format that gives much more scope for channel owners to organize videos and playlists to best fit their marketing strategy, advertisers across the world have been pushing multiple brand channels with their own content.

“I won’t be surprised if 60-70 brands sign up on YouTube in the coming few months," said Atul Hegde, chief executive at the independent digital firm Ignitee Digital Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

“Video consumption in India is going through the roof. All brands need to capitalize on this opportunity and by that I mean they can no longer just put up ads on YouTube. They will have to create content to connect with the consumer," said Hegde, who is working with a number of companies—ranging from banking to education—to chalk out their YouTube marketing strategies for 2014.

Brands are willing to invest as the cost of online video content is very low, said Glen Ireland, chief executive officer at Dentsu Digital.

“These branded channels will become a more cost-effective mode of accessing consumers globally through videos," he said.

Dentsu Digital is contemplating a video channel for its newly signed client Gatsby, the Japanese grooming products and cosmetics brand for men. In the works may be a video channel offering styling tips to men keen to keep up with global fashion trends.

The branded channels being launched on YouTube will act as destinations to access content, digital media experts say. The content could include self-help videos, television shows sponsored by brands and video blogs by celebrities, among others.

“Currently, users search for content on the YouTube website, but this will change as these channels become more visible on the platform itself. You will see Google marketing initiatives backing this and brands will eventually start to monetize these video channels," said Praseed Prasad, digital head, GroupM, a media buying agency that’s part of WPP Plc.

For the advertisers, this online space does not come cheap although the revenue sharing model between the brand and Google, the owner of YouTube, is client-specific.

“The rates are decided on the basis of the profile of the client, his advertising spends on the platform and the content expected from the brand," said Prasad.

For some advertisers, media spending worth 25 lakh per quarter on YouTube would make them eligible to set up a life-long brand channel. This amount could vary from client to client.

In the last few years, video on the Web has gone mainstream and users are spending an increasing amount of their time on the Internet consuming all kinds of video content, according to Neeraj Gupta, director, technology, telecom, consumer packaged goods, at Google’s India unit. With 200 million Internet users in the country, YouTube alone attracts some 55 million unique users on a monthly basis.

“This has given a big boost to brand advertising online. The aspect of sound, visual and interactivity has opened up new avenues for brand advertisers...a brand channel on YouTube is the first step in that direction," said Gupta.

The trend of brands adopting channels on beauty, travel and cooking, among others, is expected to accelerate dramatically this year, he added.

India’s largest telecom service provider Bharti Airtel Ltd, which launched its catchy commercials on YouTube two years ago, is now planning to revamp its video site. Airtel is exploring ways to leverage
the potential of this channel with newer content, said a senior executive at the phone company on condition of anonymity.

Dabur India Ltd, the maker of Real and Activ juices and Vatika hair oil, has started three YouTube channels in the last three months—Dabur Dental Care, Dabur MyBeautyNaturally and Liveveda—with each focusing on a different product segment.

YouTube is a critical marketing tool for the company’s target audience for its personal care, healthcare and food brands because 40% of YouTube users are women who belong to the top socio-economic categories, said Devendra Garg, senior executive director in the consumer care business at Dabur.

“With more and more women using YouTube as ‘catch-up TV’, this trend is going to continue further," he said. Dabur’s channels offer beauty tips and suggest treatments for common ailments.

The proliferation of branded video channels online can be attributed to changing media consumption habits across India, according to Kanika Mathur, president of Digitas India, a digital marketing agency.

“People don’t read nowadays. They have a voracious appetite for the audio-visual medium, which is leading to this euphoric rise in demand for YouTube," she said.

Still, driving traffic of over 1 billion YouTube subscribers to these branded channels may be tough. Much will depend on the nature of content. Some smarter brands have started to integrate these marketing extensions into their overall media plans.

“For instance, you will see television commercials which will show you the YouTube link for the brand at the end of the ad. Even Facebook and Twitter handles are now a symbolic part of the TV ads for most brands," said Hegde.

Those who do not want to launch their own channels can still tie up with online multi-brand channel networks such as Famebox Inc., which could help them engage with communities around their digital video content.

Famebox, which helps companies and individuals build engaging video content and is owned by Four Cross Media, has various YouTube channels across genres such as cricket, food, travel and entertainment.

The network hosts an online food show titled WebChef where Vir Sanghvi, food critic and journalist, is on a hunt for India’s first WebChef. It’s the first cooking contest hosted online, where the winner gets to host a YouTube channel.

Similarly, for its cricket channel, Famebox hosts video blogs with commentator Harsha Bhogle, who talks on topical issues related to the game.

Currently, music and entertainment content owners such as T-Series (3.7 million subscribers), Sony BMG (0.2 million subscribers), Eros Entertainment (1.7 million) and Star India (0.8 million) are among the most popular branded channels on YouTube.

YouTube saw a significant jump—estimated at 75%—in its advertising revenue in 2013 as video ads online gained popularity for advertisers across categories in India.

“It has grown massively; I would say it has certainly doubled from last year. All brands have hugely started connecting with the platform," said Ireland of Dentsu Digital. Dentsu worked with brands such as Canon, Hitachi, and ITC closely to create content for YouTube in 2013, he said.

YouTube does not share country-specific figures for ad revenue. Global numbers suggest an over 50% increase in Google’s ad revenues in 2013.

“Most brands see YouTube as an extension of their television advertising," said Gopa Menon, associate vice-president at Isobar, a digital media agency part of Aegis Media. “Also, the TrueView format of advertising on YouTube which puts control in the hands of the consumer whether they want to watch a certain ad or not has become quite popular. Advertisers find this effective because of its sharper return on investment as they only pay for the ads that are watched by the users."

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