Ganesh Iyer
Guest Article

The Importance of Being YouTube

YouTube has become a marketing platform for one and all, even its rivals.

Consider this - Sony Liv has over 1.5 million subscribers, Alt Balaji and Hotstar have around 800k+ each, Netflix India and Amazon Prime Video India have around half a million each and Voot, a little over 300K subscribers. Does something sound totally off, if you know the OTT market numbers? Of course it does, these are not the number of subscribers on their own platforms, but on their respective YouTube channels! And no, they don't put out their shows and videos here... only promotional trailers . Like this one, of Netflix's first Indian Original, Sacred Games:

The Importance of Being YouTube

A still from the YouTube teaser of Netflix's Sacred Games

YouTube, of course, technically, is direct competition for all these independent OTT companies (that aim to develop their own subscriber base with interesting content and monetise them across advertising and subscription); the collective battle to take the viewer away from this free and deeply penetrated platform continues. But clearly, as a marketing platform, even these bigger global players and Indian, broadcast-backed platforms cannot do without this behemoth called YouTube.

The Importance of Being YouTube

Ganesh Iyer

So while nobody was watching, what was once a largely UGC-led video platform, has quietly over the last few years become a critical if not the most important medium for all marketers. The quantum of content uploaded and consumed on YouTube of course boggles the mind, there are too many zeros to remember or even matter. If one were to watch everything that is on YouTube, it would take apparently take around 60,000 years or some such to finish watching, that too, if no more content is uploaded, says a reply on Quora. There, that is how vast an ocean it is.

But then this is less about the quantity of content and more about how it has evolved as an essential marketing platform. That conventional brands have for years now been creating 'long form' commercials mainly for YouTube is quite well known. Case studies abound on how brands and agencies have taken to 'unbridled story telling' on YouTube and not just creating boxed 30 sec TVCs. Remember this six and a half minute British Airways film, for example?

The Importance of Being YouTube

The British Airways ad referenced by the author of this article

And that they have also equally quickly adapted to the new 6 sec 'bumper ad videos' is equally known. But then look at movies and music. YouTube now is without doubt the first port of call for all Indian movie promotions to spread the word - every production house and music label with skin in the game runs a well-oiled YouTube channel with millions of subscribers and breaks all promotional content here with a clear 24 hour (sometime even longer) lead time before it hits television, which as recently as even five years ago was the sanctum sanctorum of all movie and music promotions (question - when was the last time you discovered a movie or a song on TV?!). These YouTube videos are then pushed by the stake holders and influencers on their social assets.

There are even special budgets kept aside to 'push' the view count of these promotional songs and videos that sometimes help claims of success. Not saying this video was pushed, but here is the claim:

The irony of promoting promotional material is hopefully not lost here.

Another community that finds YouTube an exciting marketing platform is individual talent - in the Indian context at least, mostly stand-up comics and relatively unknown singers. The platform allows them to showcase their talent through reasonably well produced, yet inexpensive videos - these videos result in increased awareness of their talent among prospective live performance viewers across the country (which was next to impossible in the 'non-digital' world) and therefore in their 'bookings' for on-ground shows. The vast country that we are, someone in some corner of the country always has an event that requires talent like these, audiences crave for known names and the 'talent' gets to make money. It just makes all parties (in more ways than one) happy.

Have you ever wondered where a Zakir Khan or a Shirley Setia or even an AIB would be, without YouTube? Not to say that they may not have eventually broken through, but it would have been a really long journey perhaps.

The fallacy that people make YouTube videos for a living (as a share of YouTube's advertising revenues) is hopefully long dead. For those who are unaware, on an average, Indian creators/channels, for every million views, now get anywhere between ten and sixty thousand rupees. That is it. Barely enough to even cover the cost of producing the video in the first place, leave along making money. Popular comic Rahul Subramanian, in, say, eight weeks of on-ground events, would make far more than he would in years from his videos alone. Even Bhuvan Bam, the most popular Indian creator with over seven million YouTube subscribers makes far more from his shows than from YouTube; the platform has only made him a successful name.

What YouTube means for pure video content creators, the opportunities as well as the challenges therein, etc. is for another day. This is just an overview of the importance that the platform has garnered as a marketing medium, and am sure there are far many more examples, and may be some interesting views?

The author is national head, original content and licensing, ENIL (Radio Mirchi).