Using YouTube as a marketing vehicle

I apologize to my regular readers, but I’m about to talk shop for the first time here.

My regular readers know I love YouTube – just browsing through the site allows you to find some great homemade gems but what I love even more is the ability to find video you’ve seen broadcast in a few keystrokes. Whether it’s some of the post-Katrina videos, music videos, or homemade digital videos– YouTube is a great tool and a great example of (web cliché alert) Web 2.0 – consumer generated and wholly interactive.

The phenomenon that is Snakes on a Plane! is partly due to the involvement of bloggers and videocasters. Before the movie was even finished, users were posting home made movie trailers on their blogs and on YouTube creating enough momentum and word of mouth that television advertising has been as important to the promotion.
YouTube presents a perfect opportunity for marketers to provide people with entertainment while marketing their products. It’s funny to think of commercials as entertainment, but sometimes commercials can be more entertaining than the shows they’re shown in. The following clips are great examples of entertaining spots available on YouTube:

Dunkin Donuts Karate Commercial

Geico Little Richard Commercial

Each of these videos has been watched tens of thousands of times on YouTube alone. This doesn’t include views on Yahoo!, Google, and Myspace. These are people actively searching for your products. Even better – because of the viral nature of sites like YouTube – these videos find their way onto blogs (just like I did here), in emails, and newsletters – and the best part: all of this exposure is free.

One of my favorite uses of digital video online is the Jack Links Beef Jerky campaign Messin’ with Bigfoot. All the video is available on their site including internet only versions, but the videos are also available on YouTube. The following video has been watched almost 25,000 times on YouTube alone – and that doesn’t count the 8 other Jack Links commercials that are available on the site.

Jack Links Messin’ with Sasquatch (shaving cream)

Ok – specific recommendations

  1. First and foremost – make sure you get usage rights for all talent to allow you to use the commercials on the Internet. Believe it or not, these rights are not always included, and it can be both painful and expensive to get the rights after the fact.
  2. If your commercial is the least bit entertaining then upload it to YouTube, Google Videos, and Yahoo Video. It’s free! Note – don’t throw up every commercial. For instance, I have yet to see a pharmaceutical commercial that I’d search out – and I work in pharmaceutical marketing.
  3. If you have the ability, create Internet only versions of your commercials that are different from the television versions.
  4. Make sure you ask your ad agency to provide you with web-ready commercial. Most likely to be in Apple’s Quicktime format (.MOV) or Microsoft’s Windows Media format (.WMV).
  5. Make it easy to find the videos – link to them from your site; post them on blogs; bid on keywords on Google and Yahoo!. You’d be surprised how many people want to watch commercials.
  6. Watch for comments on the videos – but don’t get too concerned about negatives unless they start to affect you brand’s image. Some negative comments are to be expected – rare is the subject that everyone likes.
  7. Be creative. NBC’s The Office involved YouTube in a promotion – which asked users to submit their own commercials on YouTube, and then using the commercials on their network to promote the show. Of course this probably cost a few dollars.

One more thing – if a user posts your commercial without your consent, don’t get worked up about it. this means someone is interested in seeing your commercial and thought it was entertaining enough to share with others. If the video quality is poor, then send the user a better copy. It’s free advertising – and it’s better when the video is recommended by an impartial source.

Disclaimer: It’s not my aim to ruin YouTube with commercial content. I just realized how many times I said to my fiancée have you see X commercial, and then found it on YouTube to show it to her. YouTube has the right to remove videos that are being posted for commercial purposes, so be judicious (and maybe use a different name to post).