By MagnifyMedia’s Steve Rosenbaum
Going to the YouTube NewFront is a bit like going to a bar mitzvah. A very, very fancy bar mitzvah. There are the adults, who come to celebrate and schmooze, and the kids who come to party.
This year, the YouTube event – which they somewhat inexplicably called ‘brandcast’ – moved into fancy new digs. Radio City Music Hall. After last year’s cavernous event at the Javits Center, it was a welcome and appreciated upgrade.
The first thing you noticed, as YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki took the stage was that YouTube’s focus had shifted ever so slightly. From civic empowerment to the Falcon Heavy Rocket Launch. In the video set up piece, prop’s were given to the #MeToo moment, and #NeverAgain – but politics was dial down. Way down. And creating a brand-safe environment on an open platform isn’t easy.“There isn’t a playbook for how open platforms operate at our scale” said Wojcicki. “But the way I think about it, is it’s critical that we are on the right side of history.”
As Wojcicki (pictured) spoke, and the Deanie Elsner, President of Kellogg’s Snacks Division shared her companies shift from spending zero dollars on YouTube to a significant shift of dollars, and 250 personalized ad units that could be delivered in different contexts on YouTube – the ‘mosh pit’ area at the front of the stage remained empty.
It was only after the adults left the stage, that a stream of teenage fan’s were allowed to pack in around the stage – and the performers turned the advertising presentation into a fan fest. YouTubers Tyler Oakley and Anna Akana gave passionate YouTube testimonials. And musical performers then took the stage including: Postmodern Jukebox, OK GO, Lia Kim, Dytto, Camila Cabello, Camila Cabello, Matt Steffanina, Madilyn Bailey, Casey Cooper, Fik-Shun and headliner Ariana Grande. You’re forgiven if you didn’t know all those names, I certainly didn’t know many of them. But the kids did.
And just when you thought President Trump was going to go unmentioned (he was in fact never shown on the massive Radio City screens) Trevor Noah presented a short but blistering comedic reminder of the world just outside the theatre doors.
So, while politics may be on the back burner as YouTube works to build trust with advertisers, it’s never that far away. Said Wojcicki “So this is YouTube’s focus in 2018: continuing to innovate and enhance the power of open, while delivering on our responsibility to viewers, creators, and advertisers.”
In perhaps the most interesting piece of trend news, YouTube RED wasn’t mentioned – while Wojcicki went out of her way to point the growth in YouTube on TV Screens. “Users now watch over 150 million hours of YouTube on TV screens every day. And nearly 7 out of 10 YouTube viewers say they watch YouTube on a TV screen.”
Is this a sign of YouTube growing up? It certainly seemed that way.
Then, off to Rockefeller Center for a party, of course. Because as anyone who’s been to a bar mitzvah knows, the party is the best part.