white-supremacist rhetoric (and thereby funding their creators). AT&T,
Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, and reportedly as many as 250 other advertisers suspended campaigns. You Tube was able to quiet the unrest by
installing new machine-learning technology to better identify questionable content—it said it was able to realize a 500% improvement
within weeks—and offering marketers more finely grained controls
for specifying where their messages will appear. It also allowed third-party firms to audit where clients’ ads show up.
Even so, it’s clear that marketers expect humility from You Tube
about the whole affair, and that’s what Wojcicki gives them. “We
apologize for letting some of you down,” she tells the crowd calmly, in
an even tone that sounds natural, genuine, and not overly rehearsed.
The ad-placement kerfuffle was intensely embarrassing for YouTube, but it nonetheless reinforces how different the service remains
from traditional television—which is the other part of Wojcicki’s
message to the audience tonight. “You Tube is not TV, and we never
will be,” she says. From Wojcicki’s perspective, the differences are,
in fact, advantages.
TV in its conventional form is among the most micromanaged,
focus-grouped businesses on the planet. You Tube, by contrast, is
varied and authentic, even slightly anarchic. “We really value the
role that You Tube plays in the ecosystem for freedom of expression,”
Wojcicki tells me during a conversation a week before Brandcast. “We
take that incredibly seriously. We want to make sure we’re enabling
all these voices to be heard.” Old-school TV viewing still boasts an
awesome 1. 25 billion hours a day of watch time in the United States,
but Wojcicki states that 18- to 49-year-olds, TV’s most ad-friendly
demographic, watch more You Tube on mobile devices during prime
time than they do any broadcast or cable network. The service also recently passed 1 billion hours of daily watch time worldwide, prompting Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to confess to pangs of “You Tube envy”
during an earnings call in late April.
You Tube sits at the white-hot center of the global evolution of the
entertainment and advertising industries, at the precise moment
that the boom in mobile video consumption affects how half a tril-
lion dollars per year is divvied up among TV, digital, and other media.
For You Tube’s owner, Google—and Google’s own parent company,
Alphabet—the stakes are enormous. It wants You-
Tube to dominate like Google does with display
ads and search marketing.
Research firm eMarketer estimates that
You Tube netted approximately $5.6 billion
worth of advertising sales in 2016, only 9% of
Google’s total but up 30% over the previous year.
Alphabet doesn’t disclose You Tube’s financial
results (including whether it’s turning a profit)
but regularly cites its contribution to revenue
growth—something it did during its investor call
for the first quarter of 2017, dispelling analysts’
warnings that the advertiser backlash could drag
down Alphabet’s performance.
Wojcicki’s boss, Google CEO Sundar Pichai,
simply says that she “has always been someone
who could do pretty much anything.” Since joining Google in 1999, she helped create Ad Words,
the system for auctioning off space for text ads
that turned Google into one of history’s most efficient profit machines; she grew the company’s
advertising efforts from $400 million in 2002
to $55 billion in 2013; and she had the foresight
and persistence to persuade Google to acquire
You Tube in 2006 for the then-controversial sum
NERDS VS. JOCKS
of $1.65 billion. Wojcicki is “as nice as she seems,”
says You Tube VP of engineering Scott Silver, “but
she doesn’t ever give up.”
Even at its current size, Wojcicki tends to
talk about You Tube as if it’s just getting started.
“Our goal, really, is to take this amazing tech-
nology, continue to grow it, make it available
to all people around the globe, across all plat-
forms, and for all creators,” she tells me. She’s
so matter-of-fact about it, one can lose sight of
the audacity of her ambition. She pauses for a
beat, then allows, “It’s a big mission.”
Webs & Tiaras
Grown-ups in comic-book and
princess costumes perform surreal
silent-movie vignettes, the latest
genre innovation taking root
among the service’s creator class.
Bros work together to create Rube
Goldberg–like trick shots or play
golf in a hurricane, marrying sports
and comedy in a way ESPN or
Comedy Central never could.
The toy maker showcases clever fan
creations such as a Beauty and the
Beast tribute, as well as its own
work, one of many brands turning
marketing into entertainment.
The ur–video blogger returned to
You Tube in 2017 after a break and
continues to redefine the diary
format, shooting footage from
drones and electric skateboards.
YOUTUBE CREATORS AND SAVVY BRANDS HAVE MADE THE VIDEO
PLATFORM THEIR PLAYGROUND. NOW, TV;LIKE CONTENT FROM HOLLYWOOD
PROS HAS THEM COMPETING FOR THE AUDIENCE’S ATTENTION.
ONLY ON YOUTUBE: