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People are flocking to YouTube for new programming and distraction. Here’s how advertisers can respond.

YouTube Advertising


  • Viewers are watching content based on mood and that speak to their interests, rather than for high-production values
  • People are watching a lot of YouTube, and they’re streaming it on their TVs
  • Advertisers need to find ways to connect with specialized audiences

With people stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that we’re watching more content than ever. But when it comes to advertising, it’s who’s watching, why they’re watching and how they are watching that is just as important.

 Google recently surveyed 12,000 viewers around the globe to find out what they watched in the previous 24 hours, and half of millennial respondents said they “don’t know how to get through life” without video. For advertisers, so far, so good—millennials (generally, people ages 24 to 39) haven’t gone anywhere. They also watch for the kind of reasons you might expect; most respondents (70%) said mood dictates what they watch, and their top reasons for watching were to unwind, learn something new, dive deeper into their interests or to laugh.

 However, what people are looking to watch and how they’re watching are what have changed dramatically.

Why we watch

In the survey, high-production quality was only 10th on the list of reasons to watch something. The 12th most common response was that content “is on a network or platform that I like,” and having famous actors was only the 20th reason down the list to watch.

It’s a far cry from the network-driven, high-profile “must see TV” of the past. Indeed, respondents were two times as likely to say the ability to dig into their interests was important to them compared with high production value or being on a preferred network or platform, and they were four times as likely to say they watch based on their interests compared with content that had famous actors.

The takeaway? Viewers no longer care about watching costly productions on their favorite networks starring household names; they want content that speaks directly to them and what they’re already interested in or are interested in learning about.

How we’re watching

YouTube, in particular, speaks to this change. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they watched content on YouTube in the past 24 hours. Compare that with 39% on cable TV. As a streaming brand, YouTube gets 20% of views, according to the August 2020 edition of Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, only bested by Netflix (34%).

So, is the younger generation throwing out their TV sets in favor of streaming YouTube videos on their laptops? Not quite — more and more often, they’re watching YouTube on their TV sets.

The number of people in the U.S. watching YouTube content on their TV sets for more than 30 minutes at a time has increased more than 90% over the previous 12 months, according to YouTube data. In the U.S. alone, more than 100 million people now watch YouTube and YouTube TV on their TV screens.

What we’re watching

 It’s worth noting that although sports production may have been curbed due to the pandemic, the hunger for sports content hasn’t subsided. Watch time for sports videos (excluding live content) on TV screens grew by more than 65% between July 2019 and July 2020.

Besides sports, viewers are gravitating toward cooking videos, health and learning videos. The pandemic has driven our desire to better ourselves through becoming better chefs, developing a green thumb or mellowing out through meditation and yoga. And that’s being done in the living room.

How can advertisers navigate this new space?

The one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. Viewership is fragmented, and people want to see exactly what they want, when they want it. To take advantage of changing viewing habits, you need to get in front of viewers where they are with content that speaks to their interests. YouTube influencer advertising is gaining the attention and ad dollars this year for 58% of marketers surveyed by Takumi in August 2020

Partnering with an AI-enabled agency such as Veritone One can help you target those viewers who can’t be easily reached by traditional means. Veritone One is a full-service performance advertising agency specialized in podcast, radio, and digital and is an industry leader in YouTube influencer marketing. We utilize proprietary AI-based technology to collect real-time actionable intelligence to better optimize your media and brand’s messaging to improve your campaign’s performance.

Get in touch to learn how you can connect with viewers where they are, with messaging that’s relevant to them.


Further Reading

YouTube Advertising

Feeling antsy? Tired of binging TV?

5 Reasons Why Every Brand Should Invest In YouTube Influencer Advertising

Recapping the Top Podcast Industry Changes of 2019

10 Advertising Myths About Streaming Audio Debunked