Q&A: TouchStorm’s Founder & CEO on How the Top Brands Use YouTube

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ADOTAS – ’Tis the season, and brands are looking to online and mobile video ads to drive holiday purchases. Just prior to Black Friday 2013, Adotas spoke with Alison Provost (pictured), CEO and founder of digital media company TouchStorm, who discussed how brands can best leverage YouTube and made a dire prediction about the video ad industry.


Q: What does Touchstorm do?

A: We distribute videos for big brands around the web. As part of that, we manage big brands’ YouTube channels.

Q: How can brands leverage YouTube to go from red to black this holiday season?

A: On YouTube, retailers have two ways to go. One is to advertise with YouTube, and that’s a great way of getting out a short-term campaign message like Black Friday. The other way is to post content and then work to grow the retailer’s owned media presence on YouTube.

This is not something that happens overnight, so it’s not going to help for Black Friday 2013. However, for the retailer that starts growing its YouTube channel in January of 2014, it will have a much larger audience to whom it can deliver special offers and sale messages by Black Friday 2014. And – here’s the great part – a retailer with a sizable YouTube channel can work with its vendors to turn YouTube into a profit center, much like retailers already do with print circulars.

Q: Talk about the video trend. Where is it now and where is it headed?

A: Well, we all can see now that we’re headed to a place where video — be it hour-long scripted dramas or 3-minute how to videos — will be available to us wherever we want it, whenever we want it. What’s a little less obvious is how much American youth relies on video. Here’s me sounding like a curmudgeonly school board member lamenting the spread of Rock and Roll in 1965. “These kids today,” particularly the Homeland Generation, which is anyone born after 9/11, and the slice of Generation Z that’s under 25, rely on video for things the rest of us would never think to use video for.

I’m talking about video content, not commercials. They want to learn how to woodwork, or how to play guitar? They go find the videos. They want to decide which clothes to buy? They open video look books. They have an embarrassing question? They search on it and watch the video that answers it. And they don’t care if that video was created by Joe Schmo or Target. So long as it helps and isn’t senselessly overly commercialized, they’ll watch. This means that short-form video is a great way for retailers to build deep relationships with potential customers.

Q: Any campaigns and brand strategies you can mention with metrics?

A: When it comes to retailers, their number 1 goal is always to sell products. Google/YouTube recently bought a company called Channel Intelligence, which allows for a Buy It Now button on YouTube videos. Our company, Touchstorm, is working with YouTube and a number of major marketers to further test Buy It Now to find the optimal conditions for converting viewers to buyers. But the more views a retailer can get on its videos, the more sales it will be able to attribute to video. So the time to build views on YouTube and elsewhere is now.

Q: What’s the future of advertising and video?

A: Again, when we talk about video, there are two sides of the industry: the advertising side and the content side. On the advertising side, we’re headed for an iceberg. Just as budgets have been shifting from TV to online video, and the systems have been built to place and manage those buys at scale, we’re finding out that way too many of those views aren’t real. They’re bot-driven. So when it comes to advertising, we’re going to feel a pull back and a correction while we get the bad actors out of the business and then re-establish credibility.

When it comes to content, particularly on YouTube, there are no such problems. Google monitors things so closely that marketers can really trust their view counts.  And then there’s the hybrid content/advertising play now call Native where publishers make space for the marketers’ content to run as an ad, but that’s a whole separate interview.

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