YouTube’s Hail Mary

flutie.jpgMany of you have heard I’m not a gigantic fan of YouTube. I have found it to be a nice late night distraction but for it to be worth $1B I would have thought there would be more to it. My opinion is beginning to change. I’ll warn you now my examples might scare a few of you – especially those who do marketing for a living.

My first harmless example involves my sports-minded son Luke. The other day we were watching SportsCenter and there was a nice Hail Mary pass in a football game and it made me think of Doug Flutie’s pass in the Orange Bowl. Luke had never seen the play so we hopped on YouTube and in less than five minutes we were watching the play. While online I asked him if he had ever seen the Cal-Stanford game when they run back the final kickoff over a tuba player for a touchdown and since he hadn’t we watched that one too. Very cool.

This next example will give you marketeers a scare. I hadn’t watched the Boise State/Okahoma game and the way my day worked out I didn’t catch the highlights the next morning. All day long folks were talking about it so I knew I had to watch it when I had a nice chance. So later the day after the game I went to the ESPN website to watch their videos. After paging through what seemed like dozens of USC/Michigan highlights I found one I wanted to watch. After about 15 more seconds of a stupid ad I gave up and hoped over to YouTube. Within 60 seconds I’m not only watching the highlights; I’m watching the last five minutes of the game! Nice. Sorry ESPN sponsor: not only have I forgotten what you were selling but I’ve learned not to waste my time with trying again.

The final example is the most terrifying. If we’ve ever worked at a high profile joint we’ve done some TV ads. If you haven’t they are big risk plays and terribly expensive. Not just for the airtime, but you have production costs, creative leading up to it and lots of energy managing, socializing and worrying about how the 30-second bet will work. So when the time comes you make sure to tune in and watch in full glory your product getting the limelight in a TV spot. My challenge to you would be to give it a few days and then go search on YouTube to see if someone has uploaded a copy of your ad. And if by some chance you’re lucky and someone has go check how often it’s been viewed. I would assert the answers to these last two questions will tell you more about the effectiveness of your ad than any other tool — especially those “viewership” crap statistics. It’s some tough love but it would seem a good indicator of how “moving” your ad was to this market of folks.

I was blown away when Google decided to purchase YouTube. While it’s a high volume site; I would think the deeper the pockets the more likely the site will go down like Napster. Nearly 100% of the content I’ve watched on the site is copyright, ripped from videos, shot with camcorders or decoded DVR recordings. You’ve got to think that at some point it will go away just given the fiscal risk. But then again I don’t know much about these things. I wonder if I can find some clips of Sgt Shultz from Hogan’s Heros saying “I know nothing..” on YouTube later tonight? I’ll let you know.