Happy 7th Birthday YouTube

YouTube, everyone’s favourite hosting site, has turned 7.  Like many other internet phenomenon’s, YouTube has come a long way In  2005  three former PayPal employees struggled to share video content amongst themselves, turned that problem into the solution of YouTube.  Seven years later it has exploded into a global video sharing platform, with 72 hours of video being uploaded every minute.

Bought by Google in 2006 for an astounding $1.65b, YouTube is now estimated to be worth somewhere in the region of 45-50bn. The site has been helped by massive growth in the uptake of Internet globally, which has accelerated thanks to the explosion of mobile phones, and thanks to videos hosted by it gaining prominence in the Google search algorithm it has eliminated competition.

YouTube has revolutionised how we consume our media, it took the music industry a while to grasp the power of YouTube, yet today music videos dominate YouTube, with artists such as Lady Gaga, Eminem and Justin Bieber making almost blockbuster productions. This has had a massive impact on how on brands interact with consumers. From flash mobs to rollerblading babies to create your own video ad, there isn’t a creative agency trick that hasn’t been employed by brands to grab and retain consumer’s attention. YouTube seems to be the only social media channel where brand placement and advertising has been embraced but users rather then alienated it. While YouTube itself, thanks to its own meteoric rise in both audience numbers and user generated volume it has established itself in its own right as a mega-brand.


Today must consumer brands are trying to cultivate consumer loyalty through creative content and user engagement. YouTube is now seen as a central part of any marketing or PR campaign, used by charities, political parties and commercial brands.

And importantly these videos are being watched, the number of users uploading content – home videos, music and TV clips – has more than doubled in the last two years. With over 800 million users and 4 billion videos watched per day worldwide, including home videos, business, filmmakers, musicians and humorous cats YouTube is now the third most visited website after Google and facebook.




Kony leads the social media revolution

On Tuesday afternoon a 29-minute long video was uploaded to YouTube.  Fast forward three days and it has amassed 46 million views and been tweeted by Twitter heavyweights including Stephen Fry and Kim Kardashian. Pretty impressive for a video that doesn’t feature a cat playing peek-a-boo, a skateboarding dog or a child biting its sibling’s finger.

So why was it only yesterday that the world’s media started to pay attention?

Given that roughly 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute to the YouTube, it would have been easy for this particular video to have slipped into obscurity.  But this video, produced by campaign group Invisible Children, tells the story of Joseph Kony, a Ugandan guerrilla group leader who recruits young children throughout Central Africa for his Lord’s Resistance Army.  The LRA recruits the young and the vulnerable by forcing them to kill their parents leaving them dependant on the LRA.

The film, presented by Jason Russell, centres around Jacob – a boy from Uganda he met in Africa 10 years ago who first alerted him to Kony’s regime.  Since then Russell has campaigned to get US and worldwide government attention to address the problem, stop Kony and bring him to arrest under the International Criminal Court.  I won’t go into the details of Kony’s carnages, or Jacob’s terribly sad story. Instead, I urge you to watch the video yourself and make your own judgements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Invisible Children want to ‘Make Kony Famous’ in 2012 – not to celebrate him, but to make the world aware of his crimes by encouraging people to watch the video and then share it with their friends via Twitter, Facebook and other social media.  It’s this element of the campaign that, from a marketing perspective, has really stood out for me. Working in the communication industry, we are all aware of the power of social media and viral in creating change, whether that’s the name of a type of bread in Sainsbury’s or Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign

As Russell points out in the film, 20 years ago it was just a handful of powerful people with huge amounts of money that influenced the media and the governments, who in turn influenced the people. But if 2011’s Arab Spring taught us anything, it’s that the power of the people and social media can change the status quo and decide what is written about in the press. Invisible Children has capitalised on this. Through its utilisation of social media and word of mouth, what began as a small group in California was able to make the world sit up and listen and now has hundreds of thousands of members.

Whilst ‘Kony’ has been trending worldwide on Twitter since Tuesday, ITN, The Huffington Post, Telegraph.co.uk, The Guardian and The Evening Standard only started running the story over the past 36 hours – more than 24 hours after the video was first posted online. This drives home the growing superiority of online and social media in producing news, generating buzz and content creation. The Guardian, in fairness, has captured this perfectly in its new Three Little Pigs ad

In an age where our trust in traditional media is at an all-time low (News International, I’m looking at you), the social media revolution can offer us the chance to help create, contribute and form news agendas much faster than traditional media ever can.  ‘Make Kony Famous’ is the perfect example of this and I encourage you all to watch and share the link and become part of this particular social media revolution.  



Ideas and energy: Taking a different perspective

The marketing and advertising industry’s top brass have returned from a busy week of networking, events and for most, a bit of partying at Cannes. Joking aside, the event, which has been a contentious subject as agency belts are tightened, is still a brilliant opportunity to look at some of the best work created over the last year.

I was particularly pleased to see Sussex Safer Roads low budget road safety campaign ‘embrace life’, pick up a bronze lion. When D&AD blogged about this advert back in March, I loved it. It demonstrates that safety messages can be delivered in a positive emotive manner rather than always through scare tactics. I’m not the only one to feel this way either as the Facebook group ‘Embrace this’ has a growing fan base over 6,000 people and the Youtube video has almost 9.5 million views.

This week I also stumbled across VW’s brilliant fun theory project. The idea is based on the fact that there must be a more fun way to do things that are not always liked. So how do you get more people to take the stairs in the subway – you make it into a giant piano of course! Or what about how to get people to wipe their feet on the mat as they come in? Make it fun by turning it into a DJ deck with scratch noises.

Both the Sussex Safety advert and the Fun Theory project are successful and provoke a strong reaction because they disrupt what is expected. There is also an argument to be made that even the most negative people are drawn to positive representations of things. For example this week Gideon Spanier wrote his regular Evening Standard column on behavioural economics and referenced choice architecture which has essentially shown that presenting things in a different way can lead to real behaviour change.

It’s not just R&D for product development and advertising that can benefit from disruptive thinking. There is also a convincing argument that disruption in business models and strategy can also benefit your company. Just take a look at the buzz around Clay Shirky’s cognitive surplus book and the various columns that have looked at how this idea may change business (e.g. Julie Myers and this discussion on WSJ). So when you’re stuck puzzling over something this week see if you can turn the problem on its head and take a different perspective.