YouTube stars have always been able to hire themselves out to brands, but filmmakers like Devin Graham (creator of the above video) have had to deal with brands on an ad hoc basis, according to Ad Age. What’s changing, says YouTube, is a new product called Marketplace that will give brands (or their agencies) better access to YouTube stars.
From Ad Age:
“The marketplace platform will allow partners to set up profiles indicating what they do, their past successes and the demographics or types of brands they are best suited for. Advertisers or agencies will be able to search by parameters, such as content type, target demo and keywords, to find the right YouTube star for their campaign. Then, they can negotiate separately. YouTube will play no part in the negotiation stage.”
Sounds like a solid solution made in market heaven. But there’s just one catch. There’s already a subset of the online video industry that matches marketers with filmmakers. And, of course, all the major Hollywood talent agencies (which rep brands too) have YouTube clients. But that’s just competition, and competition is good for everyone in the market. What may not be so good with YouTube Marketplace is YouTube’s “hands off” promise.
Yes, if all goes well, then YouTube has done content creators a valuable service by matching them with brands. But things don’t always go so well, especially when we’re talking about delivering creative. Even sophisticated creators and brands use intermediaries to manage the relationship, because even under good circumstances things can get dicey. Sometimes the intermediary is an old school agent and sometimes it’s a new school matching service. Either way, there’s value with an intermediary. It’s nice that YouTube isn’t taking a cut of the deal as a finder’s fee, but then again, it’s not hard to argue that by walking away after the first date, they’re doing both parties a disservice.
Why the YouTube star should be wary
- Most YouTube stars are one-man operations. Many of them are part-time. It’s simply not cost-effective, or even possible, for them to negotiate a reasonable deal with a brand or an agency. The big guy always beats the little guy in these situations because one party has lawyers who draft ironclad contracts, and the other party is lucky to have LegalZoom.
- How much should the YouTube star charge? Last time I looked, there wasn’t a public database with information on what brand marketers spend on stuff like this. So the YouTube star will always be in the dark on price, which means they’ll always leave money on the table.
- Deals take time. Even when negotiations go well, you can spend a lot of time going back and forth. If you’re an agency, that’s no problem because you have account executives. But if you’re a YouTube star, it’s all on you, which means you’re on the phone or answering emails when you should be shooting.
- A lot of things can go horribly wrong with production. When they do go wrong, brands want buffers. Intermediaries create buffers. Dealing directly with a YouTube star doesn’t insulate you from any of the problems that arise during production. In fact, try asking a YouTube star if they carry production insurance or have a completion bond. Now, ask that same question of an intermediary. Then tell me which answer you like better.
- Accountability. Face it: not every YouTube star is a professional. If your brand contracts with some guy on YouTube (and that’s who we’re talking about, folks), I doubt you’ll find the same level of accountability as you would if you had worked with an intermediary. So what happens if the YouTube star doesn’t deliver on time or as promised? Yeah, you might be able to withhold the check, but what happened to your campaign?
- Sophistication. Producing great videos doesn’t make you a great producer. Brands may want access to YouTube talent, but do they really want to walk an amateur through the finer points of a business relationship?