Literature Review

From user-generated content to YouTube to Vlogging

The new age of Web 2.0 has brought us social media. Nowadays, a life without this Internet feature is barely imaginable. A very interesting and often important aspect this development has presented us with is user-generated content (Drury, 2008). With this new landscape also came new opportunities for advertisers and marketers. One of these opportunities was YouTube.

YouTube is a video-sharing website that was founded in 2005 and has been bought by Google in 2006 (Velde, 2015). In its rather short existence, YouTube has grown rapidly and has become the third most visited website worldwide (ibid). The first brand to recognize YouTube’s marketing and promotion potential was NIKE, who have since continued to majorly include YouTube in their promotional strategies (ibid).

In 2007, YouTube launched its partner program, which allows those who post content on YouTube to earn money with their videos (Velde, 2015) (Ingham, 2015). YouTube’s partner program works together with Google’s AdSense, who are responsible for selling advertorial space on or in videos (pre-video ads, banner ads during videos) to advertisers and marketers (Velde, 2015).

The first advertorials on YouTube were placed in 2007 and have since garnered a lot of revenue for YouTube (ibid). Furthermore, the most popular of YouTube’s partners in the partner program managed to earn up to six-figures in the first year of the launch of the program (ibid).


YouTube celebrities, their influence, and what makes them so appealing to their audience


One of the most famous and successful vloggers nowadays is Felix Kjellberg, or better known as PewDiePie (Velde, 2015) (Ingham, 2015) (Kemp). He produces gaming videos in which he simply plays video games while commenting on them. This has gained him up to 39 million subscribers (spread over his multiple channels) and 10 billion views on his videos (Velde, 2015). Kjellberg therefore has a lot of influence on his viewers, socially, as a gamer, and marketing wise (Ingham, 2015).

Zoe Sugg

Other very famous and influential YouTubers are beauty vlogger Zoe Sugg (Zoella) and her boyfriend vlogger Alfie Deyes (Pointless Blog). They are vloggers based in the UK and have both been named in the list of 500 most influential people in the UK in the past (Kemp). Both of them have also published books, which further emphasizes their reach (Burling, 2015). While Deyes published a book based on the content of his vlogging channel, Sugg published a fictional novel called “Girl Online” in 2014, which sold very well from the start (ibid).

Sugg and Deyes, both of course members of the YouTube partner program, are said to be able to demand up to £20K from brands if they want them to use or mention their products in their videos (Ingham, 2015).

This shows just how well YouTubers nowadays can make money.

The question therefore is:

What makes these vloggers so influential and well-liked?

One of the most commonly given answers is their authenticity (Velde, 2015) (Sykes, 2014) (Kemp).

Vlogs are often mimic face-to-face conversations in a conversational tone of voice, which creates a more intimate relationship between the vlogger and his or her audience (Sykes, 2014). Another important aspect to consider when pursuing authenticity is that most YouTubers started out by simply making videos about their interests as a hobby (Velde, 2015). Therefore the audience can identify with the vlogger on a personal level and they appear more like friends rather than unreachable celebrities or money-hungry marketers (Sykes, 2014) (Kemp). Also important for the success of a vlog are the quality of the video and the presentation of the vlogger, the interactivity with the community of subscribers, and the expertise of the vlogger (Sykes, 2014).

A survey conducted by Joyce van de Velde for her dissertation shows that these are things audiences of YouTube vlogs do associate with vloggers. It shows that 12 – 15 year olds often see vloggers as idols and many 19 – 27+ year olds like to use Vloggers’ reviews in order to get an authentic and credible opinion on a product, therefore considering them experts in their fields (Velde, 2015). This is further supported by a study conducted by Google, which is mentioned in Sarah Syke’s Theses, which shows that four out of ten viewed fashion vlogs lead to a viewer pursuing the actual or online store of a brand after watching such a fashion vlog (Sykes, 2014).

In this case, beauty, fashion, and gaming seem to be some of the most influential vlogging genres (Ingham, 2015) (Sykes, 2014).

These factors and aspects of vlogging are very important to consider for marketers and advertisers who plan on engaging with the new medium, as it is important in social media advertising to work with two-way communication (Drury, 2008). They have to connect with the audience and build a relationship, which makes YouTube and other social media especially lucrative to those brands who want to strengthen brand recognition (ibid).


YouTube versus traditional television

Another topic discussed is that of whether YouTube has already or will replace traditional television. The opinions differ.

In her article 5 Marketing Lessons for Marketers, Nicola Kemp cites managing director of creative content Ruth Barton, who points out the drop of TV consumption while YouTube rises above (Kemp). Contrary to that, another source in Kemp’s article, joint chief strategy officer of advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers (AMV) BBDO, Craig Mawdsley declines that TV consumption is seriously declining and does not believe that YouTube can in any way take over that medium (ibid).

A source of van de Velde’s reckons, YouTube is not replacing television, but rather posts a new form of entertainment for the younger generation that has grown up with the Internet, which makes it very attractive to advertisers (Velde, 2015).

Mawdsley supports this idea in Nicola Kemp’s article. He does believe that YouTube is a good tool to expand a brand’s reach, for example through pre-roll ads, although he also points out that people do not like to wait for what they really want and might therefore not get a positive association with the brand in a pre-roll ad (Kemp).


Important for marketers and advertisers

The new developments in the media landscapes and the great influence of social media and especially YouTube celebrities present many new and creative opportunities for marketers and advertisers. There are certain aspects, though, both marketers and advertisers need to bear in mind when engaging with these new platforms.

One of the most important aspects of a vlogger’s influence is the authenticity and credibility they have due to the enthusiasm for a particular subject that they share with their audience (Velde, 2015). A major concern of marketers and advertisers should therefore be to keep this authenticity and credibility safe. They therefore cannot approach such marketing in the same way that they approach TV or magazine marketing (Drury, 2008). They must make sure to not just place their products in videos, but to create creative and subtle content that places their products in the right light (ibid). They must not under any circumstances look like commercials to the audience (Velde, 2015).

This is further important, because another reason for the popularity of video streaming is the human interaction it mimics (Kemp). Many find social media to be a very humane thing to do and advertising is often criticized as taking the humanity away from these platforms (Drury, 2008). It is therefore important for marketers and advertisers to make sure to preserve this highly valued humanity (Drury, 2008) (Kemp).


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