Beyond Cats & Bloopers: Getting Real on the Future of YouTube

Change is coming. You may not realize it. It’s happening slowly. The content we share is evolving. It’s getting more sophisticated and more polished every day. You can trace it in part to a series of hyper-wired buildings around the world where the influential denizens of our time gather; a byproduct of the sharing economy that promises to make film and video production facilities accessible to individual creators. These are the YouTube Spaces.

YT space

Social@Ogilvy recently toured the Los Angeles location, complete with sound stages, equipment offerings, event spaces, and a barista bar.

The grounds were abuzz with creative energy, buttressed by the influx of creative agencies moving into the neighborhood (Ogilvy & Mather among them). Creators and influencers of all shapes and sizes – from individuals to sizeable production crews – were sharing hallways amid the throws of production. On the day of our tour the main lounge area was being retrofitted for production of a large-scale live-stream talk-show, a game show was shooting on one stage, a music video shoot was being setup in another, and smaller productions were taking advantage of green screens and audio booths. Google even provides equipment for use on site, including a set of Red Epic cameras and cinema lenses. In other words, everything you’d need to make a movie except the crew.

But how can these Spaces benefit brands, many of which already partner with influencers?

There are three key areas where YouTube spaces can work to a brand’s advantage:

  1. Creator skills development
  2. State of the art production facilities provided by creators
  3. Opportunities to create first-of-it’s-kind productions

In order to maintain the social nature of the resources though, YouTube limits the amount of access a creator receives each month, ranging from one day a month in a living room sized studio to six days use of full size sound stages.

The reason for all this lies in YouTube’s emerging business strategy: empowering and educating creators to create better quality content makes YouTube more desirable to audiences and allows the streamer to compete with services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. They’ve already seen success with scripted influencer series such as Video Game High School and The Guild.

The philosophy – which I share – is that better content begets more views, and for YouTube, more views lead to more pre-roll ads, which generate more revenue. The result is clear. We’ve seen it manifest through player design refreshes and the evolution of influencer talent agencies: YouTube has moved past cat videos and bloopers. They’ve even started building their own original content.

Social@Ogilvy already works with creators to generate awareness, such as partnering with Meg DeAngelis (MayBaby) to launch Intel’s Pocket Avatars, and brands will only continue to benefit as influencers become more practiced and familiar with the tradecraft of production through their use of YouTube’s Spaces. However, rising audience expectations could drive up the cost of productions, especially those not filmed at a YouTube Space, when factoring in location and equipment fees.

While brands are welcome to use the Spaces if partnering with a creator who lends his or her access for a brand’s production, there is one line of fine print to be aware of: anything shot in a YouTube Space – even if only partially lensed there – must debut on YouTube simultaneously or before any other medium. That means launching your Super Bowl TV spot on YouTube before it airs in the Super Bowl. And for some, that could be the deal-breaker.

Ultimately, YouTube’s Space facilities – with locations in Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, New York, São Paulo, and Berlin – don’t offer an advantage over renting production facilities elsewhere. The true impact for brands, and the reason to keep a close eye on YouTube’s ongoing investment in talent, is that they’re driving better content. Audiences are growing to expect a higher level of storytelling, an expectation will expand to encompass brands, and quality will only continue to become more important for brands as this space grows more competitive.

YouTube has charged creators with ushering us into a new era of socially successful films and videos. It’s up to the rest of us to keep up with them.