YouTube is at the forefront of new media, entertainment, and creation, and it is a logical next step to include new advertising in the mix. With more popular YouTubers drawing in millions of followers, the video hosting platform is the perfect place for native advertising to reach a vast and tightly targeted audience of viewers.
Advertising in YouTube videos, generally referred to as sponsored content, can make up a large part of creators’ incomes and help grow audiences. Yet, it is often received negatively by viewers.
Part of the reason for the frosty response to sponsored content is often due to the perceived closeness between creators and their viewers, which is compromised by the creator taking on the role of the advertiser.
The genesis of YouTube content creators was, at least for most, a more innocent time. The creator uploading gaming reviews or makeup tutorials gave their honest opinion because, why wouldn’t they?
YouTubers who hit it big could still maintain a friend-like relationship with viewers, mainly when many were still in the dark about how lucrative YouTube could be. Viewers inherently trusted the opinions of creators that they followed.
However, the dawn of sponsored content compromised this relationship as trusted creators had a vested and sometimes hidden interest in pushing certain products.
Perhaps surprisingly, the most negatively received sponsored content is covert advertisements hidden within apparently random videos.
These days, most viewers are savvy about the possibility of advertising in videos, and creators are bound to disclose sponsorships in video descriptions.
The most positively received sponsored content is that which integrates a product or service that the creator can believably be linked to – a beauty guru promoting hair products, a lifestyle vlogger describing a home organization app, a tech reviewer recommending gaming equipment – rather than a product that it is unlikely the creator would spontaneously have mentioned on camera.
Viewers are likely to stop watching a video or channel entirely if it continuously posts content that has been created for financial reasons.
On the other hand, the best-sponsored content can be seen as an honest recommendation of something that happens to be of interest or enjoyment to the creator.
Leading on from this, many high-profile creators believe that it is best to openly describe the sponsorship in terms of a partnership or trial rather than attempting to hide an advertisement within a video.
The best way to integrate a sponsorship is to create organic content, a video which would believably have been posted regardless of sponsorship, and inserting the sponsored content with a disclosure that the creator was offered the chance to try the product. It is best to include a disclaimer that only truly enjoyed or useful products are recommended and that the creator would not push anything that they didn’t think was worth promoting. This maximizes the trust between the creator and their viewers and allows the viewer to feel that they are holding the upper hand – when they are aware of sponsored content, they can choose whether or not to disregard it.
Similarly, it is advisable to intersperse videos containing sponsored content amongst unsponsored videos so that viewers don’t reach saturation point. When creators become full-time sponsorship machines, it is generally the death knell to their channel and viewership. Despite this, sponsored content is difficult to comfortably integrate into a channel and it will inevitably lose a channel some viewers.
It is impossible for some YouTube fans to reconcile the idea that anyone would use the platform as a source of income rather than purely a hobby. The important thing to remember is that native advertising can be a fantastic way to discover new products or services and well done, believably genuine sponsored content can actually grow a channel exponentially. By remaining frank about sponsored content and avoiding over-saturation, YouTube creators can allow themselves, their viewers, and advertisers to benefit without alienating current or potential followers.