Gen Z, diverse audiences the focus of ad-supported streamers, platforms and publishers on NewFronts day one

This year’s Interactive Advertising Bureau’s four-day NewFronts kicked off yesterday with digital content platforms and publishers giving presentations to marketers touting new advertising offerings and slates of video shows.

YouTube, Vizio, Amazon and a range of minority-owned media companies pitched their content, audience reach and ad offerings, with a focus on their ability to engage specific audiences — Gen Z, diverse and passionate entertainment and sports viewers in particular.

Ad spend in the U.S. grew twice as fast in the digital video space compared to the overall digital media market in 2022 (up 21% vs. up 11% overall), and digital video advertising is projected to hit $55 billion in 2023, said IAB CEO David Cohen in his welcome remarks, citing findings from IAB’s latest report on video ad spend that will be released on Wednesday.

Eighty-five percent of U.S. households have at least one CTV device being used every month — up from 80% in 2020, per the pending IAB report.

The key details:

  • YouTube touts its Gen Z audience and creators and its short-form content
  • Minority-owned media companies pitch their diverse audiences to marketers
  • Vizio announced the launch of a new branded content studio and talked up its “home screen hero unit”
  • Amazon put the focus on its FAST service Freevee, and the expanded amount of content that will be available to advertisers on the platform this year
  • Hear from Google’s generative AI chatbot Bard – and how it won’t help you get a rundown on this years’ NewFronts

Short-form ambitions

Short-form video was front and center during YouTube’s NewFront as it continues competing with other short-form video platforms such as TikTok and Meta. During its Monday morning presentation, YouTube announced it’s expanding Shorts to the company’s “video reach campaigns” — Google’s AI-powered way of letting marketers buy media across skippable and non-skippable ads as well as other formats. YouTube also will let advertisers appear next to trending Shorts content and/or in a new “first position” ad slot on Shorts to reach users at the beginning of a viewing session.

During its presentation, YouTube mentioned just a few advertisers that have already been using its new ad tools — namely Adobe, Paramount+ and Unilever.

Ads on Shorts will soon be available to all marketers on the platforms, YouTube announced during its presentation, but did not share when that feature will go live. It will also soon expand “beyond video action campaigns to include video reach campaigns,” which means Shorts can be used for both performance advertising and for brand awareness and consideration campaigns, said Kristen O’Hara, vp of agency and brand solutions at Google.

Shorts are being watched by 1.5 billion people each month,and racking up 50 billion views daily, O’Hara added.

Creator Alan Chikin Chow gave marketers tips on how to create a compelling Shorts video:

  • The hook: the first 3-5 seconds need to get a viewer’s attention before they decide to stay or swipe to the next video.
  • Watch time: “king” on YT Shorts, the longer the 60-second video can retain a viewer’s attention, the better a video will perform, Chow said.
  • Rewatch value: a Shorts video plays on loop until the viewer scrolls away – meaning a video should give the viewer a reason to watch the loop, such as having a funny or surprising ending.

Spotlight on diverse audiences

Sheila Marmon, founder and CEO of Mirror Digital; Deva Bronson, evp and global head of brand assurance at Dentsu and Melvin Wilson, founder and president of Solve Innovation Group, gave their annual grade on how the industry is doing on its DEI efforts. The average: about a “C”. 

“I might have started us at a D four years ago, and I think I trended up slightly over the last four years. Unfortunately, now I think we might actually be back around a C or a C-minus. Not because the efforts are failing, but more because the energy behind the movement is starting to wane, which is very worrisome,” said Bronson.

A whole segment of the first day at the NewFronts was dedicated to showcasing a number of minority-owned media companies, including Blavity, Cocina and iOne Digital. All three companies presented at the IAB at “no cost,” Cohen said in his opening remarks.

Morgan DeBaun, founder and CEO of Blavity Inc., a Black-owned media company that owns six digital publications, said the company’s video content had a 125% increase in total minutes watched year over year. And It is expanding its diverse publisher and ad management platform this year to service over 25 publishers.

Cocina pitched its content slate and Hispanic audience, saying the company reached 35 million devices on a monthly basis.

And iOne Digital – a company that said it reaches millions of listeners monthly on radio and TV – said it reaches 80% of Black Americans every month. During the presentation, iOne Digital’s execs agreed that in order to sell to Black Americans, marketers’ need to know and understand this audience much better than they do at present.

Attracting entertainment and sports viewers

Smart TV company Vizio announced the launch of a new branded content studio called VCBS, working with brands like BetMGM to create custom video series. Vizio also promoted WatchFree+, its free, ad-supported streaming TV service, which now has over 260 linear TV channels as well as an on demand library.

Vizio pitched its “home screen hero unit” which allows media and entertainment advertisers to buy into the home screen experience on its TVs, to encourage viewers to tune in or engage with auto-playing video, links, storefronts and QR codes to boost sales, said Sean Booker, senior director of sales in media and entertainment. In the past six months, time spent on Vizio’s home screen grew 53%, according to the presentation. 

Amazon’s presentation focused on entertainment and sports content that will be available on its free streaming platform Amazon Freevee. By the end of 2023, over 100 of Amazon’s most-watched original series will be available for viewers to stream on the platform — and allow advertisers to appear alongside shows like Goliath and Mozart in the Jungle.

Amazon also announced it will host the NFL’s first Black Friday game this season for free, instead of only for those that pay for its Prime streaming service. Advertisers will have the ability to segment the football game’s audience into custom cohorts and show different creative assets to different viewers in the same ad break, Alan Moss, vp of global advertising sales at Amazon Ads, told Digiday on Monday.

For example, an auto company can show a sports card ad to a younger adult, an SUV ad to a sports enthusiast and a general ad to everyone else at the same time, he explained. Brand storytelling ads will also launch this year in beta on Amazon Freevee, giving advertisers the ability to tell a story over multiple, sequential ad breaks.

Amazon’s data clean room Amazon Marketing Cloud will now be available worldwide, Moss added. Previously, it was limited to beta customers. Brands can create and update their Amazon DSP audiences within AMC and activate them in Amazon DSP.

Reaching Gen Z

YouTube’s presentation featured a number of YouTube creators focused largely on the platform’s ability to reach Gen Z. YouTube creator Jon Youshaei who helped host YouTube’s presentation said the platform has paid out $50 billion to creators, artists and media companies over the past three years. The platform now has more than 30,000 creators with 1 million subscribers or more, he added.

The Gen Z creators onstage – including Asia Jackson, Larray and Darcei – gave advice to advertisers in the session on how to reach others in their age group: Keep it authentic by trusting the creator with the creative, build trust with the consumer, make sure there’s a fit between the brand and the creator’s audience, and have more Gen Z people in the room making decisions on how to reach them.

AI might muddy your NewFront news

When Digiday asked Bard what was announced during YouTube’s presentation on Monday, Google’s young AI-powered chatbot told a different story. According to Bard, YouTube also announced new partnerships with Coca-Cola for a series of short-form films on YouTube, a new partnership with Nike including a series of workout videos and a partnership with P&G that includes educational videos about health and wellness.

When Digiday asked Bard for a source of the news, the bot said it got the information from a press release quoting YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan, who’s now the platform’s CEO.

However, all three of those were entirely made up — a product of the “hallucination effect” that continues to plague not just Bard but other generative AI bots including ChatGPT.

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