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What YouTube’s Search-Based Targeting Tells Us About the State of TV and Video

YouTube is already a video powerhouse. Recent spending estimates of the video site and its closest competitor, Facebook, suggest that investment in the two platforms will increase by 130% over the next five years, reaching $37 billion by 2022. But this may only be the start. According to recent news, the Google-owned streaming platform is debuting a new search-based video ad targeting feature which will allow marketers to reach consumers based on their search histories on other Google properties. While the new feature is interesting in its own right, it’s also symbolic of a growing convergence of TV and video advertising strategies. Here are three lessons advertisers can take away from YouTube’s recent announcement.

Ad Targeting Is Increasingly Audience-Based
TV and video have always exceled for unique reasons. Advertisers turned to TV to provide the necessary scale to reach large audiences of viewers. Meanwhile, video earned a reputation for offering precision targeting to specific groups of consumers. Today, solutions like YouTube’s new search-based targeting tool offer the best of both worlds: the audience accuracy of digital with the scale and must-watch creative of TV. “The ability to overlay that audience interest in order to get the right messages to the right people against that most attractive content is something the market seems finally ready for,” said Tara Walpert Levy, Google vp of agency and media solutions, in an interview with Digiday. It’s not just YouTube that is putting more emphasis on audience based solutions either. TV networks like Turner are doubling down on audience-based targeting solutions, while audience-focused targeting strategies like addressable TV are becoming a growing focus for more networks.

Smart Advertisers Look at the “Big Picture,” Not Just Formats
Those in the advertising industry love to debate the relative merits of video versus TV. But in today’s competitive ad environment, is one format better than the other? Thanks to a growing shift toward cross-device viewing, more advertisers recognize that today’s buying strategies depend less on picking a winning ad format and more on understanding how all these formats fit together. YouTube is a great example: their search-based targeting feature incorporates consumer data from a range of sources like Google Maps, web searches and mobile app usage. “Google is taking the best of what they do with search, with maps, with some of their apps, and they’re taking that data and applying it to their TV-like object, which is Google Preferred. It’s smart,” said Susan Schiekofer, GroupM chief digital investment officer in a Digiday piece about the tool. TV executives also increasingly recognize the need for a more holistic understanding of consumers. In fact, the topic of cross-platform TV measurement was front and center at the 2017 Cannes Lions Festival.

Quality Is More Important Than Ever
YouTube’s search-based targeting is also part of a growing effort by ad platforms to deliver only the most high-quality, contextual and engaging ad creative to consumers. Thanks to the encouragement of industry leaders like P&G’s Marc Pritchard, a consortium of advertisers, platforms and ad tech vendors are coming together to tackle problems like ad transparency, measurement, and brand safety. Just last year for example, YouTube faced a number of advertiser concerns about brand safety. The company was quick to handle such problems, agreeing to manually vet all videos appearing within its “Google Preferred” video ad channels (which its new search-based targeting is part of). Meanwhile, TV networks are also doing their part to boost the quality of the viewing experience. Fox is just one TV player that is planning to cut down on ad loads in commercial pods to help improve viewer engagement with creative.

YouTube’s new search-based targeting offers a powerful new toolset for advertisers, providing them the opportunity to place ads alongside high-quality TV while leveraging sophisticated consumer insights typically associated with digital campaigns. But the real significance of this new tool may be much greater. Whether it’s the industry’s growing focus on audience-based targeting solutions, a more holistic approach to ad buying across platforms or an increasing emphasis on quality ad experiences, all signs suggest that advertisers will see more of these types of buying strategies in the future.