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YouTube Halftime Show Sets Stage for Cross-Channel Ads

By Erika Morphy
Feb 3, 2015 5:06 PM PT

On Sunday evening, as a record 114.4 million people watched Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott rock out during the Super Bowl's halftime show, another show was under way, as well.

YouTube Halftime Show Sets Stage for Cross-Channel Ads

For the first time, Google's YouTube hosted its own version of halftime on Super Bowl Sunday during roughly the same time slot.

YouTube put together the show -- a series of comedy skits and gags -- for its Ad Blitz channel, starring YouTube personalities. Certainly the show lacked the glitz of Katy Perry's extravaganza, but then competing with her was never the point. Rather, YouTube saw the event as a chance to show off its own advertising capabilities and reach, and possibly rope in a few of the big game's viewers who were using their devices while watching TV at the same time.

A Larger Trend

YouTube's foray into territory so thoroughly dominated by television -- Super Bowl Sunday's halftime show -- is part of a larger convergence between social and mass media, Paul Levinson, a communications and media studies professor at Fordham University told the E-Commerce Times.

"The two are in not always in competition, often they complement one another and are used at the same time," he said, with the typical example being of TV watchers tweeting about their favorite shows as they air.

This trend has been brewing for the past few years, of course. YouTube's launch of its own version of halftime, though, suggests that such online content is on the brink of being considered by advertisers as "legitimate" or equal to mainstream content found on TV and in the movies.

Certainly Amazon and Netflix's endeavors to create their own movie content is attracting attention, not to mention viewers. YouTube is the next natural step.

"I wouldn't be surprised if as early as next year we have brands with coordinated advertising for both the Super Bowl and YouTube halftimes," Vlad Zachary, director of omni-channel commerce for Upshot Commerce told the E-Commerce Times. "For the brands this could be a unique opportunity for cross-channel advertising and a way to save money."

The audiences don’t completely or even mainly overlap, which would be a further incentive for brands to advertise on both channels.

"YouTube's show targeted a different demographic," Molly Yanity, assistant professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University, told the E-Commerce Times. "You could see on NBC’s broadcast that the corporations were advertising to the dads -- the truck-buying, beer-drinking, insurance-needing crew. YouTube targeted a younger, quirkier audience. YouTube’s content was purposefully different. You could call it both complementary and supplementary."

About Those $4 Million Ads

For that reason, this type of content will [not necessarily] devalue Super Bowl advertising, Yanity added -- but it might begin to rein it in. Super Bowl ads are notoriously expensive, rumored to be around $4 million for a 30-second spot.

"Something to consider is this -- TV as we know it is on decline. Fire sticks, mobile viewing, split-screening -- all of that is forcing TV out of its comfort zone," Yanity said. "Even the broadcast of live sporting events are experimenting -- like what ESPN did with its College Football Playoff Championship coverage. Advertising will be forced to evolve, too," she added.

While many aspects of social media content and traditional content can be seen as complementary, it would be a mistake to conclude that the two can co-exist in utter harmony.

"What the YouTube Super Bowl halftime show meant was that YouTube -- and by extension its owner Google -- is now seen as a viable competitor for people’s attention, even during the biggest TV event of the year," Mike Johansson, senior lecturer with Rochester Institute of Technology, told the E-Commerce Times.

"And yes, the value of a $4 million-plus ad spot during the Super Bowl has, or soon will, reach its zenith. Viewers have just too many alternatives to staying planted, vegetable-like, in front of the TV even for the biggest TV event of the year," he said.


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.


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