This sponsored post is produced by Robert Brill, Executive Director of ION and Programmatic Media at Ayzenberg Group.

In April 2009, a Swedish teenager named Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg created a YouTube channel under the name PewDiePie while pursuing a degree in Industrial Economics and Technology Management at Chalmers University. In 2011, he left school to focus on his YouTube career and, in 2013, left his home country and moved to the UK for a better Internet connection.

With nearly 27 million subscribers, PewDiePie’s channel is part of Polaris, a gaming video network that is part of Maker Studios, which was purchased by Disney a few months ago. When asked why he wouldn’t hire an editor to help him increase the output of his video, he said “I want YouTube to be YouTube.”

The old world of marketers using intrusive, interruptive, and confined advertising tactics is changing into a world where marketing and content are becoming indistinguishable.  Within the span of 15 years, we went from copy-based search ads to animated ads, rich media, social media, video ads, mobile ads, tablet experiences, the programmatic approach, and most recently, native advertising. The rise of social media, the mass availability of content creation tools, and the propagation of screens everywhere are all factors enabling anyone to create content for viewing on every available channel.

This is a shift away from viewers favoring TV-oriented networks to any stream or feed that is able to command attention in places like YouTube, Vimeo and Vine.

YouTube has already revolutionized the way we watch video.  The site continues to be a catalyst for change in the way we define video content. It’s becoming a singular destination of content alongside others like Crackle and Netflix. As this is happening, TV is experiencing its own redefinition. Instead of “let’s watch TV,” it’s “let’s watch the TV,” a subtle but major change. Whether it’s on a smartphone, tablet, watch, or television set, what we’re watching is really video as content on a device.

This past year is the first in which digital ad spend finally surpassed broadcast TV ad revenue, and ads surrounding online video is one important part of that takeover. Multi-channel networks, also known as MCNs (such as Machinima, FullScreen, and Maker Studios) have established businesses providing marketers with a way to rent influence. These companies sell mostly ad space and some content integration, primarily on YouTube.

Further transformation is happening around the brand channel networks, or BCNs. These owned influencer networks are managed directly by brands. BCNs aggregate a select set of influencers who focus on sharing and creating brand-centric content in coordinated marketing efforts. Marketers who deploy their own BCNs get hundreds of authentic voices who communicate the brand’s message in a creative way — and whose videos are received by millions of eager fans.

The new world of advertising becomes liberated from its confinement as influence alone becomes a primary creative currency.

Marketers will own their own distribution networks

We’ll have a wide breadth of opportunities and resources at hand if brand marketers and content networks are one being. Red BullGoProDove, and Sephora have already been quick to take advantage of this. Instead of the reported $300 million it would take to launch a network on traditional TV, there is a different distribution method at your disposal — YouTube.

When brands launch YouTube channels to share their video content, the content is then inextricably linked to the brand, and these marketers essentially own their distribution channels.

‘The medium is the message’ is truer than ever

Digital advertising is not one tactic on a flowchart like it once was. Digital is now a compendium of opportunities with very different approaches.Print

Similar to old-school media, the medium still dictates what can be communicated and how it is ultimately received. Now, there are many more places to consider before deploying your message. YouTube, for example, works well for marketers when they are willing to collaborate, especially with the platform’s own brand of celebrities.

Respect each channel as its own unique medium, whether it’s Twitter’s constant stream of missives, Instagram’s artsy photography, Vine’s hyper-digestible videos, or Pinterest’s product-porn parade. Each advertiser must decide which combination of media will provide the best mixture of opportunities to interact with their customers and build their brand identity.

For brands that are adopting these approaches, Ion has created customized branded series, directed user-generated content, live streams, and brand-based narratives.

Marketing creates content

So everything’s beginning to look a lot less like paid media and a lot more like content marketing, product development, and media creation, eh?

The reality is that advertising content doesn’t live in its own box anymore.  The display ads, the mobile interstitials, pre-rolls, search placements, radio spots, and so on are becoming less attractive opportunities. Pure play paid media tactics aren’t going away, but this nascent marketing development practice serves as a distinctly new way to connect brands and customers. Paid media will be used to launch marketing development projects and continue to elevate the best projects.

Where paid media is constrained, intrusive, and interruptive, marketing development strategies are indulgent, permissive, and attractive to consumers.

Web celebs will matter more

Part and parcel of this marketing ecosystem are people who command bits of influence, like PewDiePie. Every level of influence is available for marketers in what amounts to an infinite scale of influence to tap into.

At one end is the person who is influential to few; on the other end are the traditional Hollywood A-list types. These are the classic product endorsers. Every marketer of every size in every vertical has a few people who have already amassed a relevant audience. Many marketers will use this influencer opportunity to create demand. Others might use it to drive performance.

Look for businesses to enable in-house teams of influencer curators, strategic stewards of content creation, technology teams to build the next experimental platforms, and entrepreneurs to work in service of brands looking for a stake in tomorrow’s marketing development landscape.

As we get further out into the new world of advertising, more of the marketer’s output will have to compete as a creative endeavor that is able to stand on its own.

Robert Brill is the executive director of ION and Programmatic Media at Ayzenberg Group as well as a frequent contributor to [a]list daily, the only source of editorial dedicated to video game and entertainment marketing. He is a native of Los Angeles and has worked in the digital advertising sphere for over a decade. @RobertBrill @alistdaily

How do you get an influencer’s audience to advocate your brand? Robert will be speaking at [a]list summit: Influencer Marketing on July 31st in Los Angeles. Meet, share, and shape the future of marketing. Get more information about [a]list summit here.

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