To people of my age, the idea of someone being famous for having a YouTube channel is faintly ridiculous.

And the fact that some of them have gained millions of fans and earned millions of dollars just by posting videos of themselves playing computer games... well, it makes me very sad.

But though I can’t personally fathom the attraction of these YouTube celebs, that doesn’t mean I underestimate their enormous appeal to younger demographics.

And neither do brand marketers, who have been eager to team up with YouTube stars to gain access to their audiences.

Here’s a roundup of 11 marketing campaigns involving YouTube stars, some of which have worked and one that landed the brands in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority... 

Oreo

Oreo got in trouble with the ASA after adverts involving four Youtubers weren’t clearly labelled as such.

YouTube stars Dan Howell and Phil Lester, Tom Ridgewell, Emma Blackery, and PF Liguori, all posted "lick race" videos that promoted Oreo biscuits.

The videos showed the Youtubers licking the cream out of Double-Stuff Oreos, followed by a call-to-action that read: "Check out the Oreo site for more licking action. Thanks to Oreo for making this video possible!"

Mondelez argued that because the vloggers said they had been working with Oreo their fans would be aware that they had been paid to take part.

However the ASA ruled that the videos were too similar to their normal editorial content and that the commercial relationship wasn’t explicit enough.

As far as I can tell, the videos have now all been removed from YouTube, though this one of Dan and Phil was helpfully uploaded by another user.

Hitman

You’re probably vaguely aware of the Hitman movie and video game franchise, but what you probably don’t know is that a new version of the film is out this August.

To try and drum up some excitement 20th Century Fox has created a series of videos with mildly popular YouTube stars that show their reactions to the movie’s trailer.

They include Tom Plumley, Stevie and Ali Spagnolia.

The punchline is that all of the vloggers are assassinated by the Hitman at the end of the video.

Barack Obama

President Obama invited three YouTube stars to interview him in January just a few days after his annual State of the Union address.

Bethany Mota, Hank Green and Glozell Green asked their own questions, as well as relaying those posed by their own followers and the wider social media community.

People could ask questions by using the hashtag #YouTubeAsksObama.

While this isn’t exactly a brand marketing campaign, it shows that even the world’s most powerful man feels he can benefit from borrowing these vloggers’ audiences. 

Nissan

Nissan signed up a number of popular vloggers for a series of videos featuring the hashtag #withdad.

The videos, which were posted in the build up to the Super Bowl, are based on the theme of how busy dads can balance work and family time.

All of the content was hosted on Nissan’s own YouTube channel, which helps to avoid any accusations of blurring the lines between editorial and commercial.

The talent included Epic Meal Time, Dude Perfect and Convos With My 2-Year-Old.

Battlefield 3

Freddie Wong is a YouTuber who makes action movie shorts. For this reason EA deemed him to be the perfect fit for a promo video for the latest Battlefield video game.

Wong teamed up with fellow YouTubers Sam and Niko to make an all-action commercial featuring tanks and explosions.

It was posted back in 2011 and has more than 6m views.

Google

YouTube is of course Google’s own platform, so it stands to reason that it would rope in a vlogger to promote one of its phones.

Internet celebrity Nigahiga starred in this vaguely racist advert for the Nexus One back in January 2010.

It’s since had 11.5m views, which is pretty good going.

Kingsman

It’s that Freddie Wong chap again, this time in an advert for the recent Kingsman movie starring Colin Firth.

The four-minute video sees Wong taking on a group of spies in a London alleyway, mirroring the theme of the film.

In a little over a month the video has had 1.3m views.

Sainsbury’s

Grocery retailer Sainsbury’s launched a channel in June 2014 for its new show ‘Food With Fleur & Mike’.

Each Wednesday beauty and fashion vlogger Fleur De Force and her husband Mike post a video showing them trying a new recipe for the first time or knocking up one of their favourite dishes.

The channel has 56,000 subscribers and each video scores roughly 25,000-50,000 views, though some have racked up hundreds of thousands.

Videos featuring the pair on Sainsbury’s channel enjoy a completion rate of around 76% compared to an average of around 5%. 

Mulberry

Two of the UK’s most popular YouTubers are Jim Chapman and fashion vlogger Tanya Burr, who also happen to be engaged.

Mulberry featured the pair on its own channel to show ‘how their Mulberry bags fit into their daily lives’.

It’s a bit of a snorefest and has only had 178,000 views in around seven months.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines sent 10 YouTubers to secret locations around the world so they could document their travels and share it with their subscribers.

They also stopped off in Instanbul en route to give a glimpse of the city's culture.

The videos showed what it’s like to fly Turkish Airlines and were hosted on the brand’s YouTube channel, where each has had several hundred thousand views.

It’s a clever way of associating the brand with adventure and exploration.

Marriott

How do you make mobile hotel check-ins interesting? That’s quite a conundrum.

Marriott decided to send five YouTubers to cities around the world and filmed their adventures. For example, one of the vloggers went to a sausage factory in London.

Their activities were then linked back to the hotel chain, as the new mobile check-in lets people know when their room is ready so they can spend more time having fun.

Tenuous it may be, but it’s a clever way of livening up a dull topic.

Asda

Asda’s senior director of marketing innovation Dominic Burch gave an insight into the company’s YouTube strategy at our Festival of Marketing last year.

As of five years ago, and by Asda’s own admission, its YouTube channel was not a very engaging place to be. In fact much of Asda’s own content here remains hidden.  

But because 15% of Asda’s customers regularly use the channel, it needed to have a presence there. 

The retailer took inspiration from the StyleHaul network, an interconnected community of more than 5,000 original creators who use YouTube as a platform to create fashion and beauty videos. 

The YouTubers on the StyleHaul network receive millions of views, far more than accrued by any big brand. 

Asda knew that people wouldn’t actually want to subscribe to an ‘Asda channel’ on YouTube, so instead it developed a channel that’s ‘brought to you by Asda’. 

The content is driven by the content producers Asda has partnered with.

Asda set itself a target of 750,000 views in the first year. It achieved that after eight weeks. The channel also has nearly 139,000 subscribers and the links to Asda have a 1% click-through-rate. 

Mum’s Eye View also appears among the top results if you search for ‘baking’ on YouTube.

Further reading…

For more on YouTube strategy, check out these posts from our blog:

David Moth

Published 4 March, 2015 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (8)

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Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Nice roundup Mothy! Have you seen the parodic YouTuber played by Morgana Robinson in Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe?

I'm not as cynical as you, but I enjoyed it.

almost 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

Thanks Ben! I don't watch that show, but I'll look out for it.

And I look forward to the day when you start your own YouTube channel - there's definitely a niche for the highfalutin ramblings of a bitter Northerner.

almost 3 years ago

Simone Castello

Simone Castello, Digital consultant and trainer at www.simonecastello.co.uk

Just wondering how long Zoella is going to go, she is not as young as she behaves/looks. I went to career day in a school and 13 year olds knew her well. Her audience is quite young. Mind you I was still freelancing at teenage mag in my 30s, so you never know....

almost 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

@Simone, I was thinking that same thing about a few of these YouTubers while researching the post. Several of the male presenters seem to be lot older than their target audience, which will surely catch up with them at some point.

almost 3 years ago

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Sam Healey, Ecommerce Executive at Little Bundles

I don't think it will catch up with them. As they age their fan base ages. Youtube is becoming more maturer and older users are becoming more accepting of online video, this will open opportunities for current Youtubers to target older audiences.

I also don't think a Youtube channel can be seen the same way as a TV programme where the demographic usually doesn't get older through the life of the programme.
Think of celebrities 10/20 years ago they are still celebrities, just more mature.

Zoella may get replaced by a younger Youtuber in the future but she will still have her fan base, she will just have maturer content in her videos.

almost 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

@Sam, thanks, that's a very good point. I need to be less ageist and less cynical in future.

almost 3 years ago

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Taylor Deschanel, Sales and Marketing Manager at EFD

Great round up. However, I'm still struggling to see the value for the brand besides recognition and views

almost 3 years ago

Simone Castello

Simone Castello, Digital consultant and trainer at www.simonecastello.co.uk

As somebody rightly accused me on Twitter I am an ex bitter old hack. I think you need skills to reinvent yourself and ideas. It's not easy and plenty of people have failed to rekindle teenage success. With Zoella they had to employ a ghost writer for her book, so not having writing skill doesn't bode well. Maybe she will become a TV presenter but the media world is not an easy or cushy one whatever your age and for women being older is not an advantage. Most seasoned celebs are men.

almost 3 years ago

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