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YouTube launches educational courses to teach brands how to make better ads

Watching YouTube on a computer screen
Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As recently as May, YouTube proclaimed that on mobile alone it reached more 18- to 49-year-olds than any TV network. Now, it's willing to teach marketers its ways.

On Thursday, Google unveiled the YouTube Brand Partner Program Certification. The educational course — being announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France, and at VidCon in Anaheim, California — will teach brand agencies the best strategies for video content.

"One of the things we consistently heard as people got even more involved with the platform is that they have an enormous appetite for continued learning," said Tara Walpert Levy, vice president of agency sales at Google.

"The YouTube Brand Partner Program Certification is an online, accredited path that is aimed at training agencies how to make even more of the platform and develop their own video content strategies."

Classes, available in 22 languages, will be taught by YouTube leaders and popular YouTube creators. The first group of agencies involved in the closed beta test of the initiative will get the courses at no cost.

Millennials and Gen Zers are targets

Marketers have found that they've had to shift their traditional strategies to reach millennials and Gen Zers, who are increasingly more likely to watch online and mobile content than sit through a scheduled TV program. As the leading online video platform, YouTube wants to further cement itself as the place for brands to be if they want to reach these demographics.

Walpert Levy said that contrary to the popular belief that YouTube viewers were young male gamers, the platform had seen increases in all demographics, especially among adults. A new survey by comScore of 2,940 adults over age 18 showed that among those who considered themselves YouTube die-hards, 49 percent were women, 43 percent had kids and 51 percent were employed full time.

The study also found that YouTube viewers could be especially valuable for brands because they were more likely to respond to an ad.

People who saw a YouTube ad were more likely to perform an activity — including sharing info about the ad on social media, talking to others about the ad or recommending an advertised brand — than the average video viewer (75 percent vs. 54 percent).

The comScore study also found that half of respondents said YouTube was their favorite online video platform, while a little under one-third chose Netflix and 10 percent chose Facebook.

The Mars candy company said it has seen some of that YouTube ad boost. Though the company doesn't don't disclose its advertising budgets, it said it was increasingly prioritizing digital platforms such as YouTube.

Marketing via mannequins, mustard and M&Ms

For M&M's 75th anniversary, Mars decided to use YouTube creators to make the brand more relevant to younger consumers.

It partnered with YouTube "influencers" Rhett and Link. The two came up with the idea of completing challenges using the letters M&M, including a speed task where they decorated a mannequin whose clothes were covered in mustard. The video currently has more than 5 million views, the majority of which were seen within 24 hours of posting.

"Mars has historically been a TV-first organization," said Berta de Pablos Barbier, vice president of marketing for Mars Chocolate North America.

"We learned that taking our award-winning TV spots and simply putting them on YouTube was not the ideal way to be relevant with the audience that is consuming content on the platform. This is why we've really started to tap into the power of the YouTube creator, which is something that is so unique to this social platform."

YouTube says the average ad spend on its platform for its top 100 advertisers has risen 40 percent year on year. This tied in with announcement that Interpublic's Magna Global was moving $250 million of TV ad budget to YouTube.

The platform, in conjunction with video advertising platform Pixability, determined that the top 100 marketers had 3,000 branded channels, up 27 percent from this time last year. The channels have created 853,000 videos, a 39 percent increase.

The data for the comScore and Pixability studies will be released on Thursday at VidCon in Anaheim.