Brendan Gahan Talks YouTubers and Future of Marketing

/ Jul 14, 2014


By Lauren Arevalo-Downes

[a]listdaily recently sat down with Brendan Gahan, an expert in the digital marketing space — especially within the YouTube ecosystem.

When you partnered with Smosh back in 2006, did you have any inkling how big a platform like YouTube could be for content creators?

I recognized that creators like Smosh were undervalued and overlooked. I was working in an ad agency and got exposed to the amount of dollars that were being spent in traditional media. Billboards, TV, and radio are not cheap mediums. I was shocked. I was looking at the amount of comments and subscribers constantly growing and realized A LOT of people care about these creators. At the same time ads seemed totally invisible.

To me it seemed common sense that you’d shift dollars to work with creators. I honestly assumed other advertisers would actually catch on a lot faster, I remember the first several years of doing deals with creators always being incredibly antsy to get deals papered because I assumed someone was going to catch on and recognize how powerful these creators and their communities are.

Here we are nine years later and many of these creators are doing major TV deals and ad campaigns, but overall I’m surprised it hasn’t happened faster.

YouTubers seem to be getting a lot of press lately, mostly about their reportedly huge incomes. How did we get here?

For a whole generation YouTubers are their celebrities. They’ve grown up watching Smosh, their favorite cartoon was “Annoying Orange,” and instead of Jon Stewart they got their news from Phil DeFranco. As a result, fans are hungry for information just in the same way people go to the grocery store and buy Us Weekly. Fans of all ages have that desire to learn more about the people they admire and watch.

There’s also been an overwhelming around of interest in this space among entertainment companies recently. With this recent round of acquisitions, the tech and entertainment press has begun focusing on the space a lot more and uncover more information about how it all works. The space is pretty insular for the most part so when stuff gets out it can be exciting and newsworthy.

Social sites like Instagram and Twitter’s Vine are integrating video into their platforms. What is it about video as a medium that is becoming more attractive to them?

There are a few factors at play:

First, video is a great storytelling medium, we all know the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Secondly, there’s the psychological side of things. There’s this thing called limbic resonance. When you have an exchange with someone it releases the chemicals in your brain that cause emotions, these stem from the limbic region within the brain. So it makes sense we get more emotionally attached to people creating video than to text — we’re far more emotionally engaged. Shoutout to Richard Medic who brought this to my attention in the comments a recent blog post of mine.

Thirdly, its a natural progression of technology. When you think about Moore’s Law, and that processing rates are doubling, what are you going to do when you have more processing speed? You’ll start with text, then add images (the Flickrs and Instagrams of the world), and then expand to more complicated stuff such as video.

When do you predict traditional celebrities will be indistinguishable from what we now call influencers?

To a certain extent it’s already happening, although it’s going to continue to happen a lot more and at a greater scale.

Influencers who built their followings in digital are dramatically impacting the arenas that we’ve typically deemed the domains of “traditional celebrities.” Some great examples are the success of Charles Trippy and We The Kings — they beat out Beyonce and earned number spot on the iTunes charts worldwide. We’re also seeing YouTube creators being featured in TV ads and on billboards as part of the Google Preferred promotional efforts. John Green dominated the box office with the launch of the film based on his book, “The Fault in Our Stars,” effectively crushing Tom Cruise’s latest film and taking the #1 slot during its opening weekend. Then we have Dane Boe and “The Annoying Orange” and Epic Meal Time who are building audiences in television.

It’s an exciting time and many of these creators are proving their adept at building audiences in digital video and creating content in more traditional mediums.

Best WTF online video?

I’m going to go with a Mike Diva classic, “Sexy Sax Man”.

This article was originally published on, the insiders’ source for editorial focused on entertainment marketing news and content partner with VideoInk. Follow us on Twitter @alistdaily or subscribe for the latest news, data and more in your inbox.

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

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