Video Essentials

The Instagram-YouTube Debate: Which Is Better for Brands?

Instagram-YouTube? This fight was over before it started.

In an advertising discussion that coincided with the end of New York Advertising Week, video ad mavens from MediaRadar, iProspect, Wavemaker, Goldman Sachs, and Reprise Digital met to compare the merits and flaws of the two platforms. But even though IGTV is owned by Facebook, this was hardly a battle of equals.

Instagram/YouTube

Todd Krizelman of MediaRadar, Brittany Richter of iProspect, and Noah Mallin of Wavemaker.

When IGTV debuted this summer, none of the panelist was excited to see it coming. “Oh god, another thing that we have to create content for,” sighed Kaydee Bridges, vice president of digital and social media strategy for Goldman Sachs.

“We thought it looked very familiar to another company—Snapchat—with a lot less in it,” said Todd Krizelman, co-founder and CEO of MediaRadar, the company sponsoring the discussion. “We didn’t think too much of it when it launched.”

As Krizelman noted, the natural comparison for IGTV isn’t YouTube but Snapchat, and from the start IGTV was distinct in one important way. While Snapchat had a reputation for being hostile to influencers (until recently), Instagram is an influencer’s playground. So that’s who gravitated to IGTV.

“The influencer piece is key,” said Brittany Richter, vice president and head of social media, U.S., for iProspect. Influencers went for the platform immediately, and companies that work with influencers were excited by the potential.

So four months later, how much has changed at IGTV? A lot, said Elijah Harris, vice president and head of social media, U.S., for Reprise Digital. In the beginning, the platform showed him long-form content from people he followed on Instagram, something he often didn’t want. Now, it offers more opportunities to explore. Krizelman said he sees more monetization on the platform, even if it isn’t explicitly advertising, and noted that browsing its content often feels like a professional obligation.

For influencers, IGTV is a great way for new players to grow a following with long-form content, Harris said, adding that he doesn’t see a shift of creators moving from YouTube to IGTV, but does see the opposite. Richter noted that creators need solid editing skills on YouTube (“It’s not ‘The Blair Witch Project.'”), but the barriers are lower on IGTV.

Young people look at YouTube as television, said Noah Mallin, managing partner and head of experience, content, and sponsorship at Wavemaker North America. But IGTV is all mobile. It doesn’t have the same professional appearance.

As for other platforms, Richter said contrary to the common wisdom plenty of kids are still on Facebook; they just don’t think it’s cool to talk about.

Brand safety is still a concern, but Krizelman said Facebook and YouTube have become efficient and mature in how they respond to problems. Both swoop in like a SWAT team at the first sign of trouble. He sees more major advertisers paying for Google Preferred inventory, which is guaranteed to be brand safe.

So which platform to use? For brands that already have strong content and messaging, Richter said stick with YouTube. But for brands still in the experimentation mode, she said start with IGTV.

The panel wrapped up with free advice and predictions. What does IGTV need? It depends what it wants to be, said Harris. If it wants to be YouTube, it needs metatags and better discoverability. If it wants to be Snapchat, it needs curated content and MCN (multi-channel network) participation. It also needs breakout content, added Mallin: “Even Vine, which I’m still mourning, there was amazing content there.”

And what does YouTube need? It needs to get more mobile, Mallin said. It’s still stuck in its desktop roots.

So in the Instagram-YouTube battle YouTube is still the giant. But the online video world moves fast. Check back on IGTV’s growth in another four months.


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