March 3, 2020: YouTube appoints first “creator liaison,” tests letting creators sell ads directly to brands; Toy makers are turning to YouTube creators to co-create products; Luxury brands are quick to jump on TikTok; Birdy Grey leans into Instagram Polls to source product feedback 

Here’s what’s worth knowing this week: 


YouTube Appoints First “Creator Liaison”

The Story

In an effort to be more transparent with creators around changes that will affect their day-to-day lives, YouTube has appointed its first ever “head creator liaison.”

Tell me the deets.

TLDR: YouTube hopes to leverage this role to serve as an intermediary between creators and the platform. The person stepping into the role, Matt Koval, is a former YouTube creator who started uploading videos in 2008 and then joined the company as a lead content strategist in 2012. While Koval’s role within YouTube has always centered around creator content, in his new position he will work to address the needs that come up in the community and translate those needs inside YouTube which, according to Koval, is “complicated stuff on both sides.”

In this role, Koval will also act as an advocate for creators and the issues they raise while working with people at the company which, as we saw last week, are quite abundant. It’s expected that Koval will communicate directly with creators, in their native environments, “including social media, blog posts, videos and IRL at creator events.” 


At the end of the day, the platforms that are most empathetic to the creator experience will win the market share of creator talent. Where YouTube (and other platforms) have largely fallen short has been in their inabilities to understand creators’ struggles and speak their language.

For YouTube, the creation and investment in this role makes sense for so many reasons and snaps for YouTube for selecting a former-creator-turned-YouTube-employee to fill it. Where Koval has been both a creator and a YouTube employee, he has the unique experience and empathy to understand and interpret situations from both POVs. 

Creators are platforms’ (and marketers’) first line of opportunity to understanding the social media landscape on a deeper level. Not only are creators subject matter experts on these platforms, but they are often the first to have access to new features and test new platforms/competitors. Similar to how YouTube invested in a creator liaison role, marketers have the opportunity to form creator/influencer advisory boards to gain insight into new features, platform feedback, and more. 


Not Unrelated: YouTube Tests Letting Creators Sell Ads Directly to Brands

The Story

YouTube is piloting a new program that will let creators sell ad space directly to the brands they work with regularly.

I’m listening…

The pilot program is extremely limited and only works for deals between creators and brands that already have a relationship. From the limited information released, it appears like YouTube is testing a creator version of partner-sold ads. 

What are partner-sold ads?

Even though partner-sold ads have been around since 2010, YouTube has released little information about how they actually work. Here’s what we know: partner-sold ads let some organizations – from major media companies like NBC to digital content studios like SoulPancake – control their own YouTube ad inventories by selling ad spots directly to advertisers. 

One of the biggest benefits of leveraging partner-sold ads was the ability to sell advertising on videos that would normally be demonetized. If this carries over to the new ad program YouTube is piloting, then qualifying creators whose videos have been demonetized (think: swearing, violence, children’s content), will be able to earn ad revenue on them. 


Week after week, YouTube appears to be continuing its investment in its creators and, more specifically, its creators’ abilities to make money on the platform as it introduces more brand safety regulation. Although currently small, this pilot seems to address two things creators have routinely been asking YouTube for: more control over what ads play on their videos and more ways to generate revenue on the platform, including charging premiums for brand takeovers. 

While giving creators control over the types of ads that play on their videos does seem to make logical sense, there are a lot of aspects of this program that remain unclear, specifically around creators’ obligation to appropriately disclose the direct partnership. Consider, for instance, a fashion creator collaborates with a fashion brand on a new line and posts a YouTube video about it, appropriately disclosing the partnership per FTC guidelines. What if, then, that same creator sells an ad spot to the fashion brand on that same video to promote the line, would an additional disclosure be needed? The rules are murky at best — and if YouTube does move forward with this pilot, additional clarification would be needed. 

We’ll continue to monitor if and when YouTube does issue a full roll out of this feature – stay tuned.


Still Unrelated: Toy Makers are Turning to YouTube Creators to Co-Create Products

The Story

A growing number of toy manufacturers are looking to work with YouTube creators to create new toy lines and products to capitalize on the interest of younger audiences.

Like who?

Jazwares LLC, which makes toys based on licensed properties such as “Fortnite” and “Peppa Pig,” will release merchandise based on three YouTube properties in 2020: Blippi, a preschool education and entertainment character; CKN Toys, a toy-unboxing and reviews channel; and Cocomelon, a channel known for nursery rhymes. 

What’s the industry saying?

“Three years ago, we might not have even considered [YouTube stars]. Now, based on the success of [Ryan’s World] and understanding what kids are coming in for, we’re committing space to putting [Blippi and other YouTube-based toys] in stores.” — Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president of toys at Walmart. 


Creators’ influence on mainstream culture is only getting stronger, especially among younger generations. It’s no coincidence that Ryan Kaji, the eight year-old (!!!) toy reviewer of the channel ‘Ryan’s World’ was the top earner on YouTube in 2019. Today’s children are 3x more likely to aspire towards a career as a YouTuber rather than an astronaut, the traditional kids choice career of the past. 

YouTube continues to find ways to align with this trend, like, looking to facilitate ways to connect YouTubers with consumer products. For YouTube creators, toys and other consumer products offer an opportunity to expand their influence beyond advertising to creative direction, product development, and similar types of brand partnerships (similar to what we’ve now seen with the progression of influencer collabs and evolution of influencer-to-consumer brands in fashion and beauty).

TikTok x Luxury Brands: It’s Complicated

The Story

Despite luxury brands being historically slow to adopt newer trends, they have been quick to bet on TikTok.

How so?

During Milan Fashion Week, Prada collaborated with 15-year-old influencer and viral TikTok star Charli D’Amelio. As part of the collaboration, Prada sent D’Amelio to the show in Millan to capture content for her followers. She posted several videos wearing Prada and tagged the brand in posts, with her best performing post totaling 5.7 million likes, 64,300 shares and 36.8 million views. Interestingly, even though Prada has a TikTok account set up, it hasn’t posted on its own page yet and instead relied on Charli to create buzz on its behalf. 

What’s the industry saying?

“Luxury brands used to sit back and watch everyone else jump on a trend, then would have to play catch up. We are in a different time where smart marketers don’t want to be the last to move. These brands have seen the success from other platforms and know there is less risk after [being on] Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.” — Kristin Maverick, vp of social and influencer marketing agency 360i

But not so fast… 

Fraud is still an issue, but not in the ways you might expect. TikTok teens are obsessed with fake luxury products. In fact, a major genre on TIkTok is videos on how to find “dupes” – aka items on sites like Amazon and other e-comm networks that look like Chanel, Gucci, Cartier or other designers. Other videos show how TikTok users actually make DIY designer dupes, like ironing Chanel logos on to make them look like the real thing. 

Is this legal?

Not exactly, but the legalese surrounding it is murky, making it difficult to enforce. However, it could be considered trademark infringement if users are copying logos or labels in a way that could confuse consumers. While it’s not clear what TikTok’s official policy is on posts like this, TikTok could potentially be liable if lots of users are directing other uses to the sales of dupes. Of course, users too, can be held liable — especially if the users have an affiliate relationship with the sellers of counterfeit goods. 

FYI: when it comes to influencers promoting “dupes,” even if the influencer didn’t have an affiliate relationship with the seller, “they are building their own personal brand by being the best conduit to the best dupes, therefore they are indirectly profiting” which makes them liable. 


With luxury brands typically slow to invest in any new platform, their investment in TikTok is an early indicator of market adoption and maturity.  Of the luxury brands that have invested in the platform, they’re starting with established macro-influencers. However, the business value and impact of the platform really lies with its micro-influencer creators and freedom of expression that’s core to its existence. 

In some ways, TikTok and luxury are at complete odds. On a platform where everything is in-the-moment, anyone can become a prolific creator, anyone can have access. Luxury, in contrast, is both highly curated and largely inaccessible to TikTok’s Gen Z population. In that way, activating existing customers who are influential TikTokers could pose a significant challenge. So it’s not surprising that dupes have gone viral. But there also lies the opportunity for luxury brands to engage Gen Z before they assume massive buying power. For luxury brands to really benefit from what TIkTok offers, they need to carve out a niche of accessible luxury among TikTok’s creative elite while giving up some of the creative control and image they’ve built their brands on. 


Birdy Grey’s Stories Polls Close the Loop from Product Insights to Sales

The Story

DTC bridesmaids dress brand Birdy Grey is leveraging Instagram Polls to build and sell new products — sourced directly from consumer feedback. 

How so?

With the cost to digitally acquire customers on the rise, Birdy Grey has found tremendous benefits on leveraging unpaid efforts, like Instagram Polls, to both acquire new customers, as well as to garner feedback on new and existing products. Specifically, the company has used polls to gather insights around its followers’ preferences which has resulted in developing new dresses and colors, as well as launching into new categories like men’s accessories and party decor. 

So are there any best practices for Instagram Polls?

Typically, each iteration of polls is kept between five to ten slides, which results in the best engagement rate for the brand (around 2% on Instagram). Additionally, the brand also pairs polls with a “swipe to shop” CTA at the bottom, which allows the polls to be used for research as well as acquisition and retention as well.

What about paid?

While organic is a large component of the company’s Instagram strategy, paid is still part of the mix. In 2018, in the brand’s first year, the performance marketing team spent $10/day on Instagram, which resulted in $2 million in revenue in 2018. Now, the brand’s daily spend is around $35 so one can imagine that revenue growth has been amplified. 

What’s Birdy Grey saying?

“Polls are probably our biggest tool to inform product development and design. The customer feedback loop is everything. We’ve tested Survey Monkey polls, but Instagram polls are the most immediate ways to get feedback.” – Grace Lee, co-founder of Birdy Grey


Birdy Grey is an example of how a DTC brand is going beyond the typical social influencer x Instagram strategy to drive not just acquisition, but research and retention as well — using paid to scale its efforts. This goes to show how Instagram can be used for more than just an acquisition tool. A diverse instagram strategy can be used to drive research initiatives, loyalty and, of course, sales. 



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