Digiday+ Research deep dive: Brand marketers grow their YouTube spending while agency marketers cut back

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Interested in sharing your perspectives on the media and marketing industries? Join the Digiday research panel.

When it comes to social media marketing, YouTube doesn’t always get as much attention as its Meta, TikTok and X (or Twitter, or whatever) counterparts. But according to Digiday+ Research surveys conducted among brand, retailer and agency professionals every six months (including in the first quarter of this year), brands are actually increasing their marketing spend on the platform.

It turns out it’s a different story for agencies, though.

Digiday’s survey found that a large percentage of both brand and agency marketers use YouTube, but that more brands use the platform than agencies. Two-thirds of brand and retailer pros (67%) said their companies used YouTube as of Q1 of this year. In comparison, 59% of agency pros said their clients were using YouTube as of Q1.

The difference in YouTube usage between brand and agency marketers could be due to the fact that both groups look to get different things out of the platform. The highest percentage of brand and retailer respondents to Digiday’s survey (38%) said that impressions are their companies’ main measurement of success on YouTube. Meanwhile, just under a third of agency respondents (32%) said engagement is their clients’ main measurement of YouTube success, making that the top form of measurement among agencies.

In general, those two forms of measurement ranked high among both groups. Thirty-one percent of brand and retailer pros said engagement is their main measurement of success on YouTube, putting that in second place among brand marketers. And more than a quarter of agency pros (27%) said impressions are their clients’ main measurement of success, putting that metric in second place among agency marketers.

But Digiday’s survey found that the groups aren’t in agreement when it comes to clickthroughs or conversions. Clickthroughs came in third place according to brands and retailers, with 16% of brand and retailer pros saying that is their main measurement of success on YouTube. In comparison, clickthroughs came in last place among agencies, 9% of whom said clickthroughs are their clients’ main measurement of YouTube success.

At the same time, conversions such as downloads and registrations came in third place for agency marketers. Eighteen percent of agency pros said conversions are their clients’ main measurement of success on YouTube, compared with just 6% brand and retailers pros who said the same. Conversions were the last-place metric among brands and retailers.

With brands’ and agencies’ differing goals on YouTube, the two groups’ spending differs on the platform, as well. Most notably, Digiday’s survey found that brands and retailers have increased their marketing spend on YouTube, while agency spending has fallen.

Eighty-five percent of brand and retailer pros said in Q1 2024 that they spend at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on YouTube. Six months prior, 75% said the same. Meanwhile, 68% of agency pros said in Q1 2024 that their clients spend at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on YouTube, down from 73% in Q3 2023 and down significantly from 88% in Q1 2023.

Looking at the data through a slightly different lens, the percentage of brands and retailers who don’t invest at all in marketing on YouTube has gone down while the percentage of agency clients who don’t invest in the platform has gone up. In Q3 2023, one-quarter of brand pros (25%) said they didn’t spend any of their marketing budgets on YouTube. In Q1 of this year, that percentage fell to 15%. A year ago, 12% of agency pros said their clients spent nothing on YouTube marketing. Six months ago, that percentage rose to 27% before hitting nearly a third (32%) in Q1 2024.

Interestingly, although brand spending on YouTube is increasing overall, Digiday’s survey found that the largest percentage of brands are spending just a little on the platform. Nearly a half of brand and retailer pros said they’ve spent a very small or small portion of their marketing budgets on YouTube in both Q1 2024 and Q3 2023 (48% said so in Q1 and 49% said so six months earlier).

The agency pros who said their clients don’t spend anything on YouTube marketing accounted for the largest percentage of that group of marketers in Q1 of this year. But those who said their clients spend a moderate portion of their budget on YouTube came in a close second, with 30% of agency pros saying this.

Considering that more agencies are saying their clients are leaving YouTube out of their marketing spend than in the past, it makes sense that Digiday’s survey found that the largest percentage of agency pros said their biggest challenge on YouTube is a lack of budget. Just under a quarter (24%) said that lack of budget is their biggest challenge on the platform.

In comparison, cost of media is the biggest challenge for brands and retailers on YouTube. The same percentage of brand and retail pros (24%) told Digiday that cost of media is their biggest challenge on the platform. Lack of budget is also a concern among 21% of brands and retailers, making it the second-biggest challenge, according to Digiday’s survey, followed by lack of resources and content demands (18% of brands and retailers said this was their biggest challenge on YouTube).

For agencies, lack of resources and content demands account for the second-biggest challenge on YouTube, with 18% of agency pros saying this is their biggest concern on the platform. And cost of media, lack of commerce options and brand safety concerns came in third, with 15% of agency pros saying each was their biggest challenge on YouTube.

https://digiday.com/?p=542749

More in Marketing

Cannes Briefing: Sports hold full court at Cannes Lions 2024

Sports isn’t just a sideshow at Cannes Lions 2024, it’s taking center stage.

HR and marketing are more connected than they used to be

A highly competitive job market and the rise of employer branding have necessitated a closer collaboration between HR and marketing.

Digiday Podcast at Cannes: Inside Instacart’s plans to make every surface shoppable with CMO Laura Jones

Instacart is on a mission to make every surface shoppable, pitching that to advertisers at this year’s Cannes Lions festival.