What would you buy with $100mm?
“Self-Portrait without Beard” by Vincent Van Gogh?
How about the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction? (You could buy 5 of them if more than one existed.)
Why not $100mm worth of YouTube ads?
That’s precisely what 14 companies did in 2021 when they combined to spend nearly $2.7b on YouTube ads (27% of YouTube ad buys in 2021).
You can probably guess a few of them.
Let’s take a look.
Amazon’s a big fan of video advertising.
In 2021, the one-time book store turned we’ll-sell-you-anything-on-the-planet store, spent 43% of its ad dollars on videos, of which 99% went to YouTube.
In 2021, Amazon increased its YouTube ad investment by 124% YoY, spending more than $1mm on ads across 23 content categories, including Music, Gaming, Society & Culture, and Kids & Movies.
- Music channels: 52% of ad buys
- Gaming channels: 9% of ad buys
- Society & Culture channels: 7% of ad buys
- Kids & Movies channels: 6% of ad buys
- Remaining channels: 3% of ad buys
Amazon spent 47% of its ad dollars to promote Retail products and services, including Amazon.com, Prime, Amazon Pharmacy, Audible and Woot.
Its Retail category ad spend was up 86% in 2021.
Outside of Retail, Amazon spent 30% of its dollars on Media & Entertainment services, including Amazon Prime Video—an increase that undoubtedly comes from its battle for OTT supremacy.
The last sizable chunk of spend went to Tech products like Alexa, Halo, Fire TV and Ring.
Specifically, Amazon increased spending on Alexa and Halo by 78% and 171%, respectively.
It’s worth noting that Amazon spent 29% less on Fire TV, which flies in the face of its increased promotion of Prime Video and comes at an odd time given the launch of an all-new line of Fire TV devices in Q3.
Last year, Apple increased its ad spend on YouTube by 43%—all of which goes to the video giant.
Although Apple allocated more than $1mm to 15 content channels, the majority of that—67% of the company’s YouTube ads—went to Music channels.
Outside of Music channels, Apple spent 6% of its ad dollars on Sports channels, while the remaining ads went to channels that each received 4% or less of its spending.
What did Apple promote on these channels?
Apple divided it between Media & Entertainment (Apple TV+ shows), Technology (phones, tablets, computers and accessories) and Retail (4% of overall spend), which includes Apple Books and the Apple App Store.
Unsurprisingly, Apple spent heavily on Consumer Electronics, the top category under Tech in 2020 and 2021, representing 96% and 98% of this category’s spend.
Within the Consumer Electronics category, Apple increased spending YoY on everything except Smart Watches, which it spent 41% less on in 2021 than it did the year before.
File this one under the “we’re not surprised” section: Mobile Phone was the top category, coming in at 27% of Tech spend in 2021; the investment was just shy of 195x of the ad buys in 2020.
To the same tune, Laptop Computer and Tablet Computer ad buys were up YoY by 363% and 150%, respectively.
Capital One increased its investment in YouTube ads by nearly 315% YoY in 2021, which accounted for 99% of all its video spending and 30% of all digital spending.
The large increase is likely an indication that the company is shifting its ad strategy.
Unlike other major players who spent big on dozens of content categories, Capital One focused on fewer:
- Music channels: 46% of ad buys
- Tech channels: 18% of ad buys
- Food channels: 8% of ad buys
- Remaining channels: 5% or less of ad buys
Q2 and Q3 saw 15 to 18x times the ad buys than the previous year during the same period, which makes sense given the time of year and all the big consumer pushes that Capital One wants to take part in.
Capital One continued to spend leading up to the holidays. In Q4, spending increased by nearly 175% from the previous year.
So far in 2022, Capital One has spent 200% and 10% more YoY in January and February, respectively.
Ad investment on YouTube for Expedia’s brands, including Trivago, HotWire, Hotels.com, Expedia and Vrbo, increased by almost 200% YoY as it invested over $1mm on 22 content categories.
- Music channels: 32% of ad buys
- Kids channels: 13% of ad buys
- Society & Culture channels: 8% of ad buys
- Sports channels: 7% of ad buys
- Remaining channels: 6% or less of ad buys
When we look at Expedia’s spending on a brand-by-brand level, we get an interesting story.
On the one hand, Vrbo, Hotels.com and Hotwire all got substantial increases.
Vrbo, for example, saw a 300% YoY increase while Hotels.com and Hotwire saw 26x and 83x more ad buys than they did last year.
On the other hand, spending on Expedia and Trivago went down—Expedia spending went down by 40% YoY.
While we expected the increases to Vrbo, Hotels.com and Hotwire as the pandemic-induced hiatus (hopefully) ended, it’s a wonder why the company didn’t do the same for its other brands.
Gilead Sciences, which researches and develops antiviral drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and influenza, increased its YouTube ad investment by nearly 325% YoY in 2021.
That’s an increase worth noting under normal circumstances, but the story becomes even more intriguing when you consider that this represents 91% of the company’s total digital spend.
Said another way, Gilead Sciences essentially increased its total digital advertising budget by more than 300%, indicating a substantial shift in its strategy.
Gilead purchased at least $1mm in ads across 15 content categories:
- Music channels: 34% of ad buys
- Society & Culture: 17% of ad buys
- Gaming channels: 9% of ad buys
- Movies & Comedy channels: 8% of ad buys
- Remaining channels: 7% or less of ad buys
The company really began ramping up spend toward the end of the year.
In August, Gilead’s started investing at least 93% of its video ad buys to YouTube (compared to January 2021 when only 54% of its video investment was going to YouTube).
Gilead’s Q4 was the largest quarter and experienced almost 750% growth YoY, which is why we’re not surprised to see spending continue in 2022.
So far in 2022, ad spending is up 48% and 112% YoY in January and February, respectively.
The Over $100mm YouTube Ads Club
YouTube’s no stranger to having advertisers open their wallets in a big way.
Given the platform’s maturity, addressable audience and proven ad capabilities, the $100mm+ investments from companies like Amazon, Apple, Capital One, Expedia and Gilead Sciences will continue.
But that’s not to say other advertisers aren’t welcome.
In 2021, 18.3k companies promoted over 32k brands on YouTube, helping drive a 56% YoY growth in ad investment and bring total spending to close to $10b.
It’s clear that, while the “Over $100mm YouTube Advertising Club” puts you in impressive company, it’s not a card you must hold to get in the door.
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