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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Instagram vs. YouTube: Who will win the digital ad war?

October 15, 2018 | By Todd Krizelman, CEO—MediaRadar @ToddKrizelman

YouTube is currently the most popular platform for video content. So, it’s no surprise that when Instagram released IGTV, its stand-alone app for long-form vertical video, everyone’s first reaction was to compare the two. And YouTube pretty much always came out on top.

However, in the past year, YouTube has been under fire for brand safety issues. In fact, there was a point when 250 brands stopped advertising on YouTube at the same time in order to protect their assets and brand image. To date, many advertisers still believe that YouTube has done a poor job of preventing its advertisers’ brand safety issues, even though they have gotten better at the response.

This led us to host a panel discussion on October 4th to ponder a key question: With YouTube in its most vulnerable state, and given its ongoing brand safety concerns, is it IGTV’s time to steal advertisers away?

The discussion, entitled “Instagram TV vs. YouTube: Who Will Win the War?”, was moderated by Kerry Flynn of Digiday. The panel  consisted of five advertising experts: Kaydee Bridges, VP of Digital & SM Strategy at Goldman Sachs, Elijah Harris, VP, and Head of SM, US at Reprise Digital, Noah Mallin, Managing Partner at Wavemaker North America, Brittany Richter, VP and Head of SM, US at iProspect, and myself.

The discussion offered three key takeaways:

1. YouTube still wins the popular vote.

The majority of panelists agreed that brands interested in video content should be on YouTube rather than Instagram’s IGTV. They pointed out YouTube’s benefits: It’s cheaper, long-form content performs better on YouTube, and it’s better for sharing. Elizabeth Richter, iProspect’s Head of U.S. Social Media, offered a different point of view, arguing that Instagram may work for some brands: “If a brand is struggling with their messaging, or just getting started, Instagram’s IGTV is best because they can experiment with different brand messages and see how consumers respond,” she commented.

2. Instagram’s IGTV is transforming and expanding in promising ways.

For Elijah Harris of Reprise Digital, the early IGTV experience was underwhelming. Its focus was to share long-form content from those he followed on Instagram – something he didn’t enjoy. However, Harris added that the platform currently offers more opportunities worth exploring, raising his confidence in its potential for the future.

3. Instagram’s IGTV isn’t quite ready to compete with the big boys.

Elijah Harris suggested that, if it wants to compete with YouTube, IGTV needs meta tags and better discoverability. To go up against Snapchat, he added, it needs curated content and multi-channel network (MCN) participation.

Noah Mallin of Wavemaker believes that, to compete with Snapchat, IGTV needs “breakout content,” even suggesting that it might fill the void left by the demise of Vine. (“I’m still mourning it,” he confessed). Mallin added that YouTube is “stuck in desktop mode” and must quickly adapt for mobile users.

The consensus was clear. IGTV wants to be the most popular platform for video content. However, it still has a lot of growing up to do. Perhaps Instagram will take note of our panel discussion, and we’ll see a more mature IGTV before we know it.

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