WARC caught up with Debbie Weinstein – Vice President, YouTube and Video Global Solutions at Google – to talk about the rise of connected TV viewing, live shopping and shifting approaches to measurement.

What are the key trends that you’re seeing in the market at the moment?

We are spending a lot of time talking about what we call the ‘three S’s’ – streaming, shopping and Shorts. The dichotomy of streaming and Shorts is particularly interesting. Streaming, on the one hand, really took off during the pandemic, this behaviour of watching YouTube on a connected TV. That has not receded at all. We’re actually seeing 700 million hours of watch time every single day on a streaming device, which is huge. Most interestingly, 60% of that watch time is on content that is 21 minutes or longer. We also see viewing sessions on connected TV devices in more ‘lean back’ mode – the average viewing length is three hours. Shorts is at the total opposite end of the spectrum: it’s a mobile experience, and usually the content is shorter than a minute. In just three years, Shorts is now reaching over a billion and a half people every month.

And then there is the shopping dimension. YouTube has been a huge destination for shopping for as long as it’s existed – unboxing videos and beauty tutorials have long been a thing on YouTube. Last year, we started some pilots, where creators can tag products in the Merchant Feed and say they are featuring a brand’s product in their video, and someone can go and buy it straight from the video. Our Action [campaign format], which drives to an online conversion. A marketer can connect their video ad to the Merchant Centre and drive a shop right from the ad. We see much higher conversion rates, up to 60% higher, but at a lower price.

How do you advise brands to manage those three trends – long-form, short-form and commerce – as they converge?

We target the conversation based on who the marketer is, not everybody is ready for the shopping experience. It’s most relevant for people who have a Merchant Feed with us, which is not every category, obviously. For folks that are focused on the Merchant Centre, they’re very interested in what they can do to go into discovery mode on YouTube. On the CTV side, we’re seeing amazing performance in particular for upper funnel objectives. All the time I’ve been at YouTube, the conversation has been helping brands to think about YouTube in the context of the rest of video, and helping people to unpack why consumers choose to spend so much time with the content on YouTube. For me, CTV has really been the opportunity to have these worlds converge: traditional television and what people have loved about sight, sound and motion and storytelling, with the capabilities that digital marketing brought to bear around understanding who you’re actually putting your ad in front and the measurement capabilities.

The measurement point is interesting. How do you reconcile established methods of measuring TV with the approaches used in digital and mobile?

The industry is making good progress. It starts with everyone understanding the problem and then deciding that we can agree that a solution is needed. Nobody wants Google to provide the solution. They want the third-party, independent entities to provide the solution. We are very invested in a third-party ecosystem of measurement around our media. We’re doing really exciting work in the UK in particular, sponsored by ISBA. In the US, we’re very close to having capabilities launched with Nielsen that enable co-viewing, which is a key metric to underpin CTV, as it allows you to get to cross-media measurement across all the different players. TV has been measuring co-viewing since its origins – the expectation is that there is some percentage of time when multiple people [are] watching that piece of content. We’re emerging from a world where it was all about the impression and the individual, to a world that is about reach among the household. It’s a big convergence.

When you talk to brands about the bigger screen and that CTV experience, what advice do you have on creative and planning? Is that a shift from their previous approaches to YouTube?

I’d say there are a lot of commonalities. We have creative best practices – the ABCDEs of creative effectiveness on YouTube. You have to attract someone in the first five seconds, you have to show and say the brand, you have to connect with your audience, you have to direct them to do something. We recently completed an assessment of to what extent the ABCDEs apply [on CTV], because they were really built for mobile and skippable ads. We actually found they’re very similar. Executionally, there could be slight differences. But, in general, people are running the same creative and seeing great results. On Shorts, it’s too early to know. The categories of ABCDEs will still stand, just the executional details might be slightly different.

How about things like ad loads and the broader advertising experience – how different is YouTube’s approach to CTV from mobile?

We’re trying to innovate for each screen independently. The consumer expectation is different if you’re watching a 21-minute video versus a three-minute piece of content on your mobile device. We are always doing research on user experience. It’s super important to us, obviously, that people have great experience with ads. We are innovating in new ways. We will constantly be evolving what that experience looks like, and they probably will diverge over time to be somewhat different.

There’s a lot happening at the moment in OTT, around subscriber fatigue and demand for advertiser-funded video on demand. What are you hearing from marketers on this topic?

50% of all watch time of ad-supported video on connected TVs is actually on YouTube – that’s a stat that sometimes astounds people. The consumer is voting with his or her time and they’re choosing YouTube when they turn on their connected TV device. We recently published some really interesting research, trying to help marketers understand what it is that consumers are choosing to spend their time with when it comes to CTV experiences. What we find over and over again, whenever we research this question, is that it’s about the relevance of the content you can find on YouTube. It’s about relatable creators who look like me, who are a more diverse representative of the world today. It also speaks to the fact that the structure is not what’s important. Historically, this commissioner would be saying, ‘I need a piece of content that that looks like this and it has to be 22 minutes or 44 minutes.’ Content was built for a time clock that is no longer relevant.

What trends are you seeing in live streaming in the US and Europe, and how brands are getting involved with it?

Last [month] was the second Beauty Fest. Just as a small indicator of how far live shopping has come, even in the last year, when we did Beauty Fest 1.0, it was Derek Blasberg and lots of amazing beauty creators talking about trends and products with no actual link down to shopping. With 2.0, this year, we had huge integration of shopping, so you could not only go and learn about new products and how they were used, but you actually could buy the products right there in the event. Live shopping is honestly in its early days on YouTube, but it is something we are invested heavily in making sure it’s working for brands and for creators and for users. I’m super excited about where it’s going and you can expect to see more live shopping from us, not less, across the summer and ramping up into the holiday season. And it’ll be fun.