More than a billion users watch YouTube each month, consuming over 6 billion hours of video. And yet, brands have largely failed to embrace YouTube as a unique innovation, instead insisting on treating the medium like TV, said industry leaders at Advertising Week.

“In a lot of respects, what’s happening in the industry is ‘I get it, it’s just television,’” said Bonin Bough, the VP of global media and consumer engagement at Mondelez International, during the “Video Today: Where Culture for Brands is Born” panel. “And the sad thing about that is that while it’s the fastest way for us as an industry to at least begin to mobilize that side, it actually discredits all of the value of these channels.”

Included in that value are “humongous” interactive opportunities, Bough said. Fellow panelist and YouTube sensation DJ Kaskade agreed.

“It’s about living in real time,” said DJ Kaskade. “Things are happening so fast. The message is always changing.” If brands hope to succeed, Kaskade and Bough emphasized, they have to be nimble enough to contribute to hot topics as they occur.

Honey Maid did just that in March when it launched a commercial featuring a diverse range of families—including a gay couple—spending time together, along with the message “This is wholesome.” The ad placed the company squarely in the middle of one of the nation’s hottest debates, and as a result, the video quickly earned more than 8 million views. Less than a month later, Honey Maid followed it with yet another video. Simply titled “Love,” the clip showed two artists forming the word “love” with all the negative responses the first ad created, then encircling the creation ten-fold with the positive feedback it generated. Sure enough, the effort yielded another 4 million views on YouTube.

If the industry hopes to reproduce results like these time and again, a revolution is needed, Bough said.

“We should probably flip the model. We should probably be shooting everything for [YouTube],” said Bough, instead of TV.

It’s an idea Carat Global President Doug Ray has been toying with for some time. Rather than starting with TV and letting content trickle down to digital, Ray suggests “flipping the stack” and putting digital video first, with TV acting merely as a “reach extender.”

The concept isn’t completely novel. In 2011, General Electric launched the web series “Focus Forward: Short Films, Big Ideas” at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Presented in partnership with the media company Cinelan, the project consisted of 30 three-minute behind-the-scenes looks at some of today’s leading scientists and innovators. And then there’s Red Bull. With 15 different shows ranging in subjects from surfing to struggling musicians, the energy drink is the indisputable leader of the digital-video trend.

Nevertheless, brands like these remain the exception to the rule. And that, says Dave Rosner, SVP of marketing for ZEFR, is a problem.

“We’re in an industry where brands and cultures collide and if you’re not participating and you don’t know what’s happening in culture,” Rosner said, “then you’re just missing it.”

Written by Tamarra Kemsley | Contently

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