How Vevo used original content and nostalgia to bridge the pandemic video shortfall
On the 40th anniversary of MTV's debut, we learn how Vevo reaches a global audience with performances and nostalgia as well as new music videos.
“Video killed the radio star” sang The Buggles prophetically in the first music video broadcast on MTV. That was 40 years ago this year, and although radio stuck around it’s just become routine for us to expect video along with the audio.
Often enough the music videos we consume are delivered by Vevo, the leading global video network. “We have a presence on YouTube and a large CTV presence on more than 15 channels,” JP Evangelista told us. Evangelista is SVP Content, Programming and Marketing at Vevo, and the 40th birthday of music videos seemed a good time to find out more about Vevo’s business model and marketing strategy.
Many videos, many views. Vevo was created in 2009 through a partnership between two of the world’s largest record companies, Sony Entertainment and Universal Music Group. All its revenue comes from the ads that run against the videos and it has individual deals with the artists (via their record companies) who allow Vevo to distribute their content. “We can do programmatic advertising,” said Evangelista, “but we have a large sales force that engages in person-to-person sales.”
To say Vevo has a presence on YouTube is an understatement. The channel has almost 20 million subscribers. The Vevo catalog is mighty, featuring some half a million videos by 60,000 artists. “We get in excess of 300 billion views per year,” said Evangelista. Across the main social media channels, Vevo has a total audience of over 30 million.
That doesn’t mean Vevo has no need to market itself. The focus is on marketing to consumers, targeting by age and geo-location.
Moods and Rewind. Contextual targeting plays a role too. Vevo Moods is a product for advertisers which allows them to align their creative with appropriate videos. Using AI, Vevo analyzes the energy and tone of videos, tagging them as heartfelt, empowering, impassioned or fun.
Earlier this year, Vevo launched Vevo Rewind which facilitates alignment of ads against music from specific decades — another way of targeting audiences by generation. Videos from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s tend to be watched, said Evangelista, by the audience that grew up with the music. On the subject of nostalgic video consumption: “I don’t think it’s necessarily new behavior,” said Evangelista, “but it was heightened during the pandemic. We have the content sets and the experience to attract views to those sets. Its ’80s channels on CTV are currently seeing about three million views per week.
The pandemic drives changes. Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk, recently described CTV as the most effective vehicle for advertising ever created. “I personally think that premium video will represent more than half of what will soon (a couple of years) be the trillion dollar pie that is global advertising,” he said.
Evangelista agrees. “It’s 100% how we see things going. We sell more and more CTV inventory. It’s the biggest shift of the last few years.” And it’s yet another trend driven in part by the pandemic. Vevo derived about 4% of its revenue from CTV pre-pandemic; by the end of this quarter that will have risen to 50%.
The pandemic presented some other challenges. Just as movie and TV sets emptied almost overnight for safety reasons, there was a sudden shortfall in traditionally produced new music videos. Vevo’s inhouse creative team worked actively with artists to develop their skills in self-shooting videos. When it became possible to re-open Vevo’s own studios (in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Hackney Wick in London), they began to develop original content assets.
Always On. “Always on. Never postponed. Never canceled,” was Vevo’s message in a world suddenly bereft of in-person concerts. It launched a series featured leading artists in live performance, but with no in-person audience. Ariana Grande, who has performed six times in the series, broke the record for any Vevo original content piece with her “pov” video which drew almost four million views on its first day of release.
Vevo also features up-and-coming artists in its DSCVR series and artists just breaking through with a major hit (Olivia Rodrigo, for example) in Vevo LIFT. Vevo actively cross-promotes artists from channel to channel and runs its own brief ads promoting premieres of original content.
Why we care. It seems the pandemic left no sector untouched when it came to driving or accelerating transformation. Vevo is familiar to most of us as just a very big music video distributor. Collect videos from record companies, push them to YouTube and other channels and run ads against them. A simple business model until new videos essentially went offline.
Vevo was able to draw on two kind of assets to fill — and more than fill — the gap. It had inhouse creative capabilities and studio space to create original content safely. And it had a vast trove of older videos which it smartly packaged into content sets aimed at particular demographics. It’s surely safe to predict that these will remain important elements of its business when the pandemic is finally in the rear view mirror.