YouTube’s Legacy: The Rise of the Consumer Creator

Last week marked the 10-year anniversary of the first video uploaded to YouTube

Whether that feels like just yesterday or forever, and honestly it feels like both, it’s hard to imagine a world without YouTube and its stars. YouTube has risen from its humble beginnings to a business so big that it's as much a household word as any brand that has been around for generations. One billion unique monthly users? Yes. Six billion hours of video watched each month? Yes. Over 100 hours worth of video uploaded each minute. Yes. All, yes. 

Dominance in every way of the online video space is even a huge understatement. YouTube hasn’t only drawn massive audiences, it has become an arena for creating stars that often dwarf those being produced by Hollywood. Michelle Phan was one of the earliest YouTube adopters to find fame on the platform. Over the past seven years, she has uploaded more than 300 beauty tutorials and her more than six million subscribers and almost one billion video views have made her a star in every sense of the word. Most interesting thing about her? She put herself out there and the people made her a star. No middleman required.

Interesting parallel to this success story is the fact that we launched one of the first large-scale consumer User Generated Content (UGC) campaigns with Doritos Crash the Super Bowl in 2007. The creative brief was simple: create a 30-second ad celebrating your love for Doritos for a chance to have it air during the Super Bowl. Pretty much in the spirit of all things YouTube.

And the people liked it. Nine years later, that consumer love has generated:

  • 32,000+ Doritos ads created by consumers
  • A 6-month engagement program with consumers every year (submission phase, finalist phase, voting phase, reveal on Super Bowl)
  • $6MM+ in grand prize money awarded
  • Last year, the winning consumer won $1MM and a job on the set of Avengers
  • Submissions from 31 countries
  • #1 ad in USA Today Ad Meter three times
  • Top 5 ad all 9 Years per USA Today Ad Meter
 New creators, new opportunities. Awarding this year's Crash The Super Bowl winner.

New creators, new opportunities. Awarding this year's Crash The Super Bowl winner.

You could say our Doritos consumers seized the moment and have given Madison Ave a run for its money.  The dawn of YouTube and Doritos Crash the Super Bowl fundamentally altered the creators and consumer equation, with technology being the great equalizer. Every person with a smartphone is a potential creator. 

The old “one percent rule” assumed that only one percent of an online audience creates content, while an additional 9 percent modify or edit the content, and the remaining 90 percent consume it. It’s called an old rule for a reason: we’ve been in the midst of a major paradigm shift. The internet is becoming more participatory, thanks to the development of democratizing tools; and this has paved the way for a lot more than one percent to be curators and creators.

Ten years ago, creating a webseries that would get millions of viewers without a significant investment was virtually Impossible. You would need to build a site, configure video players, host and serve content, then begin to work on cultivating an audience. Today, a little desire and a smartphone is all one needs to become a content creator. YouTube (and likely many more to come after it) has eliminated the barriers that used to come between creative inspiration, content and distribution.  

As someone who has seen firsthand what eliminating those barriers can accomplish, I actively support it as a marketer; however, more importantly, I am truly inspired and excited by it as a consumer.