By  on May 29, 2007

If you want to talk to young consumers these days, you'd better be on YouTube. And you'd better be funny.

Brands ranging from Gap to Victoria's Secret, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Nike and Adidas are increasingly finding a home on YouTube, MySpace and similar sites, where their videos, commercials, behind-the-scenes footage and fashion shows are posted for free. These sites have the potential to transform the way fashion brands reach their current and future customers since hundreds of thousands of people can view a single spot — with humorous ones scoring the most hits.

"You've got to fish where the fish are," said David Verklin, chief executive officer of Carat North America, the largest independent media services company. "We've always had a hard time reaching young men and women on TV, except for MTV. Particularly teenagers — they're not doing a ton of reading. The younger market was a bit diffused. They're spending enormous amounts of time online.

"If you catch a young consumer, it goes out virally into the community at speeds and sizes that boggle the imagination," said Verklin.

Traditional media such as TV, print and radio still dominate the advertising world, but there's a growing movement toward online ads, as evidenced by the recent deals by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL to scoop up online advertising companies. Online ads account for 5.8 percent of the $285.1 billion spent on advertising in the U.S. last year, according to eMarketer, a research firm, and the online share is expected to rise to 10.2 percent of the estimated $315.5 billion to be spent on advertising in 2010.

The sheer fact that young people can decide for themselves what videos they want to watch and can share it with their friends helps drive YouTube's popularity.

"YouTube is the new TV because it's on demand," said Marc Gobé, chairman and ceo of Desgrippes Gobé, a brand design group, and author of "Brand Jam." "It's the future of communication. People don't want to be told what to watch, and they want ideas to be shared. They want to pick and choose and not be forced to watch things. YouTube becomes a campfire where everybody wants to hear stories, find out stories and share stories. It attracts millions."

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