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NewFronts 2014: YouTube Showcases Google Preferred Lineup

In a wide-ranging, epic-length "Brandcast" pitch to NewFronts buyers Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden Theatre, YouTube put a bright spotlight on its Google Preferred strategy.

The new approach focuses consumer and advertiser attention on the top 5% of content creators on YouTube, complete with Nielsen-backed guarantees. Several Five Percenters appeared at the nearly two-hour event, ranging from Rainn Wilson's spiritualist outfit Soul Pancake to Vice Media to 18-year-old fashion designer/mall sensation Bethany Mota (whose channel has 5.4 million subscribers, more than Lady Gaga's).

Performances from Janelle Monae and Pharrell Williams also extended YouTube's streak of delivering strong musical acts to the NewFronts crowd.

Unlike other presentations in this packed week, there was less emphasis on new series or talent relationships. The goal appeared to be to simply shine a light on the content hiding, at least to some on Madison Avenue, in plain sight.

Frank Cooper, CMO, PepsiCo, took the stage to tout the company's 50% increase in spending on YouTube in the past year. Its "Uncle Drew" Pepsi Max spots garnered 52 million views. DigitasLBi followed to announce that it has signed the first agency deal with Google Preferred.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who has been in the job only since the start of the year, noted that three of the top 10 trending videos of 2013 were ads. In a relaxed set of opening remarks, she depicted YouTube as an all-around resource whose growth is tied to its ubiquity. "My parents always told me if I wanted to learn about something I should look it up in the encyclopedia," she said. "Today, people learn about the world by looking things up on YouTube."

The night also brought the first glimpse of DreamWorks TV, the new channel launching this summer. Robert Kyncl, head of content and business operations, noted a series of deals of late (including DreamWorks pickup of Awesomeness TV), which he said proved YouTube's viability. He said DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg "finally realized his dream of having a kids network. And he didn't do that on broadcast or cable. He did it on YouTube, because that's where his audience lives."