Alexis Sitaropoulos, group marketing director of Contiki Holidays was addressing an audience of marketing professionals at Marketing’s Youth Marketing Conference in London.
He referenced his firm’s RoadTrip campaign, which last year drove more than 20% of traffic to the company website in the wake of its YouTube-powered push.
Watch: YouTubers and advertisers talk about becoming famous on the platform and their work with brands
Sitaropoulos explained how Contiki recruited a number of YouTubers with high levels of influence among the brand's target demographic to go on a road trip across Australia, paid for by the brand. The YouTubers then posted videos of their experiences to their own millions of followers.
The YouTubers were given a "free licence to do what they wanted to do", Sitaropoulos said, in terms of what content they would post on their channels.
He stressed that if brands are to tap into the reach and influence of professional YouTube content creators, then they must relinquish control and "trust" the YouTubers.
Sitaropoulos said: "Understand that they know their audience better than we do."
The campaign to date had garnered 26 million views on YouTube, and 400,000 "organic" views of Contiki content, and had recorded more than 1.4 million likes and 100,000 comments. Contiki is repeating the RoadTrip campaign this year.
Sitaropoulos, who described YouTubers as "the new celebrities", said: "A lot of people think of YouTube as a place for funny cat videos, but it’s not the case anymore. It’s more about content producers than viral videos, with a lot of long-form content."
Contiki is one of the world’s leading youth travel companies, targeting the under-35s.