May 1, 2014 8:50 AM EDT

2014 may well be remembered as the year YouTube got serious about courting advertisers. The video-sharing network is rolling out a bevy of new features this month in an effort to make its ad offerings more similar to television and lure lucrative marketing dollars from traditional media.

At its NewFronts presentation to advertisers in New York, YouTube formally announced a new ad program called Google Preferred, which will allow marketers to buy ads against the top 5% of YouTube content across various verticals such as food, fashion and comedy. The move is an attempt to create media scarcity on a platform that adds 100 hours of new video content every minute, and to allow marketers to show their commercials alongside premium content rather than cat videos. “It’s a limited set of the most popular, engaging and fast growing channels on our platform,” Margo Georgiadis, Google’s vice president of sales in the Americas, said at the event. Johnson & Johnson and Heineken have already signed up for the program, as has the ad agency DigitasLBI.

YouTube also announced that it will now offer audience guarantees to advertisers, ensuring that their ads reach a certain percentage of their target demographic. The video platform is also partnering with Nielsen to offer viewership data more similar to television metrics. Advertisers had complained that YouTube’s internal data was not verified by a third party such as Nielsen.

Though YouTube was once seen as a repository for home videos, marketers have a growing amount of clout on the platform. Three of the top 10 most-watched YouTube videos of 2013 were ads, company CEO Susan Wojcicki said. “The advertisements aren’t just advertisements,” she said. “They’re also content.”

YouTube generated an estimated $5.6 billion in ad revenue in 2013, according to the research firm eMarketer.


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