[By Cianna Wilkinson]

If you found yourself in a haze of confusion after watching the YouTube 2016 Rewind video, it may be time to do some catching up. Hundreds of new creators, internet memes, and viral videos spawned across the video-sharing platform this year. YouTube Rewind is a yearly feature created to showcase popular YouTube content creators from around the world, viral videos, memes, and serves as a cultural recap of the year. The campaign has the right measures in place, such as a prime spot on YouTube’s home page and millions of dollars in free advertising through YouTuber signal boosting.

It is one of YouTube’s biggest annual public relations campaigns, particularly through the amount of reach and social interaction it gains. The 2015 YouTube Rewind video generated 109 million views and just under half a million comments. The 2016 version features some of the platform’s top creators, including Ingrid NilsenDan Howell, Phil Lester, and ConnorFranta, and hundreds of others that you may not recognize. The main video directs viewers to a dedicated Rewind 2016 website, which explores the references, memes, and creators in the video. It encourages users to explore some of YouTube’s additional features such as 360 video, and Google Cardboard.

The video makes reference to multiple brands, such as Pokemon Go, Mad Max: Fury Road, Vans, Game of Thrones, and Street Fighter… just to name a few. But what happens if your brand gets into a YouTube Rewind video? It solidifies the brand as a cultural icon during that year, and will likely be viewed by millions of people. For example, Damn Daniel, featuring Daniel Lara, his white Vans shoes, and his enthusiastic narrator Joshua Holz, reached over 50 million views in February. Suddenly, Vans were the hottest shoe on the market, and everyone was back at it again with the white Vans.

PR professionals – stay up to date with the latest social media trends! Each trending hashtag or viral video may present an opportunity for your brand to jump on the bandwagon.

YouTubers, Instagrammers, and digital influencers alike have become vessels for product placements and brand ambassadorships, with no sign of this trend slowing down any time soon. These social media stars have become celebrities in their own right, with loyal followings dedicated to a niche style of content they may produce. They have become valuable resources for public relations professionals, and have the potential to grow brand awareness at an exponential rate. Brands are also looking to integrate their product into YouTube videos in an organic way, rather than simply showcasing the product in a sponsored advertisement. Examples include a tour of the Lush Cosmetics factory, a cashless adventure across the globe with Paypal, and a collaborative charity fundraising project called Project for Awesome.

As a result, #prsample, #spon, and #ad have assumed residence in many YouTuber’s description boxes. Ever watched an unboxing video? There’s a good chance the YouTube personality was sent PR samples of a product in exchange for a review. These partnerships between PR firms and digital influencers is becoming increasingly commonplace, and almost every one of the influencers featured in the YouTube Rewind video has participated in at least one brand deal.

 Read more about #YouTubeRewind 2016, and watch last year’s video