It was never supposed to happen and yet it did, again. HP, Mars, Diageo, Mondelez, Adidas, and Deutsche Bank pulled advertising from Google’s YouTube right before Black Friday, the most critical shopping day of the year, after the brands’ ad campaigns appeared alongside videos featuring “children and sexualized comments.”
It appears that we are looking at two issues here: placement of the ads next to the misclassified content and the poor job to identify and promptly remove offensive comments. To make things worse, Google had assured the brands that it had “effective policies in place” to tackle offensive content after a fallout earlier this year. I suppose the policies are not so effective. YouTube’s under pressure to do more policing and give more control to advertisers, promising faster responses to flagged videos.
Leaving aside what it means to Google’s bottom line, what is out there left for the brands? Buying into the next round of Google’s promise to fix the issue is naive (and I’m sure the brands now that). Google’s algorithms already mistakenly block a lot of legitimate content (false positives), driving away legitimate content creators and their audience. The algorithms will not be perfect, not for a while, and manually screening each video is too burdensome even for a giant like Google.
I suggest advertisers begin paying closer attention to where their ads are served and who views them. Being selective with publishers and verifying ads may prove wise and might even put a dent into the massive $16 billion dollar ad tech fraud per year.
Ad verification notably suffers from publishers serving different content to the brands vs everyone else. Once publishers learn that they are being verified by the advertisers, they can — and often do — serve more appropriate content with the brands’ ads. Essentially, advertisers need to look and behave like an average user to ensure that the verification process is effective. To do so, the brands can use business proxies (such as Strada.io) to execute verification from residential and mobile IP addresses, which cannot be recognized as associated with the brands by the publishers, and replace their digital fingerprints.
While it may only be the beginning, there is hope that these efforts will lead to a cleaner and more appropriate ad tech market.