Is YouTube Advertising Safe for a Mid-Size Business?

11 Apr Is YouTube Advertising Safe for a Mid-Size Business?

youtube influencers

There has been a recent crisis with YouTube advertising over the past few weeks when advertisers have started to discover that the video ads they are buying through YouTube’s platform may not be as safe as they would expect.

The problem with YouTube’s programmatic ad placement capability is that the process is built to be almost infinitely scalable and require minimum human intervention. To date, YouTube has made the process so most videos on YouTube are eligible for advertising. This means that as an advertiser, your video could appear on any one of about 320 million videos. Historically, advertisers have used YouTube’s ad buying platform in an effort to target users within their target audience as the most cost effective rate possible. Unfortunately, this has led to an unintentional disregard for what content their ad is shown in front of.

Examples of this include that an ad for Mercedes ran next to a pro-ISIS video over 115,000 times. This video depicts an ISIS flag and an anti-aircraft gun. Another fine example is that an ad for HSBC appeared in front of a video from the “alt-right” on the topic of “Holocaust Amnesia Day.”

In response to these allegations, more than 250 brands including L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Audi, Volkswagen, Toyota and HSBC suspended their ad spend on YouTube.

YouTube has responded by taking steps to better police their inventory to ensure brands are able to still do sweeping ad buys to reach TV size audiences with ease. One of these policies is that they will no longer allow channels with less than 10,000 cumulative views to monetize their videos. Once a channel hits that threshold, they will undergo a review to ensure their content to date is safe for ads.

For now, brands are left to regroup and pick up the pieces on their own while they wait for YouTube to implement a proven, lasting solution.

While major ad agencies and tech firms are attempting to come up with a way for brands to execute the same buys on analyzed channels of whitelisted, clean inventory, we think this is an important time to take a larger step back and look at why are YouTube ads being handled the same as TV ads?

Brands and their agencies have gotten lazy under the guise of efficiency. Instead of taking a close look at what they are buying and ensuring it is the best fit for the brand, they have taken the approach of casting a wide net and hoping for the best. Essentially, they are leaning on third party ad platforms like YouTube’s to do their job for them.

If brands want to have full assurance that their ads are only being placed on completely safe content, there will need to be a human element at least partially involved. When brands stop seeking the most cost-efficient solution to the problem, they will begin to find more resource intensive, higher quality solutions that have been right in front of them the whole time.

An obvious solution is to flip the ad buying model from being one that’s reactive to negative content and excludes it after being discovered to a model that seeks out only clean content and builds a “whitelist” of historically clean publishers to advertise on. Omnicom Media Group is attempting to do just that for their clients. However, while this is a great solution for budgets spending millions of dollars on pre-rolls, it doesn’t suit smaller to medium sized advertisers with far smaller budgets.

The obvious solution for smaller brands is to take a step back from the automated ad buying process and work with YouTubers on a one-to-one basis. Not only does this solve the problem of ensuring every video is completely within brand standards, it can more importantly lead to a far tighter integration between the brand and the content they are sponsoring. This leads to far better results than just a banner or a pre-roll ad from the brand.

This raises the challenge of having to tackle the lengthy and involved process of identifying brand safe creators at scale while minimizing the time it takes to do so.

This is where a platform like InfluenceSTARS really shines. All the hard work of doing the channel identification and initial communication has been done by our team, leaving only the details of each specific campaign to be completed by the brand or their agents. InfluenceSTARS takes the guess work out of if content is safe and what kind of rate a YouTube channel is capable of commanding. Armed with this amount of information, smaller advertisers are able to make very well informed decisions in a streamlined fashion which allows them to conduct larger buys across more channels. More channels means more unique people getting introduced to their brand message.

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