We’ve all spent countless hours watching funny videos on YouTube. Most conversations revolve around the type of content we see through the platform; however, over the last week or so, YouTube seems to be in the negative light with a large section of its customer base — the multinational advertisers. So what seems to be causing the rift? Just to provide context, companies like Walmart, Pepsi, GSK and others have pulled their ads from the YouTube platform dealing it a major blow in not only bad publicity but millions of dollars in loss of revenue.
How it Started
About a year ago in the UK, the parent company, Google was one of the tech companies marked by Members of Parliament as failing to tackle extremist content. It was argued that these companies could and should do more to tackle the online propaganda used by these outfits.
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In February, however, The Times UK ran a story which looked in to the issue and found that despite Google investing heavily in trying to control the content, it has largely failed. More controversially though, it showed that YouTube was displaying well-known brands’ ads alongside extremist content. Needless to say the brands didn’t want association with such activities and have consequently pulled their ads from YouTube.
YouTube and parent company Google normally enjoy a good reputation, so the current scenario isn’t something they will be taking lightly. The fact that it has also hit them where it hurts — the bottom line, is a double-whammy. They need to restore the confidence in their customers, and do so fast.
For end users like us, we see YouTube as a video platform, but for Google, it is a means to generate advertising revenue, like most of their portfolio of companies. So whatever it does, it must do so quickly. The problem however, lies with how the ads are placed where they are.
For those unacquainted with ad placement, the objective is to place the ads in front of the advertiser’s target audience. The target is normally set by the advertiser, but Google will manage the ‘tracking’ of the ad placements. For instance, if you search for ‘shoes’ and go on to view some sites for new shoes, you will normally find that from that point on, you will start seeing shoe ads on other sites like YouTube. This is why Google ads are so popular for advertisers. The predicament for Google is to manage the placement of ads for a user without betraying the trust of it’s customers.
As ads are placed automatically based on several variables, and after calculating bids by advertisers, the algorithms will need to be revised.
However, not all is doom and gloom. Google has and continues to provide features that allow advertisers to choose types of videos which are ‘brand-safe’. This is supposed to ensure only the types of videos the brand chooses to be ‘safe’ are shown but clearly this isn’t working as well as it should be.
Google has a few options it could adopt so needs to go back to the drawing board to find a solution which is effective enough to win their clientele back. On the other hand, the current scenario comes as a wake up call for advertisers to request more transparency and train-up the advertising teams to ensure better placement of their ads. It won’t happen overnight, but hopefully Google can show that they’re happy to mend their ways in a relatively quick timeframe.
Featured image: Bloomberg News