The YouTube Ad-pocalypse: when your company logo is embedded next to hate videos

June 14th, 2017
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Agitation around YouTube advertising

In the past few years, digital companies like Google and Facebook have created huge advertising and marketing technologies by promising to make marketing easier and more effective than traditional media such as print or television.

This year the amount spent on internet advertising globally is forecasted to surpass television advertising for the first time. But a global controversy at the Google subsidiary YouTube, has raised questions about the real efficiency of digital advertisement, when ads from major brands appeared alongside inappropriate and unacceptable content – including videos by jihadist and neo-Nazi groups.

Since this incident numerous brands have noticed that their ads are also placed alongside videos that broadcast offensive content. As a consequence YouTube is now facing an advertising boycott. Big brands including L’Oréal, Coca Cola, Volkswagen, KIA and many more have cancelled all their advertising campaigns on YouTube. As a result, Google may suffer financially. In addition to the fact that no brand wants to be associated with offensive messages there is another main point of criticism. By placing advertising in extremist videos the creators of extreme content are also getting a share of the revenue!

Weakness of programmatic advertising

Advertisements on YouTube are based on the so-called programmatic advertising. YouTube selects the specific advertising content that has been embedded in the clips at predetermined points according to an automatic system. But it turned out that the algorithm that automatically allocates the ads that run before or after videos was not distinguishing videos that are brand-friendly and those that are not. Obviously the advertising boycott exposed to the world the weaknesses of programmatic advertising, because large networks make it difficult to control where ads are displayed.

Google has now apologized for the problems. YouTube would like to keep the advertisements of large customers away from untrustworthy content. Google promised it would be giving brands more direct control over and insight into where ads were placed on YouTube or third-party sites. The company also promised new tools like artificial intelligence-powered filtering that would detect offensive speech and other contents within a video. But still, as 300 hours of video material are uploaded per minute on YouTube the company should not be able to control all its content.

The issue with control

Against this background, the call for more regulation is pressing. But is it not precisely the almost limitless freedom of the world wide web that has created new and disruptive business models and gave us so many content creation opportunities? YouTube should remain a platform on which anyone can upload videos. Of course, this should not lead to the point that we are tolerating offensive content made by extremists. The conscious discussion with digital content is more important than ever with the main goal that self-regulation within the networks could work.
For the future new solutions are needed. YouTube has become more and more an advertising platform by losing its identity being a video platform and the users are the mourners. During these days we have so many technologies such as 360° or VR to create inspiring content. So why don’t we take our chance and start to shift the budgets investing into more content creation? Advertisers have been humiliated by the ad-pocalypse and the customer’s trust in the affected brands has suffered. At JIN we believe that trust is a compulsory condition to generate influence… If brands want to rebuild trust with their customers, it’s time to act !
— By Jan Camilo Huiskamp (Claudio Beckenbauer)

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June 14th, 2017

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