‘This will blow over quickly’: YouTube’s latest ad scandal is unlikely to hurt its bottom line
Just as controversies roll off Donald Trump, scandals don’t affect YouTube the way that many people hope they will.
YouTube is embroiled in another ad scandal, with advertisers freezing their buys over videos of children on the platform accompanied by obscene comments. Ad buyers say the controversy won’t lead brands to dial back their spending on the platform, though. Those that pull their ads are likely to return, and YouTube will continue to grow and wield control over video buyers.
“Brands say they care [about brand safety], but do they really?” said an ad buyer from an agency holding company, requesting anonymity out of concern of irritating Google. “History says they’ll be back and spending more.”
On Nov. 24, The Times of London reported that brand ads on YouTube were being served next to content and comments that exploited children. Particularly bothersome for brands was that ads were being served next to videos of children singing and dancing in their underwear on YouTube, commenters repeatedly left sexually suggestive comments on the videos and YouTube failed to boot the predatory accounts in a timely manner.
In response to this, brands like Mars, Lidl and Adidas pulled their ads off YouTube. YouTube declined an interview request, but said in a statement that it has shut down hundreds of accounts for making predatory comments and is “working urgently to fix this.”
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In March, brands like AT&T and Verizon took their ads off YouTube after the Times — the newspaper owned by Google enemy Rupert Murdoch that also kick-started YouTube’s most recent controversy — published an exposé that showed brand ads appearing in videos that promoted terrorism.
“When you are part of a monopolistic culture, [putting up with YouTube’s gaffes] comes with the territory, unfortunately,” said an exec of an independent ad agency requesting anonymity. “You don’t have a lot of control when they have all of the video views. I think brands will forgive YouTube and move on.”
Marcus Pratt, vp of tech at media-buying shop Mediasmith, said the blowback YouTube is receiving should remind advertisers that digital video doesn’t match TV’s quality or scale. Advertiser optimism about digital video has led demand to exceed supply. This trend leaves advertisers dependent on YouTube — one of the few places selling video inventory at scale — and it has driven publishers to pivot to video in a desperate attempt for ad dollars.
Even if some brands commit to their YouTube holdout for the long haul, it is next to impossible for an individual advertiser to make a dent in the platform’s ad business since it is designed to perpetually draw in buyers by the thousands. Brendan Gahan, founder of social agency Epic Signal, said one of his clients has yet to come back to YouTube after pulling out from the platform this summer, but that overall, his agency continues to put more money toward YouTube in each successive quarter.
The holding company ad buyer said the brouhaha won’t stop brands from pouring money into YouTube, but the protests still serve a purpose for buyers. After YouTube’s scandal earlier in the year, advertisers pressured the video platform into allowing more third-party measurement tags on its platform.
“This will blow over quickly,” the buyer said. “But brands should indeed make a lot of noise. It’s the only thing that forces YouTube to focus on fixing its problems.”
‘You’re not going to get it all right’: IBM CMO Michelle Peluso on managing through a crisis
As marketers manage another crisis, they are thinking about how to help their teams as well as how they should be advertising.
‘Stand for something’: As protests continue, tone-deaf influencer marketing is in the spotlight
Questions about diversity in influencer marketing, opportunism and the need for brands to get comfortable with influencers taking a stance on politics and racial issues are bubbling up now as this may be a moment of self-reflection for the influencer marketing community.
‘There isn’t a talent pipeline problem’: Confessions of a black advertising exec
In this edition of our Confessions series, in which we exchange anonymity for candor, we hear from a black media buyer who believes brands need to do more to support for Black Lives Matter and that agencies still haven't truly changed their hiring policies.
SponsoredVideo: Marketers discuss the future state of less interruptive in-stream ads
In a new video, experts from GumGum, The Martin Agency and Pinterest discuss the future of video advertising — and outline their vision for how video ads can be less disruptive.
Member ExclusiveDigiday Research: Over half of brands say they handle marketing ‘mostly’ with internal resources
Digiday’s quarterly benchmarking survey found that about 83% of marketers are managing their marketing either mostly in-house or completely in-house. That's up from the 55% of marketers six months ago who said the same.
Member Exclusive‘Our job is to sell’: Marketers, moving past coronavirus response, return to selling products
Marketers need to get back to the job at hand: Keeping the squeaky wheels of capitalism turning.