Why Google’s Ad Problem Won’t Go Away

Why Google’s Ad Problem Won’t Go Away

Video

A few years ago, right when I was starting out, I built keywords and wrote ad copy for a big agency. During this time, I learned about “brand protection negatives,” or the phrases that the agency’s client did not want the brand associated with — hence the “brand protection” name. That list of negative keywords was outrageous and would make many people blush. Whenever I need a good laugh, I took a look at this list and wondered about the person who had to sit down and think of these completely inappropriate, NSFW phrases.

I thought about those brand protection negatives earlier this year when Google found itself in hot water as businesses discovered that their advertisements were appearing alongside inappropriate content in the Google Display Network, most notably on YouTube. Big brands such as Starbucks and Walmart pulled their advertising. Reportedly the boycott has cooled off. But the problem of ads appearing alongside inappropriate content on YouTube is not going away. The risk remains real: YouTube is vulnerable.

Context

For context, let’s look at a few revealing statistics:

  1. YouTube reaches over 1 billion users (1/3 of all people on the internet)
  2. YouTube can be navigated in more than 76 different languages (95 percent of the internet population)
  3. There are 300 hours of video uploaded every minute.

The staggering 300 hours of video uploaded every minute results in lot of content flooding YouTube (432,000 hours per day or 157,680,000 hours per year). When one of these videos is uploaded to YouTube, it is put through an editorial process that labels it as G, PG, Teen, or Mature as well as a variety of other groupings (Police/Crime, Acts of Warfare or Violence, Social Issues, Religion, etc.). But it can take some time for Google’s reviewers to complete that process.

Google Has a Problem

The sheer volume of videos that posted on YouTube is reason alone why Google’s problems are far from over. Google reviewers can’t keep up with the number of hours of videos uploaded. As a result, the review process is, to a degree, automated — which results in videos being mislabeled or missing a label. In addition, reviewing and approving a video also makes it possible for the video to qualify for monetization (via the YouTube Partner Program), meaning that the video may accept advertising. Currently, YouTube requires a YouTuber to have 10,000 lifetime views to monetize their YouTube channel. Now, that may seem like a lot of views, but it’s a lifetime view count, which means I can create 10 videos that each get 1,000 views, 20 videos that get 500 views apiece, 50 videos that get 200 views apiece, and so on. Once that 10,000-view count is hit, all channel videos begin to be monetized.

The lax reviewing standards coupled with a fairly easy monetization process can lead to some unfortunate situations, as the following example shows. In March, James Dean of The Times tweeted a troubling image:

In this example, an Oracle image ad was placed over a video for an extremist group. Obviously, as part of the brand safety process I mentioned at the beginning, Oracle would want this type of video excluded. But why did this video specifically qualify as part of the monetization process? The answer: tough to say. In some instances, videos are uploaded and disapproved because of a single word in the video title (e.g. “dead” or “death”) but in other cases, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, a video may have a racial slur in the title or description and still get approved. What’s ironic — and probably should have been expected — is that once these stories began to pop up back in March, YouTube went to the extreme and began demonetizing large amounts of content without any warning — and in some cases prematurely.

A Flawed Process

Clearly, if YouTube is going to monetize a video, they need to be more vigilant as to where those dollars originate. Essentially, in the example from James Dean, YouTube made money off a video that supports terrorism. How did that video get monetized? How did the reviewers not catch that? When there are so many hours of video and so much money involved, not to mention YouTube’s belief in free speech, it’s easy to understand why videos such as these slip through the cracks.

Google Goes to Extremes

YouTube went to the extreme when it came to demonetizing videos. For example, consider the case of Real Women, Real Stories, created by Matan Uziel. The goal of his channel is to give women the opportunity to give voice to their stories of survival from trauma; ranging from physical abuse to sex trafficking. This channel is a noble endeavor of survival and resolve, if ever there was one. Uziel uses the funds from ads on the channel to direct and produce future videos. But, one day, out of nowhere, all funds ceased because his videos got caught up in the demonetization process that YouTube began. His videos don’t support hate speech (just the opposite in fact). But nonetheless, the content addressed a subject that Google didn’t want on YouTube. Uziel has seen ad revenue slowly come back as the YouTube algorithm “learns where they should show ads, and where they should not” says Jamie Byrne, a director of enterprise at YouTube.

The examples I have cited represent just two instances out of thousands, maybe even millions that occur daily. We have given YouTube (and Display networks in general) the benefit of the doubt over the years because “it’s a new product,” “it’s not a science,” or “it’s difficult to monitor.” But, if Google is rolling out a product that can track brick-and-mortar purchases at your nearest Wendy’s back to your double-bacon cheeseburger search, then Google needs to find a consistent and responsible way to protect brands from advertising on videos that push violence, hate speech, or any other topic that goes against a company’s corporate belief.

But, we need to remember that YouTube would have to hire more than 75,000 employees to watch video for 40 hours a week to manually review every minute of every video uploaded. That scenario is unrealistic. So, advertisers, as well as consumers, need to be aware that Google’s ad problem will never go away.

Image source: videoadvertisingnews.com

Digital Video Advertising Outshines TV

Digital Video Advertising Outshines TV

Video

Digital video is hotter than ever for brands. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau Video Ad Spending Study, advertisers are spending on average more than $9 million annually on digital video advertising (a 67-percent increase from two years ago), and video represents more than 50 percent of their digital/mobile ad spending.

The IAB report is based on a survey of brands and agencies across a wide spectrum of industries ranging from automotive to telecom. Most of the respondents plan to invest more into both digital and mobile video over the next 12 months. Many will fund their investments into video by reallocating their television budgets, and most respondents believe that original digital video content reaches an audience that TV cannot reach. They also prefer video because of the quality of the environment and overall effectiveness of reaching an audience.

These findings don’t surprise me. My own client experiences suggest that advertisers are also drawn to the measurability and audience segmentation possible with digital video compared to TV advertising. As I wrote on the KeywordFirst blog, not only can you target customer segments with online video, but you can see how many of them interacted with your site, subscribed to your YouTube channel, made a purchase, or watched another of your YouTube videos (other than the ad you just showed them). Not only can advertisers see the different interactions of an audience, but they can also see how much of the video ad that they watched.

To maximize the value of online video, I suggest that advertisers:

  • Develop an interactive video strategy tied to your branding goals and aligned with the behavior of your customers. Map out your customers’ journeys throughout the digital world and figure out how interactive video will best move your customers from the awareness to consideration to purchase and retention. In the healthcare profession, for instance, medical providers use interactive video to educate potential patients on topics such as wellness care, which raises awareness for providers when customers are researching topics such as proper dieting or exercising.
  • Understand the nuances of using video — both paid and organic — across different platforms. “Video” can mean many things to different brands, ranging from a bumper ad on YouTube to a Facebook Livestream. According to a recently released report from think tank L2, video formats provide different advantages depending on what platform you use. Instagram content provides higher levels of engagement compared to other platforms, Facebook provides incredible reach, and YouTube is better for longer-form video content that lends itself to episodic storytelling.

In addition, it’s important to stay on top of this fast-changing format. The different platforms are constantly introducing new features as they attempt to gain an advantage on each other, and advertisers that stay in the know will seize a first-mover advantage. On the KeywordFirst blog, we regularly discuss how to succeed with video (as shown by this example about livestreaming). Other useful resources include the blogs from platforms such as YouTube and third-party content from institutes such as the IAB. How are you capitalizing on interactive video?

Image source: Marketing Land

Three Women Who Define Success in Digital Marketing

Three Women Who Define Success in Digital Marketing

Marketing

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, KeywordFirst has taken the time to appreciate all the women that have etched their mark in history. We have also looked to the women who are currently making history in our industry, digital marketing. The women detailed below can be looked at as pioneers in the evolving world of digital, and their contributions help us daily to grow our techniques and mold our future strategy.

Leslie Berland

As Twitter’s first CMO Leslie Berland faced the difficult challenge of branding Twitter in a way that would appeal to the masses, but also satisfy their user base that already loved the platform. In 2016, she led a rebrand of Twitter as not only a social media engine but also a news source. She brought a new perspective to Twitter and challenged marketers to create content that differs from our normal social approaches. In turn, her major focus on the “live” nature of Twitter has allowed marketers to create instant posts that can be a quicker gauge on new advertising initiatives. We are excited to see Berland’s efforts taking hold and look forward to all future progress she makes not only with the engine, but with women in leadership roles.

Marina Cockenberg

Marina Cockenberg, the director of Digital for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, was recently named in Forbes list of 30 under 30 in marketing advertising. She has transformed the way a nightly show interacts with their audience by live tweeting the program each evening. Her work has garnered an Emmy for Outstanding Creative in interactive media and has helped grow their digital audience from 5 million to 32 million. Her witty interactions and content have created a new style and form for TV shows to delve into the world of social media, which we find fascinating. With YouTube views of late night material surging, a rebirth of this content has occurred. Cockenberg’s work has helped transform the space she is in, and for doing so we applaud her.

Susan Wojcicki

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has paved the way for future female digital marketers. Wojcicki was one of Google’s first employees and at that time even housed some of the operations in her own garage. In 1999 she became Google’s first marketing manager and continued to make influential strides with the company. From there she was promoted to senior vice president of Advertising & Commerce where she led the product advertisement and analytics for notable advertising products such as AdWords, AdSense, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics. These tools have now become gospel for any digital advertiser. However, Wojcicki didn’t stop there and urged her superiors to consider purchasing YouTube, which led to its ultimate acquisition. Now YouTube is valued at an estimated $70 billion, and Wojcicki oversees the entire development of the platform. She truly sailed in unchartered territory, and her work has inspired all of us in digital marketing.

There are many more women making huge strides in our field including in our own office. We value all of their contributions and celebrate them not only in this month but every month of the year. Our team is energized by such strong female role models for us to look to for inspiration. We foresee many more advancements in the very near future.