This article originally appeared in Campaigns and Elections.
By: Sean J. Miller
Digital Consultants Taking a Wait-and-See Approach to YouTube Controversy
Major corporations are continuing to pull their advertising from YouTube but some consultants say political marketers should consider a more measured approach.
The controversy over ad placement next to offensive content began in the U.K., but has been picking up steam in America with Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo and GM the latest big-dollar advertisers to announce they were “pausing” their YouTube ad spending. The growing boycott is estimated to cost Google $750 million in advertising revenue.
Concerns over ad placement aside, the moves could also pave the way for some companies to negotiate lower rates from Google, YouTube’s parent, which has kept the video streaming site as a walled garden not open to the digital ad exchanges.
“This is much more opportunistic for competitors to jump on Goggle than it is a problem for Google,” said JC Medici, president of L2 Media, a non-partisan digital firm. “If I’m Verizon, this is one of the best days for [my] digital advertising [division].”
Political marketers, meanwhile, don’t have the same leverage as big brands, and consultants warn it’s not as simple as just pulling ads.
Part of the reason for consultants’ reluctance has to do with their faith in their own diligence, and what they see as the proactive steps Google is taking to ensure ads aren’t placed next to racist content or videos that support terrorism or preach hate.
“An estimated 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube platform every minute. Accounting for each and every video becomes very difficult for the platform itself – and that’s why YouTube and Google must be diligent in constantly updating and strengthening its standards for inappropriate content that could potentially accompany advertising,” said Ashleigh Grant, who directs political accounts at IMGE, a GOP digital firm. “Google’s recent update to those standards that will now only allow advertising to show on verified creators instead of those who may impersonate channels is another step in the right direction.”
Still, Grant noted that it’s up to digital consultants to ensure their clients ads aren’t playing ahead of politically sensitive content.
For consultants, she said, “that not only means preparing and setting up advertising campaigns to eliminate as much potential as possible, but also constant monitoring and verifying the ads are serving correctly for both viewability and placement.”
Jim Walsh, co-founder of the Democratic digital firm DSPolitical, noted that consultants taking the high road on ad placement will incur a cost. “It’s an ethical choice on our behalf that does lose us some dollars because we’re missing opportunities [to have an ad play],” he said. “But we go very, very far to make sure that wherever we’re advertising is safe” for clients.
Pushback by corporate advertisers over placement also cropped up following the controversy over so-called fake news sites. That brought to light a conversation about ad placement that had been taking place behind the scenes, according to Walsh who stressed that political advertisers need to be thinking more about placement.
“Most of the clients we talk to aren’t asking those questions,” he said. “We get asked about click fraud [and] are the ads being seen by real people. Because it’s been in the news, they’ll probably be talking about it a lot more now.”