What is Google Doing to Stop Ads Showing Where They Shouldnt?


We’re currently amid a peculiar moment in internet history: a bumpy spell for Google. Blue-chip brands the world over have been hitting pause on their YouTube advertising campaigns after learning their ads have appeared, on-occasion, alongside extremist or otherwise inappropriate content. These brands argue that Google should be doing more to stop this happening, and Google has publicly conceded that the misplacements are “unacceptable”. Here’s what we know so far about what’s going to change:

New tools and settings to combat ad misplacement

The biggest news amongst Google’s various statements on the ad misplacement crisis has been the announcement of handful of for YouTube and Google Display Network advertisers – though it’s not clear how far the will go towards solving advertisers’ problems. Here’s a rundown of the tools as per Google’s blog, along with a few of comments from Target Internet on the potential upshot:

Safer default for brands. We’re changing the default settings for ads so that they show on content that meets a higher level of brand safety and excludes potentially objectionable content that advertisers may prefer not to advertise against. Brands can opt in to advertise on broader types of content if they choose.

– Could this push professional YouTube content further towards the mainstream? Will some legitimate comedy and opinion content be at risk of falling into the “potentially objectionable” category? And on the other side of the coin, will this cause a concentration of “outsider” ads on less trusted content? This could have implications for the kind of content professional YouTubers should be creating and how this content is optimised – for example, we can envisage a fair few sensationalist, click-baiting video titles sliding into that “potentially objectionable” category.

“Simplified management of exclusions. We’ll introduce new account-level controls to make it easier for advertisers to exclude specific sites and channels from all of their AdWords for Video and Google Display Network campaigns, and manage brand safety settings across all their campaigns with a push of a button.”

– The idea of excluding specific sites and channels will appeal to some advertisers – but really, manually excluding one, ten, one-hundred sites or channels is a paltry measure in the face of the vast amount of monetised YouTube content that an ad could be placed alongside.

“More fine-tuned controls. In addition, we’ll introduce new controls to make it easier for brands to exclude higher risk content and fine-tune where they want their ads to appear.”

– We’ll need to wait for more specific information on the fine-tuning of controls before we can say how much help they’ll be.
These new measures to help avoid ad misplacements will ameliorate the situation somewhat for many advertisers – but they do not cut to the heart of the problem: the need for technology to identify inappropriate video content that doesn’t rely on tags and flags. Google’s original programmatic advertising service AdWords can operate with full confidence that the immediate context of the ad (Google’s own search results, largely made up of website titles and descriptions) are in no way damaging to the advertiser’s brand by association. It’s hard to see how YouTube will ever be able to provide the same assurance without creating an automated method for accurately interpreting video content.

Some other key quotes on policy shifts

“Starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories.”

“We’ll also tighten safeguards to ensure that ads show up only against legitimate creators in our YouTube Partner Program—as opposed to those who impersonate other channels or violate our community guidelines.”

“The YouTube team is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform—not just what content can be monetized.”

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