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Google announce tighter ad controls but are we reassured?

29th March 2017 - Last modified 4th October 2017 - 0 comments

Written by Tim Cullum.

On Tuesday last week Google announced plans to tighten controls for advertisers on its YouTube and Display Network platforms. The announcement came after a number of companies suspended advertising on YouTube, citing concerns that ads were being served alongside videos of a disagreeable nature.

Advertising on the Display Network and YouTube has always carried with it the potential for such a scenario. The Network is vast and Google has never claimed to be able to verify every piece of content, nor could it. Consequently, there is a very small chance that your ad will appear next to something undesirable. However, Google already has checks in place to minimise that risk and until very recently most major consumer brands (and thousands of others) have found that the rewards far outweigh the potential risks.

So what’s changed? Well, it’s possible that there has been an increase in the number of cases but more likely we’re just seeing an increase in reporting on the issue. In the context of the wider debate around media responsibility for content veracity and provenance, particularly in the wake of recent political events, open platform aggregator’s such as Facebook and Google are under much closer scrutiny. With a light now shining on the problem, companies have been forced to take action.

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The measures proposed by Google include ‘hiring significant numbers of people’ and ‘changing the default settings for ads so that they show on content that meets a higher level of brand safety’. Understandably the plans do not provide explicit detail at this point but certainly sound sensible in theory. After all, raising the bar for trusted sources and increasing content reviews are not exactly ground-breaking or radical ideas.

With that in mind, it could be argued that some of the proposed measures might have been implemented sooner and cynics will say that Google is only taking action now because the boycott has started to seriously affect its bottom line. However, the reality is that the controls Google has in place are already highly effective. Short of fundamentally re-evaluating the YouTube business model, no measures could ever fully mitigate all risk.

So, what does this mean for Display Network advertisers moving forward? Well, the new controls are not due to come into immediate effect and for some the announcement by Google was not enough to reassure them in the mean-time. More major brands including Wal-Mart and PepsiCo announced plans on Friday to pull the plug on YouTube advertising. Until the proposed changes are implemented and assessed, advertisers will have to continue to make a judgement, be it ethical or financial, as to the extent of the problem and the potential risk to their brands. However, for most companies, certainly those with limited budgets targeting highly specific audiences, the risk should be practically nil already.

No doubt there will be more detail to follow from Google with regards to implementing the additional controls but if existing ads will be set to a new ‘safer’ option by default then it would certainly be worth monitoring live campaigns to see what effect the update has, if any, on performance. Obviously for new campaigns this will be an additional consideration during set-up.

As always, we’ll be keeping a close eye on developments here and letting our clients know of any changes that might affect them. For more expert advice on digital display advertising, get in touch today.

Written by Tim Cullum – Digital Communications and Media Manager

Tim Cullum

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