Digital media experts have warned brands about the dangers of influencer content on social sites and claim that placing ads before videos poses a reputational risk. They urged advertisers to use premium publishers to ensure that their ads are displayed in a brand-safe environment and matched with similar content.
The recommendation follows the high-profile fallout from hugely popular vlogger PewDiePie’s decision to upload a video with anti-Semitic content last week. Disney immediately dropped the Swedish influencer from its brand ambassador initiative, while Google removed his channel from its Preferred Platform. Several other prominent brands have also inadvertently seen their online ads matched with extremist content recently.
These developments have led experts to warn brands that it is almost “impossible to guarantee” the safety of their image on YouTube due to the lottery of buying audiences and whitelists that quickly become outdated. Timothy Whitfield, Director of Technical Operations at ad corporation GroupM, stated that brands need to be more vigilant about the content that their ads are matched with, as there isn’t an automatic vetting procedure in place for videos.
Whitfield said that the tech currently used to look for red flags is not sufficient for determining brand safety. He added that brands looking to tap into PewDiePie’s 50-million-subscriber base, for example, would be unaware of the exact content used in his clips, as they can only see the META tags on the page unless a media partner views it manually afterwards.
“The content that runs around ads is at the heart of the problem facing advertisers on Facebook and YouTube in particular. They don’t receive any guarantees around the exact content against which their ad is going to run,” Multi Channel Network’s Director of Digital Partnerships and Product Development, Suzie Cardwell, added. “When you book a campaign on YouTube, you are buying an audience. The content against which that audience is viewing will vary widely, so your ad is going to run alongside content that you might be surprised to find it’s running against.”
Cardwell believes that the low cost of entry is one of the biggest reasons why brands continue to buy into YouTube but urged agencies and advertisers to ask “much harder questions” about its value proposition. Google said this week that it continues to enforce a “zero-tolerance policy” for racist or violent videos and is working hard to prevent ads appearing against inappropriate content.