YouTube’s Advertising Problems

YouTube controversy

Google-owned YouTube has had a pretty busy couple of weeks. And it’s all about advertising and just how tricky it can be.

The first issue that they faced was over a newspaper investigation which found that UK government paid advertising was being run alongside extremist content. Very embarrassing at best and at worst a very expensive mistake: some big hitters (Verizon, AT&T) have suspended their YouTube advertising spend at least for the time being. And these budgets are in the hundreds of millions of dollars – enough to impact the Google share price by $25bn in less than a week.

The second issue that YouTube faced was some controversy around its relatively new ‘restricted mode’. Restricted mode is a filter which can be turned on within YouTube to filter out potentially mature content that you may not wish someone in your family to see. Sounds like a reasonable idea – but how does it work? How can YouTube tell what content is offensive and what isn’t? It is very difficult, even for the big brains over at Google. When the panic was reaching its peak over the first issue mentioned in this blog, restricted mode seemed like a great idea. But it soon started adding a lot of LGBTQ into restricted content, for which it rightly attracted a lot of criticism.

How can YouTube / Google start to get control of the situation and move forward in light of this very difficult period? I think there are four areas to consider:

  • More control over the type of content on YouTube: This is a really difficult one, but one that YouTube needs to step up to. It needs to either define what content is inappropriate (where is the line between freedom of speech and hate speech?) or flag content very clearly that should be restricted – for users as well as advertisers
  • Balance between meeting the needs of content creators and advertisers: YouTube is stuck in the middle but needs to listen to the needs of both – without either, the website will face even more troubles ahead
  • The Google Display Network needs to be tightened up: Advertisers need to be able to clearly define who they are looking to engage with and YouTube needs to be able to deliver against that brief. There will always be a bit of a leap of faith for an advertiser, but running the risk of having your advert appear before an extremist video is a leap to far
  • YouTube needs to clarify what Restricted Mode is all about. It came to prominence as a knee-jerk reaction to the advertising controversy and what they saved in time, they paid for in good-will from viewers and content creators. Clearly explaining what is being hidden and why would go a long way to resolving this.

What do you think that YouTube and Google should do to resolve these pressing issues?

Image via the fantastic

Marketing: The Price of a Free Internet?

The Price of a Free Internet WordPress

The last month has seen a lot of controversy with regard to a free internet.  This is not referring to freedom of information, a whole other minefield, but the cost of visiting the vast majority of websites.

The recently released iOS 9 allowed advert blocking software to be integrated with Safari for the first time, a significant development.  With around 500 million iPhones having been sold, quite apart from the millions of iPads, being able to block ads on Safari is a marketer’s nightmare – it is another reason why marketers may move away from display advertising.

Like them or not, display adverts are often the difference between a website being a paid for subscription-style service or a free to visit website – certainly the case with YouTube.  And ad blocking software is a threat to marketers spending their budget in this way.

So, is the issue that people just need to accept advertising and (dare I say) be grateful that the marketing community is keeping the internet (relatively) free of charge?


One of the issues that has not been addressed is why ad blocking software exists in the first place. Users of the web feel that the majority of online adverts are:

  • Intrusive – you are quite happily browsing before an advert APPEARS AND STARTS SHOUTING AT YOU
  • Irritating – visiting one website does not give that website the right to chase you round the internet for a month still talking about the same page that you visited
  • Poorly targeted – products are at best irrelevant or at worst inappropriate to the target audience

So it’s no surprise that people are trying to block this content, is it?

We in the marketing community needs to accept responsibility for ad blocking software – to a large degree it is a tool of our own making because of the terrible adverts that are run.  And I see it as our issue to sort out.

Marketers need to focus on using display advertising as an inbound marketing tool: well designed, well targeted, complimentary to the environment where the advert is being placed and relevant – is advertising the right tool to use for this objective?  Not all of these are easy to do, but this is the challenge facing marketers.

Unless this issue is rectified primarily by those working in marketing, the internet will become more and more hidden behind paywalls, a threat to the very freedom of information on the web.

Display Advertising: The Basics

Display Advertising 101

Display Advertising 101

I think in the world of digital marketing, it is easy to assume that everyone knows everything about everything! But very often you just want to ask the simple questions – if you feel like this about display advertising, this one is for you. It doesn’t include the complexities, just the basics: hope you enjoy!

What is Display Advertising?

Display advertising is a way to get some representation for your campaign onto a targeted website. There are a number of options in terms of the advert size, location and format. There is also a wide variety of websites where your advert can be displayed. Different types of adverts include MPU (300 pixels x 250 pixels), Leaderboard (728 x 90) and Skyscraper (160 x 600)

There are two ways to place a display advert:

  • Google Display Network – this is a network of millions of websites who sell their space via Google. The Google Display Network is accessed via Google Adwords and you are able to use keywords to target the websites where your advert will appear. You can also target specific websites which are part of the network.
  • Direct with website – many websites sell space on their website directly. You can contact these websites and negotiate directly with them.

You can use a non-moving image which will normally be in a ‘png’ or ‘jpeg’ format, or a moving image such as a ‘gif’ format. This will depend on your budget, designer and website (not all websites can accommodate gif images).

Display advertising is good for:

  • Raising awareness
  • Using eye-catching imagery for your campaign
  • Using well targeted websites to promote your campaign

Display advertising is bad for:

  • Driving a response from an audience – display adverts have a low click through rate
  • Displaying complex information – fewer words means a more effective advert

How to Measure Display Advertising:

  • Clicks – the number of times that someone clicks on your advert
  • Impressions – the number of times that your advert is displayed
  • Click Through Rate – the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions
  • Cost per Click – the amount that you have paid per click

Display Advertising Tips

  • It is likely that you will be charged not by the click, but a cost per 1,000 views, known as Cost per Mille or CPM – consider this when planning your budget
  • Spend time researching which website is best to advertise on – where do the audience who you want to speak to spend their time online?
  • Add a tracking code to your URL via Google Custom URL Builder to track traffic from your advert
  • Display advertising should be used to raise awareness, not necessarily to drive enquiries or action from the user