Why Brand Safety Isn't Solely YouTube's Responsibility

In a classic "Guns don't kill people Rappers do" argument, is YouTube completely to blame for all their unfortunate/irresponsible ad placements?

Another year and another ad has turned up somewhere it shouldn't on YouTube after an investigation by the BBC and the Times. But should YouTube really be taking the brunt of the blame for these ads being there?

There are two arguments here demonstrated beautifully by the ways in which the aforementioned BBC and The Times reported the incident. The BBC went down the "YouTube should be doing more to protect children" whereas the Times went for "YouTube shouldn't be funding criminals". There is no doubt YouTube should be doing more to protect it's audience and it's advertisers but it's one thing to not have bad media, it's another to not buy bad media.

Of the six ad formats available on YouTube only one is exclusively managed by YouTube themselves, the rest can also be bought through the Adwords auction by media agencies. It is, after all, the media agency's overall responsibility to be buying good media placements on behalf of the brands and therefore protecting them from bad placements. We don't know exactly what ad formats The Times saw on these particular videos but the two screenshots used in their article both clearly show an "In-Video Display[Overlay] ad" with no way to determine who was responsible for placing it there.

*Images used by The Times in their article titled : "YouTube adverts fund paedophile habits"

YouTube and Google have a range of brand safety checks you can enable (or disable) through the Adwords platform. As you can see from the image below most of these are "opt-out" so are defaulted to include content you won't want to be running against. Additionally, as stated, these alone won't guarantee complete brand safety so are best used in conjunction with other methods. A media agency's role is to buy brand safe placements, want to know how we do it? Click the email address below.

*Screenshot from adwords display campaign exclusions 2017