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Four months on from YouTube’s brand safety announcement: What’s changed?4 min read

With 94% of advertisers still worried about brand safety, it is a topic sitting high on our industry’s agenda. With almost half of advertisers saying they don’t think platforms like YouTube and Facebook are doing enough about it, we take a look at what’s changed since YouTube’s brand safety announcement earlier this year.

Growing awareness

Not only is this a topic on the lips of consumers and the general public – but brands too are becoming increasingly savvy and calling for further transparency on how their budgets are being spent and where their advertising is shown online.

Mark Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s influential Global Chief Brand Officer, has been spearheading the call for improvements in the industry:

“We need better advertising to drive growth enabled by media transparency to drive a clean and productive media supply chain. Better advertising and media transparency are closely related. Why? Because better advertising requires time and money, yet we’re all wasting way too much time and money on a media supply chain with poor standards adoption, too many players grading their own homework, too many hidden touches, and too many holes to allow criminals to rip us off.”

This struggle has also caught the attention of the media, as a number of brands and advertising platforms have been called out for placement of online advertising next to questionable content over the last year. YouTube was one of the major providers to come under fire for this reason, and has since been working hard to make advertising safer for its brand partners.

are there any further updates to the measures YouTube has undertaken?

Although Google’s head of trust and safety, Arjun Narayan, recently stated that whilst no algorithm update will ever make Google, YouTube or any advertising environment entirely brand safe, “there is close to [this], and there is best in class.” It is apparent that the company takes its position as “best in class” extremely seriously, as they continue to strive to be a leading player in this space.

So what’s happened since YouTube announced a raft of measures to protect advertisers from inappropriate content back in January?

  1. Since January, YouTube has manually reviewed over one million videos to improve the flagging technology that monitors and categorises all video content uploaded to the platform. Improvements to their machine learning technology are ongoing, and should mean that inappropriate content is quickly identified and not eligible to advertise against.
  2. As well as this, YouTube’s staff of content moderators are now screening every video in Google’s Preferred programme (a space for top-tier advertisers). They have committed to hiring a full team of over 10,000 human flaggers by the end of 2018. More eyes and ears should mean questionable content has less opportunity to slip through the net.
  3. As promised, in February the threshold for content creators to participate in the YouTube Partner Programme (enabling creators to monetise their videos) has been increased to 4,000 hours of watchtime and a minimum of 1,000 subscribers (up from the threshold of 10,000 lifetime views last year). Raising this bar helps to ensure that only the most active and popular channels are available to advertisers.
  4. Following the Logan Paul controversy, new rules have been put in place for content creators who infringe YouTube’s community guidelines. A strike such as this could result in termination of the creator’s channel and therefore, the channel owner’s ability to earn. Top-tier creators will also lose access to the service’s Google Preferred premium programme. For content creators, this acts as a major deterrent to going against community guidelines.

Industry-leading brand safety measures

It’s clear that the Google-owned platform has listened and adapted its policies, as an independent audit by BPA Worldwide led to YouTube receiving a certificate for industry-leading brand safety measures.

As a result of these changes, most brands have indeed returned to the platform, and GroupM’s Chief Digital Officer, Rob Norman, shared the widespread opinion that the role of an agency is to give brands “a quantification and risk assessment and let them make their own decisions”. However, this certainly isn’t the last we will hear about brand safety and transparency regarding YouTube or any other major advertising platforms in the near future.

As Google’s Head of Trust and Safety, Narayan goes on to say:

Brands are coming back. Are we done yet? I don’t think we’re done yet but we are deeply committed to getting it right and our partners keep us honest, that’s the true spirit of partnership, and we are looking forward to making that journey forward with strong partnerships.

Going  forward

We as marketers, advertisers and partners will carry on adapting as the digital environment shifts, and without doubt, face the new challenges this throws into our paths. We look forward to seeing YouTube take the lead and continue developing its technology over the next year and beyond.