Latest YouTube Scandal: How can marketers protect their brand?

Last week it was reported that a vlogger Matt Watson – known as MattWhatItIs – posted a video on YouTube which revealed how predatory comments are being left on videos of children on the platform.

The revelation, which sparked another debate about the safety and security of the website, shone a light on how the combination of user-generated videos and the ability for viewers to leave unmoderated comments can be a poisoned chalice for marketers.  Whilst YouTube was quick to remove the offending channels which hosted the videos – and the accounts which left comments –  the damage was already done as those videos were being monetised.

This has not been a good look for YouTube which had advertisers once again pulling their budgets from the platform, with the likes of Nestle, Epic Games and McDonalds taking a stand.

However, I do not believe this will do any real damage to YouTube in the long term and will instead prove to be another storm in a tea cup for the platform as marketers continue to be swayed by the immense scale it provides for online video inventory. It is reported that on average over 300 hours of video are uploaded onto YouTube every minute, whilst there are 1.9 billion active users on YouTube. That’s 25% of the world’s population. If you are a marketer looking to reach an audience with your ad online, YouTube must be a consideration on your plan.

The issues facing YouTube in 2017 [when several brands pulled their ad spend in protest at ads appearing against fundamentalist and politically inciteful content] are not the same as those is being faced here. Back then the problem was the monetisation of videos which were linked to violent content, while this is an issue regarding user comments. Furthermore, it’s my belief that marketers are more aware of the steps which the platform has put in place to improve brand safety.

So, as a marketer what can be done to improve confidence in buying on YouTube? Firstly, brands need to work closely with YouTube to continue improving what tools are made available to buyers.  In addition, marketers should start building a list of channels against which they are willing to run their ads.

It might be daunting at first to embark on such a project – estimations are that there are over 500 million channels on YouTube – but building a list of 500 to 1000 channels can give you the necessary scale needed to make your campaigns work, while protecting yourself from unsavoury content.

In a way, this brings the planning of YouTube closer to the way TV has traditionally been planned, an irony which should not be lost as YouTube continues to snap up a greater share of traditional broadcast viewing time. However, the big problem for YouTube over its TV rivals is marketers remain unable to separate the content from the provider – a challenge TV simply does not face.

YouTube has escaped any real harm once more on this occasion, but as consumers become more and more focused with brands’ ethical positioning, marketers cannot afford to risk their brands being associated with the smallest indiscretion online. The ice is thinning for YouTube and real steps must now be made to get back to solid ground.

By Olumide Gomes, Programmatic Director