Birds Eye View

YouTube troubles? We’ve got you covered!

By John Downs, Senior Programmatic Account Manager 

It doesn’t seem a year goes by without YouTube being embroiled in an industry scandal of some sort. As we crossed the midpoint of 2023, a damning report came to light that casts fresh doubt and concern about the video-sharing platform.

The report compiled by Adalytics finds that many advertisers worldwide have been duped over the past few years and led to believe that the ad budgets they entrusted with the platform were being put towards effective advertising outcomes through TrueView skippable in-stream ads. Instead, billions of ad dollars may have been ‘wasted’.

TrueView is Google’s “proprietary cost-per-view, choice-based ad format that serves on YouTube, millions of apps, and across the web.” TrueView is a pay-for-view product. Google’s policies state that “TrueView ads must be skippable, audible, and playing of the video cannot be solely initiated by passive user scrolling”.

However, Adalytics found that a vast quantity of these TrueView ads appear to have been served across sites that do not meet Google’s quality standards, yet fall under their accredited network of inventory known as the Google Video Partners. It is in this ‘walled garden’ network that many TrueView in-stream ads were served without sound and played automatically (without the user’s initiation) or within video players that were out of view or obscured on the screen so the ad can’t be skipped and the advertiser pays. Additionally, ads would often be out-stream (stand-alone ads) with little to no organic video content between them. The report states that in some ad campaigns, “between 42% to 75% of TrueView in-stream ad spend was allocated to GVP sites and apps which did not meet Google’s standards.”

A lack of transparency is nothing new to the programmatically bought side of media, but it’s hard to ignore such a blatant perversion of trust. Advertisers and agencies alike have every right to be outraged, given that this misrepresented delivery spans back to 2020, and they are understandably seeking refunds and legal action against the tech giant. Google responded with a lacklustre defence of the quality of their GVP network, but the damage has already been done.

Multiple verification vendors have since looked into the scale of how many ads were actually served across the GVP when activated compared to delivery on YouTube itself, but their findings vary greatly. Aside from raising a big issue with consistency in itself, it goes to show how difficult a beast like YouTube is to regulate, especially when they insist on marking their own homework and preventing over-the-top verification partners from regularly peaking under the bonnet.

As with most agencies, YouTube is often a key component of a comprehensive marketing mix at The Kite Factory due to its leaned-in nature of consumption, powerful audience targeting and ability to measure brand uplift performance through multiple brand lift studies. However, for any digital channel we recommend to clients, we, of course, carry out due diligence and mitigate risk against any potential pitfalls. This is no different to when we started to deliver YouTube activity on Google’s self-serve DSP, DV360, for our clients. By default, newly set-up campaigns are opted to deliver across GVP sites and apps. With brand safety and verification being a primary concern for us, there is no guarantee with third-party sites that the content of articles or the nature of the site would be ‘safe’. Therefore, we decided to remove this setting and appear on YouTube only, well before the timelines of this report; as an agency, we have never delivered clients’ activity through GVP.

Yes, GVP can extend your reach and allow you to target audiences outside of the YouTube environment, but as found, at what cost? A pretty substantial one. The programmatic buying industry will forever have the question of transparency over its head. Still, it’s definitely better to be able to control the known than risk brand perception and client trust with the unknown.

Moving forward, agencies and advertisers must remain diligent in striving for the highest quality of media placements across the web and interrogating the effectiveness of each channel proposed in media plans. As mentioned, The Kite Factory works extremely closely with our DSP partners to understand where what and how our ads are placed and to who. Our independent and impartial verification partner Adloox also allows us to regulate the quality of this delivery, and we will certainly be continuing to exclude GVP inventory from our YouTube campaigns as we have always done.

However, a lot needs to be done by Google to rebuild trust. YouTube is a fantastic platform, and we’ve seen excellent results across a huge variety of clients and campaigns, but industry players need to demand improved business practices from them. Starting by letting verification partners into the ‘walled garden’ will be a reassuring step forward.

As an ‘Owned’ media source for clients with a huge potential for shareability, YouTube holds an important place in Paid media mixes. But it certainly isn’t the only digital video option available to us. Connected TV capabilities increase daily, programmatic video on reputable sites will only grow in importance from a contextual perspective ahead of cookieless, and social and video sharing platforms such as TikTok have seen massive consumption growth in recent years that could supplant YouTube. Google need to up their game.


  • https://adalytics.io/blog/invalid-google-video-partner-trueview-ads
  • https://www.adexchanger.com/tv-and-video/how-to-react-to-youtubes-fraud-scandal-treat-it-as-if-it-were-tv/
  • https://www.adexchanger.com/tv-and-video/how-the-youtube-scandal-exposes-a-double-measurement-failure/#more-380734
  • https://www.adweek.com/programmatic/ad-tech-firms-spy-an-opportunity-in-youtube-inventory-quality-scandal/#
  • https://www.ft.com/content/93b4041c-9840-4257-8598-9103420011c0