In February 2017, The Times released a report stating that “some of the world’s biggest brands are unwittingly funding Islamic extremists, white supremacists and pornographers by advertising on their websites”. A key culprit identified in this report was YouTube, where a display advert for Sandals, the luxury holiday operator, appeared on a YouTube video promoting jihadists. This understandably caused concerns across the industry, with several brands, such as Marks & Spencer, HSBC and L’Oréal pulling their ad spend across this platform.
So how did this happen?YouTube previously did not allow third-party brand safety tools to be used across its platform. Providers, such as Double Verify and Integral Ad Science, work to independently monitor and block against pre-determined “un-safe” categories and keywords. Without this additional layer of monitoring, it appears YouTube’s safety filters were not doing enough to identify inappropriate content and protect brands. However, following advertising spend being pulled, this was enough of a motivation for YouTube to change tack, as they have announced they will soon offer integrations with Integral Ad Science and Double Verify. This gives marketers the option to implement their own personalised layers of brand protection and goes someway to give brands the reassurance that their online advertising won’t end up paying for ads against inappropriate or offensive content. Additionally, YouTube have announced they’re employing "significant numbers of people" to review questionable content and have added more controls for brands to manage where their ads appear across the platform.These positive changes in brand safety are triumph for brands and a reminder that those who hold the money really have the power and influence to change our industry for the better.Jessica Hughes, Account Manager