YouTube ads next to murder clipsMajor brands’ billions allow YouTube to cash in on crap

Earlier this month I wrote a post asking why major companies allowed YouTube to place their ads adjacent to video clips of the WDBJ-TV that took place on during a morning show live shot.  The on-air murders were horrific and its bad enough to find YouTube cashing in on them by placing ads for the likes of Amazon, Netflix and others along side the clips.  What I didn’t know when I wrote the post was exactly how clueless advertisers are with regard to how their ad dollars are spent on YouTube.

According to a story in the Financial Times published last week, until now, advertisers have pretty much been kept in the dark as to how many viewers actually see the ads.  I would venture to guess this also means advertisers continue to also be oblivious as to where ads are placed.

YouTube is preparing to allow companies to independently verify what proportion of the adverts they place on the video platform can be seen by viewers.

The move is a response to complaints by advertisers such as Unilever and Kellogg’s, which have become increasingly concerned that they are wasting money on ads that are not visible. – Financial Times:

“Wasting money” on ads that aren’t visible????  How ’bout wasting money on ads that appear next to terrorist recruiting videos or live TV murders?  It’s actually quite remarkable to think that YouTube has gotten away with raking in billions in ad revenue without verifying a damn thing.  Of course when it comes to raking in the bucks, when it comes to Google’s YouTube, and web advertising in general,  it’s pretty much an anything goes mentality…copyright and standards be damned.  YouTube has never provided transparency as to its business practices, both in terms of creators or advertisers.

As Music Tech Policy’s Chris Castle noted in a post last week:

Anyone who has reviewed a YouTube royalty statement knows that there’s some pretty strange things going on with advertising on the Google video monopoly.  If it’s any comfort, we’re not the only ones.  Advertisers have finally managed to crack the YouTube code according to Reuters.  Of course, if it’s like most things having to do with accountability for YouTube or Google, it’s probably ice in winter–that is, a sham.  But let’s see what happens.  However–if advertisers can now find out where their ad is appearing, why can’t artists also know which ads are appearing on pages with their videos?

Aside from documented cases of kickbacks being paid by media companies (“Unbeknown to advertisers, he said, US agencies were taking “rebates and kickbacks” from media companies in exchange for spending their clients’ money with them“), there’s the general feeling among advertisers that they have no idea where their money is going or if it’s going anywhere at all.

In what other media realm is their such a lack of accountability?  When it comes to television, advertisers are hyper-aware of what programming their ads appear on.  The same goes for print.  Crazy as it sounds YouTube has apparently managed–for years–to pull the wool over advertisers eyes while raking in billions in revenue.  According to the Financial Times, YouTube’s ad business continues to grow:

The number of advertisers on YouTube has soared more than 40 per cent in the past year as big brands seek to reach millennial consumers on Google’s video site.

On the eve of VidCon, an online video event in Los Angeles, YouTube said advertisers from the top 100 brands, based on a ranking by consultants Interbrand, were spending 60 per cent more than last year.


For a fascinating look behind the curtain of Google/YouTube’s ad eco-system and future prospects, this report, “The Future of Online Video Advertising (v2.0); A Focused Deep Dive on YouTube” produced by Jefferies Equity Research.

As for the current state of affairs, I checked YouTube while writing this post to see whether WDBH clips still feature ads and had no difficulty finding more examples.  This time you can add Chile’s to and the Las Vegas Arias Resort to the list of advertisers underwriting these murder clips on YouTube.

Ads for Chile's Restaurant and Aria Resort appear on clip of WDBJ murder.

Ads for Chile’s Restaurant and Aria Resort appear on clip of WDBJ murder.

While advertisers are demanding more transparency on how many eyeballs actually see their ads, how about demanding transparency as to what content their advertising underwrites?   Are they that desperate to attract eyeballs that it doesn’t matter what those eyeballs end up seeing next to their ads?  Does Chile’s Texas Lemonade or Aria’s French toast really go well with a live-TV murder?  What will it take to get advertisers to demand better?