During March of this year the digital advertising industry experienced one of its highest profile brand safety scares since inception causing significant fallout for all parties involved in the supply chain.
While there is understandably deep concerns for advertisers and a responsibility to do everything possible to minimise the risk of brand advertising running next to content for an extremist terror group, if we’re honest, this has been a risk when running across YouTube content since the domain’s inception.
With the introduction of YouTube, its sheer magnitude generated a vast array of third party data and technology companies that have capitalised on monetising its audience and content.
But scale and reach at the cheapest price available coupled with a disregard for quality measurements falls short on providing value to brands and advertisers, and this practice contributes to giving the stand-up providers a bad rap.
What took us so long to acknowledge it?
Of course, we can’t condone monetising such horrific content, but we need to recognise that YouTube is a global open source platform – one that allows over 10 million Australians every month to create and consume a vast array of local and international content.
Similarly, Google is a juggernaut that harnesses the power of an enormous amount of data, giving advertisers a potentially strong environment to convey their message or connect their brand with their target audience.
To give you some context:
● Over half of all video streams consumed by Australians are on YouTube.
● 500 hours of content is uploaded every minute into YouTube’s global CMS.
● 3 million ad funded channels sit within the YouTube domain sites hosting content totalling 350 million videos.
It goes without saying that content uploaded by anyone with an internet connection or connected device risks bringing with it a vast array of pitfalls whether it be geo political, sexual, violence, etcetera.
Moreover, while the recent media upheaval has at times been misguided, misleading or even a bit of a witch hunt, it has brought some much-needed attention to brand safety and a globally renowned media vendor. It’s uncovered gaps in the system and highlighted the responsibility to adhere to strict measures.
So how do you effectively police this new territory? After all, it is critical that there is governance in place to protect brands and the values that they represent.
It’s easy to blame programmatic
But you’d be wrong to do so, and using very broad strokes to blame technology for the problem. Programmatic is merely the activation mechanism; monetising someone else’s unsavoury content that has landed on an open source platform is a different problem entirely.
Programmatic at its core is leveraging data and machine learning to efficiently buy media in an automated fashion. That said, programmatic is only as strong as its weakest link. In this case it is the platforms not taking responsibility for having robust procedures that mitigate risk.
Leveraging technology to mitigate risks
As of April 2016 we forged a partnership with OpenSlate, a provider of meta-analysis on content quality, brand safety, and categorisation that ingests 2 billion plus YouTube video stats every day.
This allows us to narrow our field of activity to around 3,000 to 5,000 channels per campaign, all of which reach a minimum standard of quality on YouTube.
The critical difference here is that our clients’ campaigns opt-in to channels based on data, brand safety guidelines and a quality score, as opposed to blocking the 3 million+ channels on YouTube utilising keywords and rating systems that are inconsistent and allow unsavoury content to slip through the cracks.
This means that on any given campaign we run our advertisers budget across on average 3,000 high quality, brand safe channels – which is only available utilising programmatic technology.
Human expertise delivers the best results
It is not easy to ensure programmatic technology is being properly used to derive value for advertisers, as the value changes on a campaign by campaign basis.
I watched the film Sully this weekend. The film is about a pilot who successfully landed a commercial airplane on the Hudson River after losing both engines during take-off. At the end of the film, Tom Hanks delivers a monologue citing the important roll human judgement plays in a world of ever evolving technology.
I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to the human element of programmatic: that whilst autopilot (in this case adtech) can do 90% of the heavy lifting, there is no replacement of human expertise, experience and judgement in the equation.
Similarly to programmatic, the algorithms get smarter and the data is richer, but programmatic still requires the correct platforms, training, infrastructure and human expertise to provide subjectivity, optimisations and enabling a brand to arrive at its desired destination, safely.
Without human interaction and dedicated resources driving relationships – from technology partnerships like OpenSlate, to strategy, optimisation and performance – we wouldn’t understand the goals of brand advertisers and be sure every protection is in place to secure brand safety, save brand equity and ultimately enhance the consumer experience.