Advertising and child safety on YouTube

Digital advertising can no longer happen in a vacuum. It will require partnerships, certifications and even industry standards to catapult the advertising industry forward.

Given the huge increase in the use of the Internet and social media among children, it is imperative to take drastic measures to prevent inappropriate content from reaching young users. This is all the more true in this increasingly connected digital world.

With 500 hours of video uploaded every minute, the second most popular social media platform and the second largest search engine after Google, YouTube is a medium that advertisers cannot afford to ignore. It is therefore no surprise that parents are concerned about the types of videos recommended for their children.

CTV’s platforms have previously been subject to criticism for inappropriate content. And yet YouTube is still one of the safest environments. Through technological innovation and initiatives such as the YouTube Measurement Partner Program, the platform is committed to ensuring that its channels and content are not only safe environments for brands, but also contextually relevant and appropriate for intended audiences.

The need for inclusive content

We have seen an increase in the use and reliance on creating block exclusion lists that flag and omit words deemed dangerous, harmful or inappropriate. While these lists go some way to protecting brands from potentially harmful content and preventing users from seeing their ads in inappropriate content, they can lead to over-blocking in some situations. This is the case when words are added to exclusion lists without understanding the nuance and context of the content and intended audience.

This type of over-blocking can ultimately lead to ad targeting lists that remove target audiences, exclude minority groups and communities. Thus, an advertiser’s ability to reach and engage with these target groups in an inclusive manner is limited.

A Channel Factory study of 126 LGBTQ+ neutral and positive YouTube channels found that 93% were banned from ad listings because they contained words like ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘bisexual’, ‘sexual’, ‘drag queens’ or “homosexual” marriage”.

Therefore, the use of “opt-in lists” is important for any advertising campaign. We all have a role to play within the industry – supporting and educating advertisers on how to include all content creators by using opt-in lists in the right way, such as only blocking harmful or inappropriate content, in an effort to promote diversity and equity across the industry.

Although some videos containing these words are not appropriate for children, it highlights the moral responsibility to provide inclusive content for younger generations. Advertisers should be responsible for including minority content for children as a representation of the real world.

Context, content and meaning are essential

In recent years, advertisers have been forced to rethink their strategies due to data protection laws. This means that instead of using tracking cookies to target potential customers with advertising messages, companies must make an effort to truly understand their customers and show them ads that match their interests.

It may seem obvious that showing ads for cars or alcohol on videos aimed at children on YouTube is inappropriate. It will also likely lead to an ad campaign that is very unsuccessful in terms of return on investment. Recent research conducted by Channel Factory in collaboration with IPG Magna found that misaligned content reduces the impact of otherwise effective advertising. The study also found a loss of influence on purchase intent (-8%) compared to standard content. The perception of misaligned ads differed depending on the age of the viewer. Older generations, Gen X (born between 1965 and 1976) and Millennials (born between 1977 and 1995), found misaligned content to be more damaging to the brand than those in the younger Gen Z population (born between 1996 and 2015).

In addition, a recent PwC survey of 1,000 shoppers found that 86% of them think it is “quite important or very important to buy from a retailer that has strong corporate values. and is committed to doing the right thing”.

This demonstrates the need for brands and marketers to take action now to ensure a secure, responsive, relevant and positively aligned user journey for customers today – and tomorrow.

Social awareness

The COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice protests, and highly influential global political elections have preoccupied the world with a consequent shift in social purpose. These new priorities are forcing brands to rethink their advertising. The Channel Factory study also revealed that 60% of consumers would have a more positive opinion of a brand if it advertised in inclusive and diverse environments. And what is more important in our socially conscious world than protecting our children – today and tomorrow?

Online security should be a top priority on all platforms and for all advertisers. That’s why YouTube in particular has worked hard to achieve this goal over the past decade. There is growing evidence that you can learn from this situation for the customer experience in general.

Brands need to find their North Star – the vision that guides their business – and stick to it. Honesty, transparency, positivity and general social interest will be key factors for any business that wants to engage with its customers in a more meaningful way.

Video content is here to stay in our daily lives, but content creators, advertisers and viewers need to be able to trust the system to work. Children must be protected online, but video content must also be safe and relevant for all viewers.

Advertising can no longer take place in a vacuum. It will take partnerships, certifications and even industry standards like this to propel the advertising industry forward, making it more accountable for its actions and striving to improve the lives of those we advertise to. If we just pay lip service to these initiatives, companies will suffer in the long run – it’s time for a change.

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