In a callback to the “Adpocalypse” of 2017, YouTube is once again facing backlash from major companies pulling ads due to controversial content. Large advertisers such as Disney, Nestlé, and Epic Games (the creators of Fortnite) have walked away due to their content being displayed alongside pedophilic comments on otherwise innocuous videos featuring children.
As advertising dollars shift to digital platforms and companies work to streamline budgets across a mix of newer digital mediums and traditional marketing channels, advertising platforms have come under increased scrutiny. 2017 saw leading advertisers flex their muscles and boycott YouTube after their ads were served next to exploitative content. In response, YouTube quickly implemented stronger regulations and offered manual reviews of every ad in Google Preferred in an effort to rebuild trust with companies.
Advertisers have mostly acknowledged this effort. Brands tracked in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Home Care increased their YouTube investments in the past year (and saw views jump 21%) — but they’ve yet to fully return to the view counts seen in 2016.
However, this is a two-way street, especially for home care brands. As TV viewership declines rapidly, specifically within the 18-to-24 age bracket, CPG enterprise brands have yet to translate brand codes to visual-first platforms like Instagram. The average brand in the study made its most recent post nearly half a year ago.
YouTube, however, offers a more natural outlet for reaching consumers across digital. Moreover, large CPG enterprises can easily adapt traditional television advertising to 15- and 30-second pre-roll video ads on the platform. In 2018, 73% of adults in the US reported using the platform, a 5% lead over Facebook. Just as YouTube will increasingly rely on advertisers to build their revenue and reputation, home care enterprises also depend on YouTube to extend their reach beyond traditional TV audiences.
Seemingly the only thing keeping YouTube from being the choice advertising platform is YouTube itself. This second wave of boycotts suggests that policing content on the platform is not a simple one-time fix given its sheer size and the amount of UGC it hosts. The video platform is not alone in their struggle to create an ad-friendly space amid swarms of user-uploaded content. Facebook continues to be plagued by scandal regarding the spread of political misinformation while Pinterest is fighting against anti vaccination propaganda. However, the risks are high for YouTube to defend its position as the king of video platforms.
While the platform has grown into a video behemoth, it is no longer a monolith with platforms such as IGTV threatening market share and traditional retailers tapping into the video space as well. Home care enterprises have yet to overcome the steep digital learning curve and crack the code to successfully diversify brand building across other platforms, but with recurring safety concerns, a tipping point is in sight.