The Youtube Adpocalypse and De-Monetisation

July 20, 2017
Helen Gallagher

Back in March / May, several large advertisers stopped advertising on Youtube. This was due to controversy about adverts appearing on racist or extremist videos. This led to revenues dropping for content creators and for Youtube (Google).

Two content creators are planning to sue #Youtube over the 'Adpocalypse'. Click To Tweet

Recently, two content creators on Youtube have announced they plan to sue Youtube for their de-monetisation. Their revenues have allegedly fallen from $500 a day to just $40 a day since Youtube tightened rules on which videos were suitable to feature ads. (Their channel features weapons being tested on mannequins painted to resemble zombies).

They have also accused YouTube of not considering the affect the Adpocalypse would have on creators, claiming the site:

“Intentionally caused Adpocalypse to occur, in an effort to appease its advertising partners, at the expense of its content providers”.

This raises an interesting issue, and one that can spill over to Google’s search engine; who is Youtube for?

Who is Youtube For?
Woman Holding Expensive Bottled Water

It’s effective monopoly and ubiquitous nature can make you think Youtube is like a cable channel or even a public service. But both Youtube and it’s parent company are primarily ad platforms.

It creates a symbiotic relationship between Youtube, creators, advertisers and users. Youtube could not exist without advertisers, and would have nothing to offer the advertisers without the free labour of creators on the platform. Likewise, users go to view the content, and want the ads to be as subtle, or non existent as possible.

Compensating Creators

Creative Woman Holding a Mug

There is a also a very important point of view that channels on Youtube do produce hours of entertaining content for free. It also falls prey to the idea that because the work is ‘fun’ and ‘creative’ people should want to do it for free. But producing a weekly show takes time and uses expensive equipment. It can also result in making you too famous (and therefore disruptive) to work at Starbucks, but too broke not to.

The disconnect between audience and monetisation on #Youtube. Click To Tweet

There is also a disconnect between scale and platform. A 30 second TV ad on ITV can cost you up to £30,000 and potentially go out to 13,773 people. On the other hand top vlogger PewdiePie has 53 million subscribers and average daily viewing figures of 8,836,728 people. And you can potentially buy an ad on his channel for £1 a click. Of course, his material is niche, specific and controversial. But if you are trying to advertise a mobile only coupon for your new energy drink? It would be perfect.

So logically, it makes no sense that ITV can charge so much more for an ad that will be shown to fewer people. But as Hank Green (Founder of Vidcon) has said –

Ads are just worth less on the internet. People don’t like them, people skip them, they block them, they get frustrated by them.”


So What’s the Problem?


Youtube has long sidestepped the usual content restrictions applicable to mainstream TV and radio advertising. However Youtube has also sidestepped the safeguards in conventional media.

Youtube allows a wide range of content on its platform, but is under no obligation to allow that content to be monetised. Every advert on the site benefits both Youtube and the creator, so it is in their best interests to allow mass advertising. But if the big players lose trust in Youtube as a platform, it could become unsustainable.

So, the dilemma becomes; should they allow a channel about zombie chainsawing to show ads, at the expense of big advertisers leaving completely? Or should they institute a sensible algorithm designed to quietly eliminate the more problematic elements from the Display Network?

Could Youtube Do Better?

Woman Being Interviewed

Absolutely. Their algorithm is very much a hammer, not a scalpel. It has been shown to disproportionately target (perfectly PG) LGBT channels. Apart from anything else, this excludes a huge market for advertisers.

Can #Youtube do better for users, creators and advertisers? Click To Tweet

A huge issue is that Google do very little manual quality control on it’s listings. And while you can exclude ‘Politics’ as an ad category, there’s nothing stopping an extremist from putting themselves in the ‘luxury fashion’ category in the Display Network. Listings can be reported but that takes time. 

There is also an argument to be made that advertisers should be monitoring their adverts more carefully. Does Pepsi really not have the resources to hire someone to read a placement report once a day? Or create specific, managed advertising plans that exclude extremist content?

How We Manage Our Display Ads

This is exactly why we either use managed placements (where we select specific websites for the display ads). We also monitor our Adwords Placement report on a daily basis. We don’t feel comfortable employing a broad, scattershot approach due to the controversial videos and websites that are currently allowed on the network. We also take the time to draw up lists of controversial placements to exclude, to ensure our clients do not accidentally appear there.

Contact us to manage your display adverts online.


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