February 27, 2019: YouTube battles brand safety issues and agencies look to buy directly from premium-content owners on the platform; Instagram testing prototype similar to Pinterest boards; TikTok works on developing biddable ad option; and several health apps stop sharing data with Facebook  

Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:


YouTube’s Brand Safety Issues

The Story

Advertisers are, once again, pausing their YouTube ad buys following a report that pre-roll ads have been appearing on videos featuring children that have become popular among pedophiles.

Which advertisers?

Disney, Nestle, Epic Games, AT&T, and Hasbro, to name a few.

What was YouTube’s response?

In addition to immediately deleting more than 400 channels and suspending comments on tens of millions of videos, YouTube also held a conference call with representatives from all major ad agency holding companies and several major advertisers to address the expansion of YouTube’s efforts on child safety.

This memo was then sent after the call, detailing immediate actions as well as next steps including, but not limited to: finding violative comments faster; increasing creator accountability; further reducing discovery; refining ad policies and controls and addressing recidivism.

Déjà vu?

Absolutely. This isn’t the first time YouTube confronted brand safety issues. In early 2017, P&G and several other of the world’s largest advertisers pulled all spending on the platform over concerns about offensive and unsafe content. After a year-long YouTube drought, most of the ads were eventually resumed in 2018 after YouTube cleaned up its platform, showing marketers that they do have some control over how their content is displayed – as long as they’re willing to walk away.


With around 400 hours of video uploaded each minute to YouTube’s platform, even the 10,000 human reviewers who analyze and flag inappropriate content can’t keep up. With platforms like YouTube and others failing to consistently create a brand-safe environment, the responsibility for moderating comments and ensuring brand safety falls on the creator and marketer.

Marketers need to know what brand safety looks like in every environment in which their brand acts and what controls they need to have to ensure it. If platforms and other providers don’t have the right parameters in place, it’s on marketers to have the understanding about what to ask for based on their own standards – like Disney, Nestle, Epic Games, AT&T, and Hasbro are doing.

Creators, too, have the opportunity to ensure their channels are  safe places for brands to advertise by actively monitoring their channels for inappropriate engagement and removing it. While content moderation isn’t (and shouldn’t be) creators’ primary responsibility, creators who do actively check and moderate their content, their followers, and their channels put themselves in a better position for monetization because they are prioritizing brand safety as much as possible.  


Not Unrelated: What’s Next for Advertising on YouTube?

The Story

To avoid future brand safety issues, agencies are increasingly looking to buy directly from premium quality content owners on YouTube. As one publishing executive at a major media company put it: “We are seeing a huge increase in demand from agencies in our own YouTube inventory bought directly at meaningful CPMs.”


Agencies may not be looking to pull spend from YouTube, but instead, redirect it into channels with content created by premium media owners, like publishers or influencers. It’s worth noting that with Google’s AdSense platform, premium media owners on YouTube have the opportunity to whitelist and blacklist certain brands or brand categories from advertising on their content.

If you have experience with this, we’d love to hear your perspective. If you’d like to join a Q&A session with some of our other subscribers to discuss these topics, let us know by replying to this email to express your interest.


Instagram Takes on Pinterest Boards

The Story

Instagram may be borrowing a page from Pinterest’s playbook. Code buried in Instagram for Android shows the company developed a prototype option to create public “Collections” to which multiple users can contribute, similar to the format of a Pinterest board.

Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?

That’s what they say – it’s why we have seen and will continue to see every platform copy each other’s most popular features. Although Instagram launched private Collections two years ago to let users save and organize their favorite feed posts, the ability to make these Collections public is a whole new ballgame – one that has been Pinterest’s MO for quite some time now.

If one of Instagram’s goals with Collections is to compete more directly with Pinterest, it’s going to be important that Instagram considers all of the features that come with Pinterest boards, such as the ability to link out to other destinations. As Jen Eddins, the creator behind Peanut Butter Runner, put it, “[Collections would] 100% without a doubt need the functionality to link out. Pinterest is a huge driver of recipe traffic to my site and I’d love the ability to send people to my site for the full recipe like I do on Pinterest.”

What’s Instagram saying?

“We’re not testing this,” which is Instagram’s standard response to press inquiries about products that aren’t available to public users but are in internal development. So, although Instagram has denied the rumor, it comes just as Pinterest files to go public with its upcoming $12 billion IPO. Coincidence? Maybe not.


While Instagram (and Facebook) is notorious for ripping off other platforms, the rise of visual search and social commerce is becoming a part of Facebook’s foundation and greater ecosystem. It’s why we’ve seen both platforms invest so heavily in e-commerce features and integrations, with the biggest push coming in Q4 2018.

As platforms and brands continue to lean into e-commerce features, influencers, too, will need to re-evaluate their own strategies. As Emily Lewandowski, the creator behind Some Pretty Thing explains, “In the next few years, influencers will have to make decisions about their goals and their own monetization strategies. Instagram becomes a platform that is only focused on selling instead of celebrating creators and their work, influencers will have to decide if their audience is ready to see sales content almost exclusively.”


TikTok’s Advertising Push

The Story

TikTok has told agency partners in the U.S. that it is working on a biddable advertising option on the platform, signaling its push to open the platform up to advertisers.

Talk to me about this new ad option.

Representatives for TikTok have spoken about a biddable option in which advertisers will be able to bid against one another for the ad impressions that they want on a self-managed platform. It’s likely that this platform would include more advanced targeting methods and better measurement tools, with a rumored launch date of this summer.

What about TikTok’s current ad options?

Currently, TIkTok only offers advertisers direct IO buys in which there are four options available: in-feed video ads, brand takeover ads, banner ads, and branded lenses. While the platform offers advertisers some basic targeting capabilities, like state-level geotargeting and gender targeting, it is not available on all of its formats.


As we’ve said, TikTok is emerging as a first-mover opportunity for brands looking to connect with Gen Z audiences. As Jenny Lang, UM’S SVP and managing partner, put it: “While the amount of people on the platform is clearly not as big as other platforms, we always like to get into those emerging platforms where there’s a really engaged audience.” Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen brands like GrubHub, Sony Pictures, and Calvin Klein experiment with ad units on the platform.


Another Day, Another Privacy Issue on Facebook

The Story

Several popular health apps have stopped sharing health data with Facebook after a report from The Wall Street Journal surfaced that Facebook was using that health data to improve ad targeting.

What did the report say?

According to the report, the app makers used what’s known as “App Events,” a Facebook-provided tool that shares sensitive, user-submitted data directly with the social network. That data is then used to inform Facebook’s ad-targeting tools, which it provides to those same developers and others so they can reach existing and new users when they’re browsing Facebook. The worst part? None of the apps uploading data to “App Events” notify users about this data-sharing tool through privacy policies or terms of service.


Assume Facebook knows any information that you’ve shared about your health. As we mentioned with Youtube, where social platforms are repeatedly failing when it comes to brand safety and consumer privacy, the other remaining parties assume accountability. In this case, its mobile app companies taking the fall. Out of the 70 popular apps that WSJ monitored, 11 of them shared such data with FB. And because the sharing of such data is a “custom event” outside the limits of standard permissions, neither Apple nor Google are aware of when an app is communicating sensitive information. This not only has serious ethical implications, but also those apps need to take a hard look at their crisis comms planning. Influencer marketing should not only be thought of as a proactive growth strategy, but also one to activate in times of need.



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