February 16, 2019

YouTube Revamped Its Ad System. AT&T Still Hasn’t Returned.

ATT believes that its dialogue with YouTube played a role in the platform’s announcement last month that humans will manually vet videos from channels that are part of Google Preferred — a designation applied to channels representing the top 5 percent of content on YouTube that helps brands advertise on popular videos.

Over the past year, major marketers have been demanding more accountability from Google, Facebook and the rest of the digital advertising ecosystem, as they have come to the conclusion that the same algorithmic tools that allow unprecedented access to consumers can be used to spread misinformation, hate speech and harmful videos that target children. On Monday, Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer of Unilever, called on tech companies to take greater responsibility for what appears on their sites and said that his company would not invest in platforms “that do not protect our children or which create division in society and promote anger or hate.”

“We’ve been talking about the digital supply chain for several years but what happened last year is it became a societal issue, a people issue,” Mr. Weed said in an interview after delivering remarks on eroding trust in tech companies at an industry conference in Palm Desert, Calif.

Mr. Weed said that while he would pull dollars from the platforms “if something happened which was completely inappropriate for our brands or our business,” he wanted to work with the companies to improve their sites.

“What I’m not doing is giving some sort of public ultimatum,” he said.

Brian Wieser, a media analyst at Pivotal Research, said that marketers were clearly having an influence.

“If they said nothing then the only thing that would cause the platforms to act is the risk of government regulation,” he said.

But Unilever, he said, was not taking an especially hard line with the tech companies as far as its advertising budget. “It’s not like they set a threshold and said companies who don’t do this lose their money specifically,” he said.


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Unilever, which owns brands like Ben Jerry’s and Dove, did not pull its marketing dollars from YouTube last year, saying at the time that the number of ads running with objectionable content was proportionally small and that it would use the moment to win new concessions from Google.

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Mr. Weed reiterated that position on Monday.

“What I’m talking about here is moving the conversation along,” he said.

Unilever, for example, has been talking with YouTube about implementing more human screening of videos that include children to make sure that they are not being exploited.

“There is nothing we take more seriously than the trust and safety of our users, customers and partners, and we will continue to work to earn that trust every day,” a Google spokesperson said of Mr. Weed’s remarks.

Even though ATT hasn’t been spending money on YouTube ads in the past year, it has worked closely with the platform to improve its systems and is eager to have its ads again seen by YouTube’s huge audience of teen and twentysomething viewers. YouTube has said that its manual reviews of Google Preferred channels would be complete by the end of March.

“We’re very hopeful we can get back onto YouTube,” Ms. Carter said. “It delivers the scale we want but we had to roll up our sleeves and find that performance elsewhere.”

ATT spent more than $1 billion on advertising in the United States last year through September, while Unilever spent $644 million, according to data from Kantar Media. ATT was the sixth-biggest advertiser in the country during that period, Unilever was No. 16.

ATT also said that it would audit its programmatic ad spending in coming months, as it tries to better understand the process through which technology and automation place its online ads in front of consumers. That realm of advertising has drawn scrutiny from marketers in recent years amid reports that much of their spending, which is difficult to trace, is going to tech companies and agency fees rather than publishers.

Ms. Carter said that it would be working with its agency, Omnicom’s Hearts Science, and the firms AdFin and Amino Payments to figure out how its money moves through those systems.


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“I believe that marketers, and to a certain extent agency partners, have not been in control of the way the advertising process is moving,” Ms. Carter said. “It’s incumbent upon us to drive the key issues and shine a light on them and ensure that budgets are being spent in service of the right goals.”

ATT’s efforts underscore the strange world that advertisers are navigating online.

“Five, six, seven years ago, the majority of spend was in TV, print, even outdoor, and you had absolute clarity in where your advertising was appearing but far less data around who you were advertising against,” Ms. Carter said. “We’ve flipped that now.

“We have incredible data and insights into the people we’re advertising against, but we no longer are really seeing across the digital ecosystem.”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/12/business/media/att-youtube-advertising.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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