Youtube’s Barb bid re­jected

De­spite mea­sures taken by the plat­form, ad­ver­tis­ers must re­main ‘vig­i­lant and cau­tious’. By Gideon Spanier

Campaign UK - - FRONT PAGE - By Gideon Spanier

Youtube has suf­fered a fresh blow as its plan to gain ac­cred­i­ta­tion from Barb, the in­dus­try body that mea­sures TV view­ing in the UK, has been re­jected.

The Google video site pro­posed a pi­lot scheme but it is un­der­stood that Barb feels the plan does not meet what the body calls its “gold stan­dards”, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to in­de­pen­dent ver­i­fi­ca­tion of view­ing fig­ures.

Youtube is said to be will­ing to make server data avail­able but is un­com­fort­able with Barb em­bed­ding soft­ware code on the site – some­thing that broad­cast­ers al­low on their on­line TV play­ers.

An­other po­ten­tial stum­bling block is that Barb mea­sures av­er­age view­ing du­ra­tion time rather than count­ing a view after a min­i­mum time.

Barb, which is funded by broad­cast­ers in­clud­ing the BBC, ITV, Chan­nel 4 and Sky, as well as the IPA, de­clined to comment.

But the or­gan­i­sa­tion has pre­vi­ously said “any on­line plat­form” can be­come “part of the Barb cur­rency”, so long as there is “in­de­pen­dent au­dit­ing” and it is based on “av­er­age du­ra­tion au­di­ence prin­ci­ples”.

Youtube is said to have re­dou­bled its ef­forts to win ac­cred­i­ta­tion be­cause of the brand-safety row and is host­ing lead­ing UK agen­cies at its Brand­cast event in New York to­day (Thurs­day).

Google de­clined to comment.

Youtube is bat­tling to win back trust after the brand-safety scan­dal prompted dozens of com­pa­nies to pull their ad­spend, chiefly in the UK, over the past two months. The big­gest change made by the Google site has been to re­strict ads only to cre­ators and chan­nels with 10,000 views. youtube is also hir­ing “sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of peo­ple” to mon­i­tor un­suit­able videos and has tight­ened up rules for cat­e­goris­ing con­tent by genre and chan­nel, so brands can feel more con­fi­dent that their ads will ap­pear in a safe en­vi­ron­ment.

Youtube’s woes, which be­gan when The Times re­vealed in Fe­bru­ary that ads were ap­pear­ing next to ex­trem­ist con­tent, seem to have had no ma­te­rial im­pact on Google. First-quar­ter rev­enues jumped 22% to $24.7bn, with the UK up 16% on an or­ganic ba­sis.

But some UK agen­cies say pri­vately that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of brands con­tinue to stay off Youtube, at least in the UK, lead­ing to a drop in price for some ads. They also be­lieve Google has still not done enough to al­low in­de­pen­dent, third-party ver­i­fi­ca­tion.

Tim Hus­sain, head of dig­i­tal at Ebiq­uity, says Youtube could give ad­ver­tis­ers con­trol over each piece of video in­ven­tory. He ex­plains: “The high­est stan­dard in video brand safety is cur­rently of­fered by the TV broad­cast­ers in the UK, who are reg­u­lated by the govern­ment un­der their broad­cast­ing li­cence. I see no rea­son why one of the high­est-val­ued com­pa­nies in the world should of­fer con­trols below this stan­dard.”

There is a wider chal­lenge for dig­i­tal me­dia, from flawed met­rics and ad fraud to viewa­bil­ity and ques­tions about the ethics of Face­book’s live-stream­ing.

Carat UK chief ex­ec­u­tive Rick Hirst says: “Things are chang­ing at such pace that new is­sues arise daily – like the re­cent tragic deaths streamed live on social me­dia. The in­dus­try needs to en­gage in a col­lec­tive, for­ward-look­ing con­ver­sa­tion about re­spon­si­ble mar­ket­ing and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the con­tent on the plat­forms and ad­ver­tis­ers. Be­ing in a re­peat­ing ‘cri­sis’ loop will only dent client con­fi­dence fur­ther.”

All the neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity has yet to change mar­keters’ be­hav­iour, judg­ing by an Ebiq­uity sur­vey of more than 50 lead­ing brands. Two-thirds re­ported that they would in­crease their me­dia spend on­line in 2017. Video, in par­tic­u­lar, is boom­ing, with 89% of brands ex­pect­ing to hike their spend of­ten at the ex­pense of “static”, or text-based, on­line me­dia.

Google knows it could have han­dled the brand­safety cri­sis bet­ter. With the on­line video mar­ket con­tin­u­ing to grow, Youtube has a ma­jor in­cen­tive to get its house in or­der.

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