Campaign UK

Youtube’s Barb bid rejected

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

- 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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