VAB Takes Aim at YouTube Brand Safety in Report

In a new report looking at YouTube, the Video Advertising Bureau, representing traditional television, calls advertising on Google’ video platform “Risky Business” in terms of accurate measurement and brand safety.

As YouTube has grown into a video advertising powerhouse, TV networks have pointed to incidences of ads running near inappropriate content as a cautionary tale for advertisers moving hundreds of millions of ad dollars from TV to YouTube.

YouTube said it has addressed these issues, hiring thousands of new staffers to review video available to sponsor and adding third-party verification that its environment is 99% brand safe.

Related: YouTube Stresses Safety, Effectiveness at Brandcast 

In its latest salvo, the VAB repeats many of the older accusations about YouTube and adds a few more.

A custom analysis done for the VAB’s Risky Business report, found accurate measurement of the 50+ million channels on YouTube is daunting, if not impossible, creating transparency issues for brand marketers

It says comScore measures only 0.4% of the properties on YouTube and of those that are measured, the smallest 99% account for 40% of viewing time--with much of that being the kind of long-tail and user-generated content.

It says the professionally produced TV and film content on YouTube can be a safe haven.

“Not all of YouTube’s popular content resides in an ambiguous and ungovernable advertiser setting,” said Sean Cunningham, VAB’s CEO. “Popular content categories do exist where marketers can avoid pitfalls. New, professionally-produced TV and film content makes its way to YouTube daily offering a variety of premium, brand-safe options for digital advertisers.”

But it notes that Google Preferred, which offers advertisers a chance to advertise only in YouTube’s most popular content, isn’t as transparent as some advertisers would like because YouTube does not provide a list of the channels within each Google Preferred category.

A YouTube spokesman denied that contention, saying that YouTube provides on request the full list of Google Preferred channels.

In January, YouTube said it established stricter criteria for channels eligible to run ads and committed to having 10,000 people addressing content issues for advertisers. Already, every Google Preferred video has been verified via human review to meet advertiser-friendly guidelines.

YouTube is also testing third-party verification of brand safety with DoubleVerify and IAS. During beta tests, YouTube says it is seeing a 99% success rate on brand safety across both auction and reserve sales platforms, including Google preferred.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.