Tech’s Love Affair With Advertising Needs Serious Counseling

(Christian Wiediger/Unsplash)
(Christian Wiediger/Unsplash)

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Advertisers aren’t sure you’re really listening.

This week, a study by advertising research firm Adalytics said that video ads appearing on Google-owned YouTube violated its promise to advertisers 80% of the time by making the ads eminently ignorable. Meanwhile, over at Twitter, the company’s new CEO is trying to revamp its ad business by focusing on video ads that are both loud and unavoidable.

Skipping a Beat

Adalytics’ report focused on a YouTube/Google video advertising product called TrueView, which attaches ads both to YouTube videos and other videos on the web. The idea is that TrueView ads have the classic “skip” button that appears after five seconds, and advertisers only have to pay for the ad’s placement if a user lets it play for a full 30 seconds rather than hurriedly pushing skip. According to Adalytics, many TrueView-placed ads were placed in ways that meant users didn’t even notice they were playing — for example, it said many were automatically muted — so letting them play to the end was an accident rather than an active choice.

Google pushed back hard against the report, saying most of TrueView’s ads run on YouTube, where they’re nice and visible. It seems that wasn’t enough to get advertisers off the warpath:

  • Joshua Lowcock, global chief media officer at advertising agency UM, told the Financial Times that “Google must have a qualified third party do a full independent audit of policy enforcement, as well as this failure, and refund all impacted advertisers.” He gave a similar quote to The Wall Street Journal, too.
  • Giovanni Sollazzo, CEO of digital ad agency AIDEM, also doubled up on expressing his ire in both the FT and the WSJ. “I feel cheated,” he told the WSJ, “What I requested to buy was not what I got. This should entitle me to a refund for invalid traffic.”

Google isn’t alone in trying to convince advertisers their ads will be loud and prominent. Twitter CEO and advertising veteran Linda Yaccarino has been temporarily hamstrung from actively courting advertisers by a non-compete clause from her old employer NBCUniversal, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Symmetrical Cloning: Yaccarino hasn’t been idle, though, and reportedly wants to do something of a pivot to video by serving large, sound-on ads that pop up as users scroll through a new short-form video service. She’s apparently also all-in on trying to recruit both celebrities and influencers, suggesting she thinks the way to turn Twitter’s fortunes around is by mimicking the success of Instagram/TikTok. Funny, given that Instagram’s owner Meta is on the verge of launching a Twitter clone.