Posted by Jeremy Spitzberg • Feb 7, 2020 7:42:17 PM

The headline was shocking - as probably intended.

YouTube’s UK boss: ‘Brand safety is no longer top of the list for advertisers’

Our first thought, to quote "The Princess Bride", was "Inconceivable!"

Then, after actually reading the article - something we recommend everyone does before commenting - we realized that it didn't mean what we thought it meant.

How can brand safety not be "top of the list for advertisers" when, as the article examines, YouTube just went through another brand safety episode?

[A] study from research firm Avaaz found that ads from major brands including Samsung, Warner Bros, L’Oréal and Danone had appeared next to a host of climate denial videos. The findings suggested that 16% of the top 100 related videos for the search term ‘global warming’ contained misinformation. The top ten videos had averaged one million views each.

The answer is, according to Ben McOwen Wilson, Regional Director, YouTube EMEA, and Managing Director, YouTube UK & Ireland according to his LinkedIn, is that brand safety is table stakes in the platforms relationship with advertisers.

“Certainly, with brands and with agencies, the topic of brand safety is nowhere near the top of the list for them at the moment with us,” he claims. “It is a hygiene factor that they demand three years ago that we needed to raise our game to deal with and they are reasonably happy that we have made progress.

Not only has YouTube put in work to ensure a brand safety floor, they are working on a more transparent relationship with advertisers.

"Critically, we continue to update them on what it is that we have done and not just, ‘oh, look, it's all gone away’ but that what’s going away is the result of us really, really thinking how we can bring all of our tech, all of our policy thinking, and then increase staffing to bear to make sure that – not just from a brand's point of view, but actually from a user's point of view – that the content that you see and are exposed to on the platform is appropriate.”

So it's not the advertisers aren't interested in brand safety, or working to secure their reputations online, it's that, at least according to YouTube, they're seeing the work that YouTube is doing.

Further, and you can understand why we at the Brand Safety Institute found this interesting, brands are doing the hard work themselves.

Many brands have bolstered their internal knowledge with hires like 'brand safety officers' and 'chief media officers' while others have improved their own processes rather than relying on agencies and platforms to keep them safe, like Diageo which set up a Trusted Marketplace programme in wake of 2017 to better control where its online ads go (the drinks maker is now tentatively testing a return to YouTube).

In short, brand safety is "top of the list" for brands, but they're seeing work being done, and doing their own work to improve things. That's and industry-wide effort we can support, and in which we hope to play some small part.

Topics: Brand Safety, Brand Safety Officers, Transparency, YouTube