YouTube's New Ad Boycott Not Likely to Hurt Any More Than the Last

By Published on .

Credit: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Brands just can't seem to quit YouTube—at least not enough so YouTube would notice.

The latest so-called "boycott" against the video giant follows a newfound brand-safety crisis. Adidas, Mars Inc., HP and Diageo are among a slew of major advertisers that froze ad spending on YouTube after a Times of London investigation revealed that ads had run on video that sexualized underage girls.

The "situation is clearly unacceptable," an Adidas spokewoman tells Ad Age, adding that it has taken immediate action and is working closely with Google "on all necessary steps to avoid any recurrences of this situation."

Mars says the same. "Until we have confidence that appropriate safeguards are in place, we will not advertise on YouTube and Google," a representative says.

But their moves aren't likely to noticeably affect YouTube's growth. Adidas spent a modest $7.9 million on preroll video on YouTube's U.S. website in the last 12 months, according to digital intelligence platform Pathmatics, which tracks where, and how, brands spend their ad dollars. Mars Inc. sent $6.9 million video toward YouTube during the same time period, Pathmatics said. And other reported new boycotters spent significantly less. HP, which did not respond to a request for comment, spent $1.7 million.

Pathmatics indexes every impression shown on the most-visited websites, including YouTube, The New York Times and The company says it is able to calculate the cost of ads through partnerships it has with agencies and by using data from its own demand-side platform, where ad buyers find inventory from a variety of sources. Its data on desktop and mobile web spending does not include "midroll video," where ads run during the middle of a video, or in-app ads.

Roughly eight months ago, YouTube found itself in a similar situation, as ads were appearing next to videos promoting hate speech and terrorist propaganda. That time, gigantic marketers like J&J, Verizon and Procter & Gamble all froze ad spend as a result.

Verizon and J&J have since resumed spending on YouTube; P&G has not. In any event, the boycott from the much larger advertisers had zero discernable impact on the video streaming giant's bottom line. Google's ad revenue for the quarter ending June 30 surged 21% to $26 billion, an increase it attributed partly to "a strong contribution from YouTube."

"The biggest contributors to growth again this quarter were mobile search and YouTube," Ruth Porat, chief financial officer at Google and its parent Alphabet Inc., said at the time.

Verizon declined to comment on the latest report. J&J did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Johanna Wright, VP of product management at YouTube, said in a blog post that the company is working "around the clock to monitor, review and make the right decisions across our ads and contents policies."

"These latest enforcement changes will take shape over the weeks and months ahead as we work to tackle this evolving challenge," she wrote. "We're wholly committed to addressing these issues and will continue to invest the engineering and human resources needed to get it right."

"As a parent and as a leader in this organization, I'm determined that we do."

Ad spend on YouTube has been trending in an upward direction as the holiday season approaches. Overall, Pathmatics says some $252 million has been spent on YouTube desktop video, where ad rates are highest, in the U.S. and U.K. since September alone.

Most Popular