By David Becker, president and founder, Blue Plate Media Services
On the YouTube correction, clients and the industry as a whole are rallying, asking, “What next?” Just as YouTube is trying to figure out a viable and responsible approach to accepting advertising dollars when targeting children, as a marketer you, too, have a say in the matter and shoulder some of the responsibility.
We all agree that YouTube needed cleansing. It was just a matter of time. Our kid-focused media planning and buying agency, with more than 20 years in navigating the nuanced waters of marketing to kids and their moms, has been quietly and internally monitoring kid-targeted YouTube campaigns for the past several years. What we have found was unsettling.
YouTube is an enabler, willingly and consistently raking in millions of dollars. It allowed inappropriate paid advertising to reach our children, and it was often disguised as kid content. This isn’t allowed on the kids’ TV networks, as they are self-governed in the U.S. Why is this allowed, permitted, or ignored, on this platform? Giant G[oogle] is more concerned with gaining an increased share of the media pie than the line they sometimes cross. But YouTube is not the only guilty party.
It is time for a NewTube —a refreshed, safer YouTube. The influencer ecosystem that it has spawned (with a clear delineation between organic content and paid media) should take a long, hard look at itself and institute a protocol that protects our children and the very brands that sell to them. We cannot, and should not, run a campaign and hope for the best without taking the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and appropriate campaign. It’s time to push the laziness aside, take marketing responsibility for the messaging we run, and reach and engage today’s kids across relevant and safe screens.
YouTube is evolving. Fresh opportunities for safe, effective and efficient media will come from this forced governmental change. As these new opportunities present themselves, turn to your partners for guidance. Additionally, there are many existing and emerging media platforms that are brand-safe, and when running in tandem with other cross-screen media, deliver the reach that is necessary for your nationally distributed product lines. But the responsibility does not, and should not, fall only on the buckling shoulders of the policing agencies, such as The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), but should also fall on the shoulders of the brands themselves and the marketing agencies that support them.
In some instances, we have caringly notified kid networks that their own YouTube channels have carried questionable or inappropriate content. They weren’t aware. That’s because they didn’t slow down and pay attention to their content and the ads they were selling into it. They were caught up in the frenzy of ad dollars and the recapturing of lost viewers.
The marketing takeaway? Slow down.
Pay close attention to the environment in which content and messaging lives. As a kid-focused agency, we take inappropriate messaging seriously and try to avoid it at all costs. The responsibility must fall on our shoulders and not conveniently roll off our shoulders.
Today’s media is quickly shifting and changing. Lazy, templated media thinking is not the answer — it is part of the problem. The winning brands of today are the ones who rise to the challenge, rely on smarter thinking, and identify screens and platforms that are both relevant and brand-safe.