Brands come back to YouTube, with a catch

Credit: David Pakman Show

JPMorgan Chase and P&G are both returning to YouTube a year after they suspended all advertising on the social network in a highly publicized pullback due to brand safety concerns. Both brands have a similar strategy for brand safety — advertise much more selectively with their own custom tools for checks and balances, and make some tough decisions about the additional costs, which may include shifting spend more towards audience building and content.

When the Times of London first reported on ads appearing on extremist videos and other controversial content, over 300 brands immediately pulled advertising from YouTube. Most brands returned in the following weeks they received assurances that YouTube would tighten security, develop a new review policy, and update its algorithm.

However, Chase and P&G wanted to take brand safety measures into their own hands. They are both explicitly whitelisting YouTube channels, ranking channels by level of safety, and screening individual videos.

Chase has developed an internal tool with its own algorithm that rates YouTube channels on brand appropriateness. Even before the March 2017 scandal, Chase had started developing a whitelisting strategy and were getting specific about where their ads would show up. Now, after their internal tool has ranked a channel, a Chase employee conducts an audit to determine whether it should be whitelisted.

P&G has worked with YouTube over the past year and are now satisfied with the changes it has made to safeguard brands. Even so, P&G isn’t taking any chances. Where before they were advertising on 3 million YouTube channels, they’re now only doing so on around 10,000 channels and even then, their ads will be shown on videos P&G has reviewed and approved in-house.

YouTube continues to release new measures to protect brands. They recently released a questionnaire for creators to rate their own videos to help identify videos that aren’t brand safe, which supplements machine learning based video reviews. They’ve also committed to being more transparent by releasing quarterly reports on how they’re enforcing and implementing their YouTube Community Guidelines.

The hard truth: there’s always a tradeoff

Even with all these measures, ads from big brands still end up being shown alongside offensive content. Just last week, Digiday covered CNN’s report that YouTube had served ads for major advertisers alongside Nazi, pedophilia and propaganda videos.

It’s become a familiar cycle now across all platforms. Ads are shown next to questionable content, news outlets discover and report it, brands make hay about suspending advertising only to return to platform days or weeks later.

For a lot of advertisers, it’s a very tough trade-off between the volume available from programmatic scale and the cost of policing. Some brands will take a calculated risk and hope a big press blow-up doesn’t hit them, while others treat an investment in brand safety like purchasing catastrophe insurance.

Here’s the thing: Monitoring content a brand’s ads are shown with is expensive – both in terms of money, manpower, and oversight.

Brands are making two sets of calculations:

  1. Digital spend efficacy: Are their ads getting the results to justify their cost, and are they even measuring the impact in the right way to be able to make that decision?
  2. Audience vs. impressions: Should they focus on building an audience or continue chasing impressions? More importantly, can they afford to continue chasing impressions considering any algorithm changes (especially Facebook) can pull the rug from under them at any time?

The costs of brand safety compliance shifts the balance away from programmatic and towards more curated and vetted distribution. Content teams need to decide whether they’ll put audience first or continue to chase content virality and scale.


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New study on purpose-driven content marketing

Credit: Michael Brenner

New research from Kantar Consulting’s “Purpose 2020” report shows that purpose-driven brands outperform those perceived as without purpose. According to the study, brands with clearly defined purposes grew twice as fast as other brands, increasing their brand valuation by 175% in the past 12 years, compared to a 70% growth rate for “low sense of purpose” brands.The Kantar study highlights the pressure brands feel to be transparent about their beliefs. They no longer have the luxury of not having an opinion — more customers are adopting (or abandoning) brands based on their beliefs. Adweek noted that customers are demanding transparency from the brands they patronize — including their beliefs around polarizing social issues like the #metoo, #timesup, and #boycottNRA movements.  That’s not surprising considering two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennials prefer a brand that stands for something and has a clear point of view.

“Traditional brands can no longer sit on their hands and allow well-scripted corporate statements to shape who they are,” says Tripp Donnelly, CEO of digital reputation management firm REQ. “They have to be dynamic and understand they’re talking to multiple generations of people.”

While purpose-driven brands enjoy a competitive edge, getting it right remains a challenge. Brands don’t need to take a stand on every issue, but they do need now to take stands on some issues, and more importantly — to make sure that any cause they champion makes sense for them.

A long list of failures

A prime example of a brand getting their purpose-driven campaign wrong is the infamous Pepsi/Kendall Jenner ad. While Pepsi wanted to promote a message of unity, peace, and understanding, they ended up completely missing the mark.

On the other hand, when outdoor brands like Patagonia, REI, and North Face opposed President Trump’s decision to open public lands to oil and mining interests, they came across as authentic and conscientious because they’ve long advocated for environmental friendly practices.

The burden on content marketers

Content marketers need to dig deep and establish how to express their own brands beliefs in their content. This is more than a mission statement, a brand voice or brand strategy document, or even what they put on their CSR page. It’s what they take a firm stand on and the issues they’re willing to fight for (or against), and not just through the PR department.

That said, not every piece of published content needs to have an issue or cause attached to it — you don’t need to be Cards Against Humanity and do edgy political stunts. Participate only when it is organic and relevant to the brand (as it was in Patagonia, REI, and North Face’s case).  Consumers can tell when a brand’s POV is authentic and when it’s created for attention, whether it’s a national TV campaign or a blog post.

But being wishy-washy isn’t an option. Pick a side (or a point of view) and stick to it.

Net-A-Porter cracks the content + commerce code


Net-a-Porter has executed a major overhaul of their content operation by combining the content teams of its print and digital titles and creating a unified front under the “Porter” name. This move is reminiscent of NASCAR’s decision to create a 40-person unified content team that we covered previously.

“Porter,” its print magazine, and “The Edit,” its online content portal, now have a 70-person content team that creates content under one cross-channel platform. The move has helped unify Net-a-Porter’s brand voice and create a strong, consistent POV, as well as lower their cost per action (CPA) and improve revenue. 

This hasn’t been a quick or easy transition for Net-a-Porter — it took them years. Lucy Yeomans, Porter’s editor-in-chief has been running the Porter and The Edit separately since 2013.

“Finally. We had been wanting to do it for a long time,” Yeomans told Glossy. “Porter is a brand name; it’s rooted in Net-a-Porter, whereas ‘The Edit’ as a title had gotten quite ubiquitous. Now, all of our content happens under one cross-channel platform. It’s more consistent.”

The formula for content + commerce?

Long before the Jackthreads/Thrillist experiment, companies have tried to crack the code of using editorial content to drive eCommerce sales. Net-a-Porter seems to have at least partially cracked the code for the luxury market.

Porter’s content team reviews new collections together with the merchandising department. The conversation happens across both departments with each recommending new brands to other. If merchandising finds a new brand, they tell editorial about it so they can feature them and if editorial discovers a brand not carried by Net-a-Porter, it’ll recommend it to merchandising.

“As long as we have our customer in mind throughout everything we do, there’s no reason content and commerce can’t work together,” said Yeomans. “We have a single editorial point of view that we communicate with the merchandising team and that the marketing team promotes. It all makes sense in the end, if you’re taking the approach of, ‘What would our customer actually wear? What is she interested in?’ That’s our editorial integrity.”

The collaboration between Net-a-Porter’s editorial and merchandising team boosts organic consumption and sharing of their content. It has also reduced their cost of acquisition — a huge advantage in the highly competitive and expensive world of luxury eCommerce. Continuing with this effort could build a sustainable moat for Net-a-Porter — having an audience beats buying clicks any day of the week.

12 more browser tabs to open

  1. Lessons to learn from Yeezy’s return to twitter.
  2. Content recommendation networks are looking for a second act.
  3. How NBCU is investing more in digital and combining traditional tv with VOD, digital, etc.
  4. Facebook is rolling out more pre-roll video ads and trying to drive more traffic to FB Watch.
  5. Snapchat adding more direct response capabilities.
  6. Fishing for content / news inspiration via trends on Instagram.
  7. TD Ameritrade becomes first company to place an ad in the blockchain.
  8. Digital voice ownership has increased 42%, and there has been a 41% increase in using voice devices to shop.
  9. Amongst teens, linear cable tv watching continues to decrease while Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu are all increasing.
  10. Liquor companies are moving away from twitter.
  11. Study by Points North Group indicates that for some brands, the influencers they’re working with can have up to 78% fake followers.
  12. FB “premieres” format now allows pre-recorded video uploads as VOD.

Curated and published by Adam Orshan, Matt Levin, and Samar Owais in New York City.

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