Google, like other major advertising and media companies, works hard to please its biggest advertisers.Â For decades, radio and TV networks relied on Standards and Practices divisions to screen programs to make sure they were suitable “environment” for commercials.Â So-called “brand protection” has mushroomed online–as we predicted it would many years ago.Â The business model for TV and the Internet are aligned–it must please the Fortune 1000 advertiser first.Â So it’s no surprise that Google has launched a “brand protection feature” for YouTube, explains Ad Age, that provides “more control for advertisers to exclude objectionable videos, genres, channels.”Â Ad Age explained that YouTube’s new feature, is called “target excludes.” It’s “part of the site’s Video Targeting Tool, which gives advertisers the choice to exclude as few as one video they don’t want their product associated with as well as specific genres and channels. The feature addresses the most often-criticized aspect of YouTube: You can buy video there, but you never know what you’ll get.Other uses for this new feature by advertisers include improving returns by excluding channels or videos that are not relevant to the brand or those that are performing poorly.”
Here’s how Google explains it: “Weâ€™re constantly working to give advertisers control and flexibility over their YouTube campaigns. We place great value on this because ads are an extension of what a company represents as a business, and we want YouTube to be a place where that reputation and image can flourish. To that end, weâ€™ve been rolling out features to keep advertisers in control of their campaigns…Google has also been investing significantly in ensuring brand safety, transparency and control for advertisers across the Google Display Network. Weâ€™re hoping that these added layers of control will make your campaign targeting even more precise.”
As we said, so-called online brand protection is a booming business.Â But its purpose, explains one online advertiser, is to be “a preemptive technology and is designed to block ads from appearing next to controversial content…protecting brands from potentially damaging negative associations resulting out of negative content adjacencies.”Â But questions should be raised now about how decisions will be made placing videos and other content on so-called censoring “whitelists” [which are really blacklists]. How will it ultimately affect the diversity of controversial content online?Â Does YouTube further go from a quasi common carrier to an environment where, as we already see, Google favors some content over others? Â Will the online medium be further transformed to reflect the TV model, with consequences to serious journalism and independent content?Â The questions are larger than what Google does.Â But given Google’s network neutrality flipflop and its online ad and data collection ambitions, a debate about the impact of so-called “brand protection” on the future of the online media is in order.