Google is now permitting creators of YouTube content to sell their own ads (with a split going to Google). But what’s alarming is that some of the videos on YouTube are being produced in cooperation with advertisers, including featuring its products in the program. For example, Advertising Age reports that “Revision3, the online-video-production company…is selling advertising on YouTube, starting with GoDaddy, a sponsor that’s regularly integrated into the content of its shows.” Revision3’s website explains that “it has attracted a wide-range of top advertisers including Sony, Netflix, Dolby, Microsoft, IBM, HP… Verizon and FX Networks. Advertisers enjoy a unique bond with the audience via customized message integration and host mentions that deliver phenomenal results.” Revision3 lists among its “success stories” the following:
“Verizon VCast: As part of its launch of a mobile phone-based streaming video service, Verizon sponsored Diggnation. As part of the sponsorship, the hosts interacted with the VCast service during an episode, and discussed how the service worked and what it did. Awareness skyrocketed. According to Amanda Donelly, the Media Supervisor at Verizon’s agency Moxie Media, the results were “seriously way better than we had ever anticipated”.
Congress, the FCC, FTC, and media reform advocates will need to address the purposeful blurring of content and advertising in online video (broadband and mobile). But industry also must enact meaningful rules regulating such practices. That’s where Google comes in. As the global online advertising market leader, Google needs to set the highest standard for ethical business behavior. Enabling stealth informercials guised as entertainment tarnishes the reputation of YouTube.