By Berles Desire, Senior Strategist at Carrot Creative

Ah yes…click baiting…if you are reading this, it’s too late because it worked.

YouTube isn’t dead, but the hashtag and topic gained some momentum the last couple of weeks due to an unnecessary scare… not horror, but what I would like to call “content creator melodrama”.


Content creators on YouTube recently discovered a notification on some of their video content.

“Not Advertising Friendly content. Request manual review.”

If this message is received, it indicates that your content failed to meet key criteria that would allow ads to run prior to the viewing of your video. The content creators on YouTube are not partial to advertising as much as they are happy that they can make money off of it. This is where the problem starts.

To be fair, many personalities on YouTube subsidize their production costs with money that they receive from the platform, so this news has threatened many on a number of levels. Here’s the set of rules that YouTube listed as “Not Advertising Friendly” for your reference:

- Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor

- Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism

- Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language

- Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items

- Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown

The judgment around these parameters are often dictated by tags people use on their videos, but some of these decisions are also subjective (i.e. How should we measure the nature of a “sensitive subject”?). That said, a number of people are alarmed on the platform because they view demonetization as an insidious form of censorship. The belief is that channels that flourished by providing unique content (vs. traditional media outlets) are now in jeopardy of maintaining the integrity of their work.

The reality is that YouTube has been silently demonetizing videos without content creators being notified in the past. The platform recently started announcing this in order to drive awareness of their practices, giving creators the opportunity to make adjustments.

What is the real story here? There are many ways we can look at this situation….

Issues of Debate:

Money vs. Authenticity

The issue of demonetization may force some of our less “politically correct” YouTube personalities to make a decision. Is it worth more to make authentic content or to meet guidelines of “acceptability”? This is an age-old debate in the battle between creativity and commerce.

No one really wants to be considered a sell-out because there’s an opportunity to get a check. If your content changes, your core fan-base might abandon you. If one chooses to focus on meeting YouTube guidelines, viewership might decrease, as well as the income you planned for.

Censorship by another name

Many content creators consider this to be a way to limit free speech or expression. There’s concern that some relevant subject matter may conveniently fall into the “Non-friendly content” bucket.

Whether it’s a discussion of U.S. foreign policy, #Blacklivesmatter or UFC fight highlights, some are concerned that videos will become less polarizing in an effort to meet YouTube’s demands. This shift would seem closer to the content development approach that has driven Millennials away from broadcast television. People are increasingly finding other outlets to satisfy their entertainment/information needs given that interests have become more niche and specialized in this era.

It doesn’t seem like YouTube will become a broadcast television duplicate any time soon or ever for that matter. The reality is that the platform, which has operated at a loss for some time, wants all the money they can get…and with business partnerships comes compromise.

Brands might be too focused on content that comes on after their message

Is your consumer target watching the video? If so, why should your brand show concern about what the customer has chosen to view? Should the Colgate brand be concerned about whether a movie reviewer’s language fits their brand character or moral code?

YouTube viewers aren’t overthinking the role of ads in context of their content, if anything; they are finding a plugin/extension available to bypass your message.

I moved to a new apartment a couple months ago and my Google searches related to the Canadian home insurance market (work research) and apartment hunting sites. My activity influenced the targeted placement of Spotify’s “Moving” spot (focused on a ‘moving playlist’ for Canada). The timely nature of the ad didn’t annoy me, but if Spotify avoided reaching me because the video contained “inappropriate language”, that’s a loss for them.

If the data shows that it’s a relevant time to reach your customer — go for it.

Meet the needs of your audience

I can’t think of a brand that has a monolithic group as an audience. Will you please every one of your customers? Probably not. But most fears that brands consume themselves with rarely warrant hitting the panic button. If a video is glamourizing human rights violations, I understand wanting to disassociate your brand. If it’s conversational banter that isn’t causing harm…relax.

Our information age has produced access to more information, and a byproduct of that is a myriad of content preferences on YouTube. Given this reality, a person viewing a video on “Goriest cult films” could also be receptive to a Nissan car ad based on their car search inquiries from the day before.

#YOUTUBEISALIVE …and so is cultural change. Hopefully content creators, platforms and brands find a healthier balance in order to reach their valued audience.