Want TV Ad Dollars? Let’s Act Like TV

Much of the YouTube community is up in arms over YouTube’s “Advertising Friendly Content Guidelines” policy, which had a recent update to it’s notification and appeals process. While there was no change to the policy itself, the announcement called attention to the policy’s existence in the first place. Before grabbing the pitchforks and trying to burn down the castle, let’s take a step back and try to understand what exactly is happening, and all the ways in which this policy might actually be helping us.

As you can see from the policy below, YouTube is not really censoring content. Nowhere in the policy are they inferring they will remove content that is offensive, contains bad language, is inflammatory, or represents an unpopular view. They are merely stating that those videos may not be eligible for monetization. Why would they do this?

YouTube is in the business of selling advertising, and in particular is in the business of trying to get advertising dollars that are allocated to television to shift over to their platform. That is very similar to the business we have been in for years. Having sat down with many agencies and brands, I can assure you that one of their biggest fears is that their advertisements will show up against content that does not adhere to the standards listed above. The easiest way for someone to defend buying ads on television versus digitally is to point to the lack of those standards online.

Yes, there are certain programs on television that push the limits and showcase violence, language, partial nudity and extreme opinions. There has always been somewhat of a double standard where the Internet is judged through a harsher lense, but as any salesperson call tell you, those shows are really hard to sell on television as well. Most of them are viewed as prestige programming for the networks and only become real ad revenue generators when they reach cultural relevance. By and large, brands would still prefer to keep their ads running against safe programming, and some companies even prefer to review the episodes their ads running against each week.

I assume that the standards policy exists to enable YouTube to:

  • Convince more and more brands to allocate budget to the platform. While it seems crazy, there are many brands out there that remain hesitant to spend online and this may push them over the limit
  • Increase pricing. More in demand programming will create greater ability to command higher CPM’s

If they are able to achieve this then advertising fill and net CPM’s will rise for every creator on the platform, which will be a huge win for everyone. Yes, sometimes it is more difficult to have to adhere to standards, but this is no different than the way creators on television have operated for decades.

If creatively it is important to violate the policies above, and sometimes it absolutely is, then by all means I would recommend doing it. But do it knowing that it might impact ad revenue and be okay with that, much like the people on television are when they decide to make a “Walking Dead”, which could not have been an easy sell for the first season.

There is no doubt the “Advertising Friendly Content Guidelines” create another thing to consider when making content, but hopefully in the long run having them means there will be more ad revenue so that we can continue to invest in bigger and better things.

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