Google Industry Insights Advertising

The challenges with advertising safely to kids on YouTube


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October 22, 2018 | 4 min read

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The dramatic rise in online viewing for kids creates many opportunities for advertisers, but there are risks too. As it has become harder for advertisers to reach children at scale and in safe and compliant environments, brands need to be aware of the challenges, opportunities and implications of increased online ad spend.


The challenges with advertising safely to kids on YouTube

A recent report by Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, found that 43% of children aged eight to 15 prefer watching YouTube to television, up from 29% just two years ago.

Data published in 2017 by PwC showed that the kids’ online advertising market is set to grow to $1.2 billion by 2019, and 2016 Ofcom data revealed around 40% of kids aged between five and 15 own a smartphone or tablet.

It’s not a complete picture, but the direction is clear. As kids’ online viewing rates rise so do the opportunities for brands and advertisers. And YouTube stands head and shoulders above the pack with an incredible 30% share of kids’ attention.

YouTube as a brand safe platform

Advertising on YouTube is not all rosy, and it pays to understand YouTube’s function as a platform - not a publisher - that gives creators a voice to publish their own content.

Several controversial setbacks over the years have also dredged up questions around brand safety and content control on YouTube. Although these issues have served to make the platform even safer for today’s advertisers, YouTube itself has admitted it will never be completely brand safe, opening the way for third-party partners that can give control back to the advertiser.

As far as ad formats go, TrueView is nearly perfect. A skippable ad format that is charged only if an ad is voluntarily watched, TrueView is a great indicator of brand lift KPIs as studies have shown a positive correlation between high view-through rates and brand awareness or lower-funnel KPIs such as purchase intent.

Understanding COPPA Compliance

Complying with COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) is critical for brands targeting an ‘under 13s’ audience.

In the absence of an official ‘kids advertising package’ Google’s audience targeting starts at 18 years and, without being able to use remarketing or cookie-based targeting solutions, advertisers need to find alternative solutions to reach their audience.

The targeting challenge

Most third party video advertising solutions in the market for YouTube use channel-level targeting, aligning branded advertising material to content channels across YouTube. The trouble with this approach is that it lacks the nuance necessary to understand and evaluate individual videos for relevance and safety, especially where the toy category is concerned.

For instance, advertising a toy aimed at boys aged 8 to 12 years old on an influential ‘unboxer’s channel’ only to find that same channel promoting videos of Nerf guns alongside Barbie Dolls, makes audience alignment difficult and drives up wastage.

It’s worth noting too, the high volume of device sharing within families as well as the variety of ways in which YouTube is consumed by the ‘under 13s’ audience, such as co-viewing between parents and toddlers. If you, therefore, don’t use contextual targeting your ad could appear in front of the wrong audience.

The way forward

As the first COPPA Compliant YouTube provider, we launched Precise TV over three years ago using AI to find contextually relevant videos to safely reach audiences such as pre-schoolers, children and tweens.

Predictive analytics helps to identify which content is most likely to move the needle on brand awareness and purchase intent. For example, children’s brand Zuru used Precise TV to drive a 24.2% lift in product awareness and a 19.1% lift in purchase intent for their Fidget Cube.

Despite this success, there’s still a long way to go towards solving these industry-wide challenges. Conversations on brand safety and children’s online advertising won’t do it alone but they’re certainly a start.

Nadav Shmuel

Google Industry Insights Advertising

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