YouTube opens up to Jicwebs brand safety certification in bid to be 'more transparent'

The move from YouTube marks the latest opening up of its walled garden to third-party verification / YouTube

YouTube has opened up to the brand safety standards set by the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (Jicwebs) in a bid to be "more transparent" amid ongoing scrutiny from advertisers around ad misplacement.

The move marks the first time Google has subscribed any of its platforms to the standards set by the independent UK body.

The video site was independently audited to ensure it met the Good Practice Principles set by Jicwebs' Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) which aims to reduce the risk of brands running ads adjacent to inappropriate content.

Ronan Harris, managing director of Google, UK and Ireland, said providing more transparency and visibility to its advertising partners remained important to Google.

"We remain committed to listening and working with the industry on cross-industry standards for digital advertising," he added.

The move from YouTube marks the latest opening up of its 'walled garden' to third-party verification and follows yet another brand safety flare-up which became national news last year and saw brands like Adidas, Marks & Spencer and RBS cease ad spend on the video-sharing network.

Public pressure on YouTube's content screening policies began to mount following an editorial exposé by News Corp's The Times in early 2017 found ads from household names being served next to extremist and pornographic content. Such was the extent of the outcry, that in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the findings, Google inked a brand safety verifcation deal with ComScore to rate inventory as appropriate or inappropriate on the video-sharing site.

The internet giant has since been the subject of a number of other headlines, with more recent reports around ad misplacement alleging that campaigns from some of the world’s biggest brands – including Amazon – had been featured against videos depicting “undressed” or “scantily clad” children.

At the end of last year, YouTube announced a number of ways it was handling the issue internally, which included the appointment of more human moderators, with the latest move likely to be welcomed by brands and agencies looking for more stringent measures.

Phil Smith, the director general at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba), said: “We welcome this move from Google. Opening up to certification is an important part of the action needed to reassure advertisers that their investment is being protected."

International approach

Previously, Google said it had been put off adhering to Jicwebs' policies in lieu of an international model, with a representative for the firm saying last year: “One of the challenges we have with Jicwebs is the international context. By no means is it a show-stopper, but the question we’re asking is: ‘is there a way of doing this on a global scale and is that something we should be thinking of?'."

In January, however, Jicwebs announced a three-step partnership with US-based body the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), geared towards enabling advertisers to take a more consistent approach towards brand safety and ad fraud on either side of the Atlantic. Jicwebs' transparency standards are backed by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), with DTSG certification being a key component of its Gold Standard initiative.

IAB chief executive Jon Mew called the verification of YouTube "a significant step forward" for the digital industry, saying it showed the platform's commitment to raising the standards of digital advertising.

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