The Context Resurgence

The programmatic honeymoon is over as brands are realizing that what their online advertising shows up adjacent to is just as important as what the advertising actually is.

Verizon, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and others have stopped their YouTube campaigns after several reports of advertising showing up adjacent to offensive content. Brands have decided that it’s not worth the risk of having their messages associated with potentially harmful messaging, which is a big deal because YouTube is almost a mandatory for any online video campaign.

Brands have challenged Google to do more to protect them from such positions, but with 300 hours of video being uploaded every minute to YouTube, that’s a rather tall order. For its part, YouTube has agreed to give advertisers more control over where they don’t want their ads to displayed and, if they prefer, be more specific in where they do want them to appear. Its also planning to dedicate more staff to protecting brands and improve AI. 

Google wants to make this work. Advertising dollars are certainly more than enough motivation to make Google try, but even its best efforts may not be enough. YouTube’s strength comes from its openness, so the risks will still be there. 

All of this has put more on marketers' radars than was typically there before. We’ve gotten used to the idea of following consumers from site-to-site and app-to-app. Cookies and custom audiences have allowed us to tailor our messages to the audience and their mindsets. That paired with an understanding of the sites they visit and the services they used gave us the equation of reaching the right people in the right places at the right time. 

The missing piece was the context.

You may have right person, place and time, but if the context in which a message is delivered, everything is off. Media companies and tech platforms have focused on those first three. It’s the last one, context, that is going to prove to be the most challenging because in an open web environment, context is never a guarantee and always a risk.