All Hail To Big Advertisers And Their Empty Gestures

I’m a slave to fashion, so right now I’d like to announce I’m pulling all of my advertising from YouTube. There is no need to thank me.  It is the right thing to do, and I will always do the right thing if I see other people are doing it, too. That’s just the way I am.

I am discovering I am not alone. Perhaps pro-social air traffic controllers could step in to coordinate all the YouTube advertising-ban proclamations. All can be slotted with their own headlines.

For example, just a few hours ago, Johnson & Johnson announced it is “pausing” its YouTube advertising. I nearly missed that. I was still mentally congratulating Verizon, AT&T and Marks & Spencers, which have taken the courageous step to stop advertising on YouTube and simultaneously tell the world about their decisions.

Perhaps more advertisers would have the courage if they heard the advice from MoffettNathanson, which, according to Reuters, politely pointed out that advertising boycotts from huge advertisers won’t have much of an effect on YouTube because big advertisers aren’t spending a lot there to begin with.



MofettNathanson observed, “Digital dependence on the long-tail of advertising clients means that while major advertisers like P&G or agencies like Havas can publicly protest, they do not have the same impact on a Google or a Facebook as they have on a CBS or NBC. In other words, if a major brand marketer or agency moves money to TV and out of digital, the TV industry will see the benefit whereas the digital industry might not truly feel it.”

Understanding so clearly now that I can make a principled stand without any real penalty, I would also like to announce that anything I write here at MediaPost will not be genetically modified, in any way whatsoever, from this day forward.  You can rest assured of that. (I may use filler now and then.)

Large corporations and advertisers don’t like to offend consumers, at least without knowing they are doing it. So when ads turn up fronting anti-Semitic or alt-right content on YouTube, you can understand why advertisers would be upset enough to say something.

Big advertisers tend to catch the attention of big executives and in the end, improvements are made. That’s the theory, at least.

Those big media executives are not much in the position to say, “What are you? Blind?” because it’s rude and tends to be a bad sales technique, I’d guess. But it's a valid question.

When Rush Limbaugh called a law student a “slut” in 2012 because she favored public funding for contraception, at least a dozen (and perhaps many more) stopped advertising on his radio show. Apparently, up to that point, they never, ever knew Rush Limbaugh says disgusting, repugnant things. That is the business he is in — and that they support.

Likewise, Disney-owned Maker Studios hurriedly disavowed and disassociated itself from PewDiePie earlier this year after the fabulously popular YouTuber, actually named Felix Kjellberg, made a series of comments that would be hard to categorize as funny and satire (his take) and pretty easy to categorize as anti-Semitic. Those videos began on Jan.11

Certainly, Disney and YouTube knew about what was going on. I say that because PewDiePie is overwhelmingly the most popular YouTuber out there. His videos have been seen a combined 14 billion times. He’s been called one of the world’s 100 most influential persons. So it would be impossible to suggest, PewDiePie’s anti-Semitism controversy flew under the radar.

Yet neither Disney nor YouTube did much about the roiling PewDiePie controversy until The Wall Street Journal, about a month later, called Disney on it. Then the whip came down.

“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate,” said a spokesman. ”Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.” YouTube removed him from its Google Preferred ad network and severed its closer ties to him.

It’s not difficult to put together a long list of offensive videos that have appeared on YouTube, most of them, probably, generated by the infrequent user who gets a wise, sick idea.

But there’s a lot of other stuff, not quite as extreme, that would be hard for advertisers to defend; they get a pass because everybody would seem to know there is so much out there, it can’t logically be policed.

It probably would be a lot better if advertisers clearly stated that fact, instead of pretending they’ve been blindsided.
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