Extreme Content, YouTube & Programmatic Buying

Some of the world’s largest brands are no longer advertising on YouTube. They’ve left one of the web’s most popular channels.

Brands like AT&T, Verizon, and Coca-Cola served digital ads next to extremist content on the Google-owned site.


Google deserves blame for allowing ads to show up next to extreme content.

We’d also argue the agencies leading these campaigns are at fault for not developing highly targeted brand-building strategies.

They should have minimized the risk upfront, by creating YouTube micro-campaigns, or targeting hyper-specific audience segments, especially for large multi-billion brands.

Not doing so is tantamount to carelessness, and an attitude that a brand is untouchable.


YouTube just announced that channels will now need 10,000 views before they can feature ads. Once users reach 10,000 views they’re eligible to apply for the YouTube Partner Program, channels will be reviewed prior to serving ads. 

Prior to this change, YouTube did not allow users to block certain channels, the same way other “negative” placements are set up.

Negative placements in the digital advertising world mean you prevent your ads from showing up for irrelevant phrases, websites, and content.

Negatives serve as a stop sign. They tell Google “don’t show our ad here.”

However, on YouTube exclusions can be deployed for particular, topics and content.

Evolve Digital Labs uses exclusion settings for all YouTube campaigns including:

Topic Exclusions:  

  • Politics
  • Broadcast & Headline News
  • Ethnic & Identity Groups
  • Social Issues and Advocacy
  • Religion and Belief
  • Religious Music

Content Exclusions:

  • Livestreaming

Sensitive Subjects Exclusions:

  • Tragedy & Conflict
  • Sensitive Social Issues

Google acknowledges the recent issues on YouTube stem, in part, from the programmatic ad structure.


Programmatic is an automated system to run ads across social media, websites, mobile devices, and computers.

It’s the functionality that enables the Google AdWords auction and ultimately matches ad-space sellers (websites, media sites, YouTube channels) with advertisers.

Advertisers can alter ad delivery methods to match audience locations, demographics, behaviors, and purchasing habits.

An IAB study predicted that programmatic will account for between 70% and 80% of all online display ads by 2018.


Brands must demand more transparency from the vendors they use to buy their media.

With Programmatic, Google’s Display Network monetizes impressions and clicks. That process leads to ads on “junk” sites or next to “junk” content. The network charges pennies to show your ad on sites that are not high-quality and have little chance of converting any customers.  According to the channel itself (a Google/Double Click study), 56% of digital ads are not seen.

  • Researchers for the Interactive Advertising Bureau found in 2015 between 3-31% of programmatic ad impressions were from bots.
    • Bots account for 11% of display ad views.
    • Bots account for 23% of video ad views.

Across digital advertising that amounts to millions of dollars on wasted campaigns.


There are several different, yet troubling, factors which led to the ads showing up on extremist YouTube channels.

Demographic Ad Buy Overlap

Sometimes customer demographics overlap, especially if demographic targeting is too broad. For instance, targeting 18 to 34-year-old males who use the Internet could prompt an ad for a national brand to show up on an extremist YouTube channel.  

Poor Agency PPC Automation

Typically, the automated ad software tools that many big agencies use are not carefully monitored.

We recently helped a brand uncover millions of dollars in waste. Their agency did not have a properly managed negative keyword database and relied heavily on broad match settings. Thus their ads showed up for completely unrelated topics and on irrelevant sites.


Go into your agency and review their AdWords setup. Request a list of managed placements.

Here at Evolve, we do a number of things to protect clients including aggressively monitoring sites and creating robust negative keywords and negative placements lists.

Our PPC team constantly monitors client ad placements to make sure they are:

1. Reaching the right audience.

2. On cost-effective sites, that lead to conversions, or have a chance at converting.

We’ve developed a formulaic process to block irrelevant sites. Every day we eliminate sites that are not high quality or do not convert users.


Block certain videos from your targeted YouTube campaigns.

  1. Click the Campaigns Tab
  2. Choose the Campaign you’d like to exclude YouTube placements for.
  3. Click your Display Network Tab – choose Placements.
  4. Click see Details. Click All.
  5.  Select the Channels or Videos you want to exclude. Click exclude placements.

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