Is YouTube Still Safe for Higher Ed Advertising?

Carnegie Higher Ed Mar 29, 2017 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

The short answer: absolutely yes!  

Over the past week, you may have seen complaints from big brand advertisers after their banner ads appeared over YouTube videos posted by extremists. As a result, you may be asking yourself: what can I do to prevent this from happening to my institution’s digital advertising campaigns?

Here are a few points to consider to ensure your school’s ads appear just where you want them—in front of prospective students seeking higher education!

First, you can rest easy—at least a little bit—because digital marketing for colleges and universities takes a vastly different approach than digital marketing for these big brands. For Coke or Wal-Mart, their potential market is just about anyone! So they are casting a very wide net, advertising broadly to reach as many people as possible.

In contrast, digital marketing for higher education, like the work we do here at Carnegie, takes a much more targeted, audience-first approach. No matter the advertising platform, whether it’s Google or social media, tailored and customized ad placement using the most advanced targeting options and content controls available ensures you reach the appropriate audience, in the right places, next to relevant and topical content.

Some of these targeting tactics include:

  • Creating a whitelist by uploading into every platform a list of websites and videos that have historically been proven to only have the most relevant and appropriate content
  • Creating a blacklist by uploading into every platform a list of websites and videos that have historically been proven to contain inappropriate or irrelevant content
  • Continually optimizing your YouTube and Google Display campaigns, including blocking any new inappropriate websites or videos that may have eluded Google’s filters
  • Launching Google’s site category and content exclusions across every marketing campaign, including:
    • Sensitive content options
    • Sensitive subject exclusions
    • Digital content labels
    • Content type exclusions
    • Types of placements
    • Ad location
    • Video content types
  • Targeting users by pre-defined demographics, interests, and search behavior
  • Analyzing performance by device type

Second, take advantage of changes from Google. One of the benefits to the noise the big brands are making is that it is driving Google to take immediate action, with the promise of more change on the way—something all advertisers will benefit from. Google has already responded with the following measures:

  • Safer default for brands. Google is changing the default settings for ads so they appear near content that meets a higher level of brand safety while excluding potentially objectionable content.
  • Simplified management of exclusions. Google will introduce new account-level controls to make it easier for advertisers to exclude specific sites and channels from all of their AdWords for video and Google Display Network campaigns, and manage brand safety settings across all campaigns with a push of a button.
  • More fine-tuned controls. Google has just introduced new controls to make it easier for brands to exclude higher-risk content and fine-tune where they want their ads to appear.
  • More Googlers reviewing videos. Google is hiring more people to review videos and develop even more sophisticated programs to figure out which clips would be considered inappropriate for advertising.

Finally, be proactive with a multi-layered advertising strategy. Try diversifying your audience reach, and don’t limit your exposure to just one channel. We always recommend a layered advertising strategy that includes multiple platforms.

Make sure you or the marketing agency you work with has experience and expertise across multiple advertising platforms like paid search (PPC), social media (including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter), display advertising and Retargeting through targeted networks, and IP and device targeting. This allows you to reach a targeted, well-qualified yet diverse audience, no matter where they are online, what physical location they are in, what device they are using, or where they are in the college decision-making process.

By targeting specific niche audiences, diversifying your online tactics, and implementing best practices for content exclusions, blacklists, whitelists, and site-blocking parameters (among other things), you can rest assured that your ads are reaching the right audience and appearing on brand-safe sites.

If you have questions about YouTube, Google’s latest advertising changes, or what you need to do to make sure your digital campaign is running safely, don’t hesitate to contact us!


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