As the Director of Ad Operations at AdParlor, I have run literally thousands of YouTube campaigns over the course of my career. When it comes to client concerns, without a doubt, ensuring brand safety is at the top of their list. But here’s the secret— there’s no magic button you can push to ensure that your brand is placed next to brand-safe content. If there were, large agencies wouldn’t be pulling their ads from YouTube to avoid an accidental and potentially disastrous placement.

Yet, video remains one of the most powerful ways advertisers can connect with their audiences. If you’re a brand, YouTube advertising is a vital part of your marketing mix, so how can you proceed with your ad buys while protecting your brand image? While there is never a “guarantee” or a perfect answer to keeping your ads brand safe, there are several steps you can take to minimize the likelihood of a catastrophe.

YouTube is all about uploading videos in real-time. So, a proactive approach helps to combat potential brand safety issues. To make it easier, I’ve broken things down to a simple, three-prong approach that you can implement right now to make your ads more brand safe.

Employ Google Category Exclusions

Apply Google Category Exclusions at the campaign level as a first line of defense. Depending on advertiser requirements, some may only want to advertise in front of content suitable for families, all audiences (DV-G) and younger teens (DV-PG), while others, for example, may want to strictly stay away from content described as “Tragedy and Conflict.” It’s a best practice to understand ahead of time the types of content you want to prevent. These exclusions aren’t applied by default, and include the following categories:

  • Embedded YouTube Videos
  • Live Streaming Videos
  • Games
  • Tragedy and Conflict
  • Sensitive Social Issues
  • Content Suitable for Families
  • Content Suitable for All Audiences (DV-G)
  • Content Suitable for Younger Teens (DV-PG)
  • Content Suitable for Teens
  • Adult Content (DV-MA)
  • Content not yet rated

Utilize Google Topic Exclusions

On top of Category Exclusions, add Google Topic Exclusions as a secondary layer to remove advertisements in front of more specific types of content. While not an exhaustive list of all available topics, some exclusions we’ve seen work well include the following:

  • Offbeat Topics
  • Computer & Video Games
  • Comics & Animation
  • Toys
  • Men’s Interests (Mature)
  • Bollywood & South Asian Film
  • Reproductive Health
  • Animated Films
  • Health Conditions
  • Massage Therapy

Add Google Keyword, Channel & Placement Exclusions

As a third layer of protection, we always implement our own extensive blacklist of keywords, YouTube channels and placements (sensitive, adult, inappropriate) to further exclude and decrease the possibility of appearing in front of something that wouldn’t fit with our client’s messaging.

In summary, it’s imperative to apply exclusions at the different levels, i.e. campaign and targeting levels, to help deter your ads from showing up in places you don’t want them to be.

Google doesn’t have any kind of standard “blacklist,” for this—however, you can manually apply your own brand safety best practices to help protect against unsafe content.

There must also be a reactive component to your strategy. You still need to regularly pull placement reports, and continuously analyze where your content is showing up to make additional adjustments throughout the campaign flight.

Needless to say, it takes a bit of grunt work to make sure this all this happens. Let this checklist be your guide as you navigate through the YouTube buying process.

And if you still need help, drop us a line. AdParlor leverages a 3-step process, incorporating our exclusive RelevenceCheckTM technology to ensure our clients’ ads are placed in front of brand safe, relevant content.