European Advertisers Have Limited Ability To Verify YouTube Ads

"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Bjarte Humborstad, digital director at RED Media Consulting.

Following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Google has allowed advertisers to serve their YouTube ads only from Google-owned platforms, such as AdWords and DoubleClick.

Google is also limiting the number of partners whose pixels can be used for third-party ad measurement on YouTube to seven external companies: comScore, DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science, Kantar, Moat, Nielsen and Research Now.

If European-focused advertisers also want to know the reach and audience of their campaigns, they have even fewer choices because Google now allows only two American companies to perform third-party reach measurement on YouTube: comScore and Nielsen.

Even if comScore and Nielsen are combined, all countries in Europe are not covered. This would leave some European advertisers unable to independently verify the reach of their YouTube campaigns and whether the ads were shown to their intended target group.  

When only US-based companies are allowed to perform these types of third-party measurement in Europe but they aren’t present in every GDPR-impacted country, I question whose needs Google’s changes are serving. It is one of the larger ironies of GDPR implementation that Google has limited the companies that can measure on YouTube to only US-based companies – as none of these companies have, in my opinion, a particularly strong presence in Europe.

Selected EU-based ad servers such as Adform, which is a market-leading ad server with a strong presence in the Nordic region, as well as the US, UK and Germany, have access to Google’s Ads Data Hub but are only able to republish Google’s own numbers. In effect, European advertisers are forced to host, serve and measure their YouTube campaigns based only on platforms and information provided by Google. Some may find this data to have limited value because it is coming from Google, which is also selling the campaigns.

GDPR is welcomed by most because it helps to set a common standard, weed out less trustworthy players in the market and, perhaps more importantly, shift the industry toward more responsible use of personal data.

However, along with all the positive aspects of the new rules, some interpretations of GDPR are causing some rather unfortunate and unintended consequences. Some have observed that Google appears to be using the rules to tilt the playing field in its favor or restrict advertisers’ choices. At the very least, it may not be directing sufficient resources toward ensuring that these possibilities are not the consequence. As of now, some European advertisers cannot know whether they are getting what they pay for on YouTube.

The online advertising industry needs transparency and choice. We have already experienced the problems associated with a lack of third-party verification when Facebook was caught misreporting viewability rates for online video. History tends to repeat itself, and the industry needs more than walled gardens.

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