YouTube Inventory – How to Waste Your Ad Money on Kids

Author: Ely L.

I am still shocked that Google, who cares about YouTube revenue and has every incentive to not do this, still allows these placements to show to advertisers by default.

It’s easy to exclude. On an account level, you exclude ‘Content suitable for families’, which is Google’s euphemism for content that kids watch. When I worked in Google, on the YouTube team, I begged them NOT to allow this content to be monetized by default.

The millions of dollars that brands waste showing their ads to children is embarrassing, entirely avoidable, and a pretty solid example of the quality of online placements in large ad networks. At least Google is transparent and gives the option to exclude it pretty easily in the Content Suitability section of your Google Ads account (see below):

Youtube inventory
Youtube ad settings

Imagine how much worse your closed networks are going to be. The LinkedIn network, for example, seems to have ZERO quality control, and I get the worst traffic I’ve ever seen running on it. We tested this a few different ways. First, looking at the GA4 data and seeing average session duration numbers below 10 seconds. Then we looked at mouseflow and saw the same thing. I even wrote to customer support and they gave me some incredibly awful excuse claiming that the issue was on the mouseflow technical side. 

The digital marketing eco-system is so automated and complicated, at such a large scale, it is beyond easy to waste money. It’s also easy to avoid wasting money, but it requires some knowledge and expertise. Ad platforms are unfortunately incentivised to hide the bad inventory and mix it with the good, and too many large marketing departments are still comfortable buying on CPM and spending money without any real commercial KPIs. There are plenty of bad actors with awful inventory ready to soak up that untracked money, and unfortunately that includes Google.  

CPC bidding helped to fix this problem originally, and I would hope that AI and advanced conversion focused algorithms will also eventually phase out inventory that just doesn’t work. At the end of the day, good data is what helps to identify bad inventory, but it’s crucial for advertisers to protect their marketing spend.

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