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GM’s Halted YouTube Ads: Its Impact on Creators

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Photo: General Motors and YouTube

Earlier this year, GM made the executive decision to pause targeted advertising on YouTube “until Google [could] adhere to [GM’s] brand standards.” GM joined a longer list of sponsors to halt advertising including Johnson & Johnson, AT&T, Verizon, and Enterprise.

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GM made this decision due to the placement of its ads on the popular video streaming website. When advertising on YouTube, companies have minimal control as to which videos their advertisements are placed alongside. Without that control, advertisements from GM and other companies were being placed alongside offensive content promoting things like ISIS, homophobia, and the Klu Klux Klan. GM did not want its brand being associated with topics and content of that nature, so the company withdrew its sponsorship until the issue could be resolved, and rightfully so.

In order to combat the issue, Google, the parent company for YouTube, kicked the search for a solution into high gear. Google began completely demonetizing content deemed not “advertiser friendly.” By Google’s standards, this content is including, but not limited to: controversial issues and sensitive events, inappropriate language, harmful or dangerous acts, and violence. While these may make sense under certain contexts, the definitions are extremely vague. Under these definitions, users speaking about current events on an online news program or someone engaging in a car demonstration that could be deemed “dangerous” could be and are being stripped of advertising rights for their content.

While many mainstream, popular YouTube creators are surviving the demonetization crisis, Google’s decision is harming the nature of the website. YouTube has always been a platform for the underdog, allowing any Joe Schmoe to rise up and become successful with good content and loyal viewers. With its mass demonetization, Google is stripping up-and-comers of their jump-start platform. Yes, creators can still produce videos, but without the income from advertisements, the likelihood those smaller YouTubers will be able to make a living on YouTube diminishes greatly. In a video last week, popular YouTuber Philip DeFranco explained that while he is being funded through product sales and individual fan support, he worries about the smaller YouTubers trying to get their start.

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GM was in the right to pause its advertising. Its decision to halt advertising until Google had better control over its methods shows that the GM brand has integrity and high standards and they are not willing to compromise those in order to make a buck. However, Google needs to find another solution to the problem. Intentionally or unintentionally, Google’s demonetization is preventing the success of the underdog. Google may be squashing the bug, but they are crushing the entire flower in the process.

News Sources: The Los Angeles Times, Philip DeFranco (YouTube), Google

Meg Thomson is a writer, photographer, blogger, and activist. When she isn’t writing, Meg can be found immersing herself in television scripts, adopting and playing with animals, or updating lists of her dream travel destinations (the list never ends). Meg believes writing is power, and equality is essential. She is determined to make a difference in the world, one word at a time. See more articles by Meg.