Google recently faced scrutiny after a report published at the end of June claimed that the search company was violating its own standards for video ads running on Google Video Partner (GVP) inventory.
GVP inventory is a network of third-party online sites and apps including “leading publishers in games, sports, entertainment, news, and more,” which Google claims meet high quality standards. However, this report published by independent ad-tech firm Adalytics calls into question the viewability of ads running on GVP, and states that Google mislead advertisers about the quality of GVP inventory—thus violating its own standards.
The report claims that ads were:
- Muted by default (against Google’s policy).
- Auto-played without user initiation (when, according to Google policy, scroll-to-play is not allowed).
- Played continuously on a loop (when they are only supposed to serve before, after, or during video content).
- Out of view or partially obscured by site content or other ads (with the “skip” button sometimes obscured, essentially forcing a view).
- Running on publisher sites that failed to meet Google’s quality media standards, due to disinformation and copyright infringements.
The report goes on to claim that in some ad campaigns, 42–75% of the campaign ad spend was allocated to GVP sites and apps that did not meet Google’s standards.
Shortly after this report was published, Google released their response via blog post. It begins by discrediting Adalytics’ report saying that it “used unreliable sampling and proxy methodologies and made extremely inaccurate claims about the Google Video Partner (GVP) network” and that “the report uses irresponsible and faulty methodology for the research.”
Google goes on to refute the claims made in the report by attesting that:
- The overwhelming majority of video ad campaigns serve on YouTube, not GVP.
- Ad inventory on GVP is over 90% viewable.
- Not all ads served are billed.
- Google claims that, with a combination of automated filters and human review, their systems ensure invalid traffic is not billed to the advertiser. They also claim that if a problem is ever identified after billing has occurred, a credit will be issued accordingly.
- Google partnerships with 3rd party validation partners (Integral Ad Science [IAS], DoubleVerify, and Moat) provide additional layers of brand safety and suitability measurement.
- Advertisers are in control.
- Google claims that advertisers can see how much of their budget is spent on GVP, and they can opt out at any time.
Our Approach to Ensuring Quality Video Activations
KSM prioritizes ad quality—always. Because of this, our best practice for YouTube campaigns has been to opt out of GVP whenever possible to ensure confidence that our clients’ ads show on the best inventory available.
From January 2022 to June 2023, viewability across all KSM YouTube campaigns was an average 94.92% (verified using 3rd party tools from IAS) which far exceeds the U.S. industry average of 74% viewability. In that same time frame, less than 1% of impressions generated by all KSM YouTube campaigns came from GVP placements.
For all campaigns, but especially for the few YouTube campaign types that require GVP to be enabled, we follow a number of quality control protocols to ensure our clients’ ads are only shown on the best possible inventory that also aligns with their brand safety requirements.
- Excluding GVP inventory within our placements exclusions list.
- Utilizing IAS for post-bid brand safety, risk, and viewability measurement.
- Manually reviewing where our ads showed and excluding risky placements.
- Layering in additional campaign placement settings (like Popular Content Placements and YouTube Reserve Buys) based on client safety needs.
Regardless of if Google is being truthful about the quality of GVP inventory, or if Adalytics’ report has merit, KSM always prioritizes our clients’ brand safety from the beginning. As new information or products become available, we investigate potential risks, are ready to pivot if needed, and only recommend and use products that have the potential to deliver smart and results-driven media investments for our brand partners.