Thursday 21 Jan 2010
With Much Respect To The Folks At Google,
The 2010 Olympics are coming, and to get into the spirit of things, my family has been watching great footage from past Olympics and other sports events on your marvelous website, YouTube.com. Every four years, everyone from my littlest niece to the honored patriarchs and matriarchs of our family catches Olympic fever as the Winter Games approach, and YouTube is simply matchless when it comes to finding out how favorite athletes have been doing in the various competitions leading up to the Games. We’re especially strong on figure skating around here and it’s pure joy to spend a January afternoon viewing past highlights, medal-winning programs and other fun videos that have been posted by the YouTube community.
But you’ve put a fly in our celebratory Olympic ointment this past couple of weeks with what appears to be your newest methods of ad placement and I think this is important enough to write to you about. I’m well aware that there are many different types of content on YouTube, catering to people with widely different tastes. I can choose to watch or not watch any given video. But choice is abruptly whisked away when I’m watching a lovely, family-friendly figure skating program and suddenly find myself looking at sexual content in the form of a pop-up ad. The campaign I’ve now repeatedly encountered while watching winter sport videos hails from some sort of dating website and the imagery and calls to action are not appropriate for general audiences. The pop-ups appear across the video screen about 10-20 seconds into the videos, without any warning, on videos that have absolutely no relation to the content of the ads.
I’m not going to attempt to dictate which companies YouTube/Google might consider as appropriate sponsors, but I do want to issue a request that you start matching ad content to video content. I firmly believe that the responsibility for protecting young people from unwanted messaging falls on the shoulders of parents and guardians, but I also know for a fact that many adults grant their children carte blanche when it comes to Internet use and am certain that children are now being exposed to these sexually-themed pop-up ads on YouTube, even if they are just looking for videos of their favorite skaters, skiers or snowboarders.
Yes, it’s the parents’ responsibility to monitor Internet use, but on a societal level, Google (with its Montessori background) is as aware as I am that many children grow up in neglectful homes and only receive protection of their basic rights and dignity through societal norms and laws. In some nations, it’s illegal to slant ads towards children, and while we have no similar laws in the U.S., I would like to believe that Google doesn’t take this as an invitation to act without conscience in this regard.
I understand that YouTube, like nearly every other Google property, makes its money from selling ad space. I know this won’t change in the near future, so my request is very simple, and I’ve already stated it above. It deserves repetition: please, consider matching ad content to video content. I’d rather you did away with forced pop-up ads all together, folks. As a human being, I find this run of dating ads to be demeaning, depressing and ugly and I don’t like to see them. As a web designer with a strong interest in Human Usability, I find the delivery of pop-up ads to be pushy, overbearing and obnoxious. I always shut them. I never click on them. I feel annoyed that my *choice* has been interrupted by someone else’s choice. I feel a loss of control and a loss of enjoyment. From a marketing standpoint, too, you are hardly serving your sponsors well by showing this type of content to such a broad and irrelevant audience, though this is really the last of my personal concerns.
If this ad format is here to stay on YouTube, please start doing a better job of showing ads to a correctly targeted audience – not my family who is simply trying to enjoy the good spirit of the 2010 Olympics to the fullest. What you are choosing to do with these ads does not have a good spirit, and as a person who has enjoyed YouTube for many years, I thought this was important enough to write to you about.
I welcome your response, as well as public comment.
Miriam Ellis, CEO
Solas Web Design