2060 Insights

Insights from our Experts

Business woman study financial market to calculate possible risks and profits.Female economist accounting money with statistics graphs pointing on screen of computer at desktop. Quotations on exchange

A Guide to Understanding the Adalytics Report on Google's Video Policy Violations 


In late June 2023, crowd-sourced ad research firm Adalytics accused Google of routinely violating its own standards for video ad placements. In the report, they claimed that YouTube misled Fortune 500 companies, the US federal government, and countless small and mid-sized businesses regarding how they were spending advertising dollars.

The report highlighted Google's use of "partner" websites, where advertisers can show video ad content on websites other than Google's YouTube platform. Google defines its video partners as "high-quality publisher websites" that are carefully vetted and must meet Google's inventory quality standards.

This article covers the initial accusations, reveals Google's response, and explains what it means for 2060 Digital and our clients.

The TrueView Model

YouTube's proprietary TrueView model is beloved by advertisers because they are only charged when a viewer watches at least 30 seconds of a video ad or clicks through to the advertiser's website. TrueView allows users to skip ads after five seconds, so unlike many other forms of digital advertising, audiences willingly and verifiably consume the ad content.

In addition to showing ads on YouTube, TrueView gives advertisers the option to show content on GVP (Google Video Partners) websites. It is important to mention that 2060 Digital does not utilize this function for any of our clients' campaigns.

The current controversy alleges that Google charged advertisers even when their TrueView videos did not meet their standards, meaning videos were played in the background of low-quality sites or failed to reach and engage consumers to the degree the TrueView model claims to do.

Advertising Platforms and Data Reporting

Meta, Google, and other large advertising platforms self-report performance data. However, advertisers can utilize ad verification vendors to validate that impression metrics are accurate, clicks indicate genuine audience interest in the advertiser's product, or, in this case, viewers engaged with or viewed videos for more than 30 seconds. Adalytics hopes its services will contribute to increasing ad transparency through third-party verification.

It's worth noting that tech companies generate hundreds of billions of dollars in advertising revenue each year, so there's a substantial financial incentive to maintain a trusting relationship with advertisers.

About Adalytics

Adalytics describes itself as "a crowd-sourced social experiment to improve how the internet does advertising." While this concept undoubtedly benefits advertisers, the capabilities of this type of service currently lack essential insights, such as when and if advertisers get charged for an impression.

If nothing else, big players like Meta and Google should take the recent report as a reminder that if they mislead their customers, they will be held accountable. As services like this continue to develop, advertisers can look forward to increased trust and transparency when working with major digital media platforms.

Google's Response

In 2022, Google made nearly $225 billion in advertising revenue across its entire Google Display Network (GDN). This network encompasses more than 2 million websites, apps, and video platforms. Like other prominent media and tech companies (i.e., X – formerly known as Twitter, Meta, and TikTok), Google faces the challenge of managing content at scale. And while nobody is rushing to Google's defense upon hearing they may have misled advertisers, it is important to contextualize the allegations.

To reiterate, Adalytics – who broke the story – is an experimental crowd-sourced browser extension still in private beta testing. That isn't to say their findings are inherently unreliable, but you should consider the source.

In its response, Google outlined several flaws in the Adalytics findings. For example, just because they served an ad doesn't mean they charged the advertiser. Additionally, Google called out the methods by which Adalytics drew its conclusions. They noted that sampling, confirmation bias, leading questions, and overlooking safety and billing protocols produced faulty data.

Google also cited several third-party data platforms whose information contradicts the Adalytics report. Essentially, Google called the allegations categorically false based on the findings of their internal investigations.

According to several advertising executives mentioned in an article dated August 14, 2023, from AdAge, Google is providing reimbursements to certain advertisers as a corrective measure for billing inconsistencies. This news comes slightly over a month after the critical report alleging the presence of subpar ad inventory in the Google Video Partner Program.

Integral Ad Science Defends Google

Understandably, several advertisers were troubled upon learning that their content was shown on low-quality websites or, worse, not being viewed at all. However, Integral Ad Science (IAS), a company that analyzes the value of advertising placements, thinks these advertisers should have known what was happening all along.

CEO of IAS, Craig Ziegler, expressed his surprise over advertisers' reactions to the Google Video Partner news, saying, "Advertisers were aware enough of GVP to demand more transparency from us, which is something we've been working on."

In summary, Ziegler noted that the data was always there, but advertisers didn't seek it out until now. In light of this news, there will likely be more awareness of Google Video Partners and how they differ from the YouTube platform.

How does this news impact 2060 Digital and our clients?

In light of this report, it's essential to note that when 2060 Digital executes TrueView campaigns on behalf of our clients through Google on YouTube, we do not include the Google Video Partners network. Based on the information we have today, 2060 Digital and our clients have no reason to be concerned by the recent story.

Agencies should prepare to field clients' questions whenever a digital advertising platform's integrity is publicly questioned. 2060 Digital – like most digital advertising agencies – invests heavily in YouTube ads because they're a great way to reach our clients' prospective customers.

Ready to connect and grow your business?