Now Camouflaged Ads Sneak Into Youtube Mobile

wolf in sheepskin


Advertisers are throwing so much money into what’s variously called “native advertising” and “sponsored content” – both euphemisms for ad messages disguised as real content, to sucker consumers into reading or watching – that it’s spilling over into more and more media.

According to November 21 Advertising Age projections, sponsored-content is growing like kudzu, even faster than expected.

And according to a November 19 BTIG research report, YouTube mobile is one of the latest places it’s infesting [registration required].

More spending

“In June,” says Ad Age, “eMarketer said advertisers would spend $1.88 billion on sponsored content this year, a 22.1% boost from 2012.” But instead, it’s grown by 24 percent, to $1.9 billion. That’s $20 million more than expected.

That’s not the worst of it. Sponsored-content ad spending is projected to keep increasing for the next four years:

  • to $2.29 billion in 2014.
  • to $2.62 billion in 2015.
  • to $2.96 billion in 2016.
  • to $3.2 billion in 2017. That’s 1.68 times this year’s spending.

In this, they’re enthusiasticallyaided and abetted by online publishers.

The uptick reflects publishers’ attempts to create more bespoke advertising products for brands, according to eMarketer analyst Clark Fredricksen, partly in an effort to shore up ad rates.

Publishers are usually able to fetch higher prices for sponsored posts, a form of native advertising that seeks to more less mimic the editorial content around it…

Publishers likely to gain the most traction from sponsorships are digital-only publishers, eMarketer’s forecast said, because these publishers are more willing “to experiment with the customized executions heavily integrated with editorial.”

More places

With all that money burning holes in advertisers’ pockets, you’d think they’d be running out of places to sneak their, um, “customized executions” into. But no such luck.

One new site where sponsored content has started rearing its ugly head is the mobile version of YouTube.

November 19, BTIG research reported that the day before, they noticed for the first time

what appears to be a new ad unit at the top of the YouTube mobile app (default) “What to Watch” section – where YouTube highlights what you should watch based on channels to which you subscribe and content you have previously watched/rated.

The ad was a 34-second promo for the Fox show “Almost Human,” and it was the first video in the :”What to Watch section. The only thing distinguishing it from something honestly based on what the phone’s owner had actually watched before was a little yellow square way down in the lower right-hand corner with the word “Ad” in it.

In a YouTube (of course) video showing what YouTube mobile viewers were suckered into thinking was a real video, BTIG’s Rich Greenfield says that the disguised Fox commercial was “virtually impossible to miss.”

“Now,” he adds, “rather than just to intrigue you when you click to play a video, they’re now putting an ad at the very top of the What to Watch…It feels like it fits with content you would normally see.” [Emphasis added.]

The promo got 130,000 views in less than 24 hours, plus, writes Greenfield, “the impressions, beyond clicks, generated simply by it being first in the What to Watch section.”

Graphic proof that no place is safe from the combination of advertiser-publisher disingenuousness and consumer gullibility.


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