Ads followed by offensive content don’t affect brand sentiment, local study suggests

Ads followed by undesired or offensive content perform the same way ads followed by more brand safe contend do, a study conducted by Melbourne-based research analytics company Nature has suggested.

The study comes as Australian and international brands have retreated from YouTube programmatic buys after fears the ads were running next to offensive content.

Since the boycott began, local brands including Kia, Holden, Bunnings, Foxtel, Caltex, Nestle and Vodafone’s local business have pulled out of YouTube.

Nature’s study, which included 750 Australian participants, aimed to investigate the impact of context on advertising diagnostic response and brand association, after financial estimates by news sites including the ABC, predicted the cost of the boycott may be over US$750m (AU$991.275m).

Kia and Holden were the first Australian brands to suspend YouTube programmatic ads

The study saw a group shown an ad on its own, while a second group saw an ad followed by a YouTube video considered undesirable, such as a racially charged speech, while a third group was shown an ad followed by an inoffensive video clip.

Nature’s study also included a brand association exercise to see if the ad and brand response changed depending on the context.

The results indicated there was no statistically significant difference in results between each group, with Nature suggesting the results provide no evidence for an association between brand sentiment and ad response, and the content placed after the ad.

Other results showed the brand impact, including positivity and likelihood of purchase, was the same across each group.

Each piece of content had no impact on associations with the word ‘Australian’, ‘honesty’ or being a ‘trustworthy’ brand.

Commenting on the results, James Jayesuria, associate director at Nature said: “Our suspicion is that the brands that have pulled their advertising from YouTube have not only done so for ‘in principle’ reasons, but also to avoid potential negative wash back on their brand.

“Our small experiment on this big issue suggests the latter concern is largely unfounded and could be a storm in a teacup.”

While he said more research was “certainly needed”, Jayesuria said the study raised questions on whether pulling ads would have more of an adverse affect than placing an ad before “undesirable content”.

“While YouTube is implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning to control where ads appear, advertisers should be wary of the potential impact of pulling their spend from the channel and consequent failure to remind certain audiences they exist,” he said.


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