By now, you’ve probably heard about advertising problems on Google’s YouTube video service. The quick recap: It seems Google’s automated ad system is dropping ads for well-known brands into videos posted by extremist organizations and other questionable material.
In some instances, those advertisers worry they are inadvertently supporting fringe groups because of a revenue-sharing plan that splits ad fees between Google and whoever posts content to YouTube.
Not surprisingly, YouTube is trying to fix the problem with these “programmatic ads.” But to critics of online ads, the problems on YouTube are just the latest example of an advertising system that is at best not as effective as its proponents say and at worst, well, offering financial support to extremist organizations.
But as Farhad Manjoo writes, a strong defense can be made of online advertising and programmatic ads. For years, advertising was a glamorous thing, appearing in only a handful of possible outlets. That made for good television, but it wasn’t a very good deal for the advertisers.
Automated advertising (and yes, those user-tracking features most of us dislike) have allowed advertisers to hone their message for people who would actually use a product.
This system has its obvious flaws — both in unwanted monitoring of user behavior and mishaps like the one experienced by advertisers on YouTube. But it is still a young system when compared with traditional print and broadcast advertising, and companies like Google have plenty of incentive to improve upon it.
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