In a Play for TV Dollars, YouTube Expands Targeting Capabilities for Marketers

The video platform is also adding more countries to its Reach Planner

YouTube sees an opportunity in the growth of connected TV. Getty Images

In separate moves, Google today made further efforts to woo traditional TV ad buyers with targeting updates to YouTube, plus enhanced inventory access for buy-side ad tools. The advertising giant hopes these moves will further the flow of ad dollars to digital as the TV landscape goes through unprecedented change. 

Advanced contextual targeting on YouTube

YouTube today introduced new data and ad targeting capabilities for features it says will allow buyers to advertise on more “relevant content” on the website. 

The targeting tool, called advanced contextual targeting (ACT), is a machine learning-based feature that builds “dynamic lineups” for advertisers based on “topics, cultural moments or popularity.” The dynamic lineups are custom built for the advertiser and constantly updated with real-time data, said Debbie Weinstein, vp of global Solutions at YouTube. The feature comes out of beta today in 10 markets, including the U.S., U.K., India and Brazil.

“[Customers] are really interested in the reach they can find on YouTube,” Weinstein said in an interview with Adweek. “And they’re particularly looking for reach they can’t find anywhere else.” 

It’s a nod to traditional TV buying, a format where advertisers want placement next to meaningful content at the right time and place with minimal brand safety risks, which YouTube has worked to minimize in recent years following advertiser backlash

YouTube’s answer to this problem is improving its targeting: Instead of, say, targeting around sports as a broad category, buyers can hone in on “cultural moments” like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. And instead of finding customers interested in travel, Weinstein said, ACT will allow a more granular approach, offering video lineups for “luxury travel or budget travel or family travel.” 

Granularity issues remain

Buyers, however, won’t see exactly what videos they’re advertising on in advance, though YouTube spokesperson Christopher Lawton said buyers can work with Google reps to see “sample channel lists” before they commit. 

In the big effort to woo TV dollars, the company will soon expand access to its third-party TV tool Reach Planner to additional countries, including France, Spain and Vietnam. Additionally, YouTube will bring Nielsen’s Total Ad Ratings​ to the U.K. and Italy.

Frances Giordano, group director at Media Kitchen, said the additions would help convince advertisers hesitant to shift dollars from traditional linear TV into digital. It gives them a “more complete picture across linear TV and YouTube, rather than looking at them in silo,” she added. 

CTV updates to Google’s ad stack

Separately, Google also announced it is adding more connected TV features to its demand-side products, DV360 and Campaign Manager. 

This includes opening access to YouTube TV inventory and masthead ad units through DV360 from next month. 

Additionally, buyers will also be able to plan and forecast against various deal types, including both guaranteed and non-guaranteed programmatic deals, YouTube lineup and in-stream video ads, within DV360. And they’ll see age and gender demographic data, inclusive of CTV campaigns, to help with measurement in DV360 and Campaign Manager. 

These updates come as users have flocked to CTV during the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed advertisers to pull back from traditional TV’s upfront buying model and embrace more flexible approaches.

Specifically, U.S. watch time of YouTube and YouTubeTV on televisions increased 80% in March compared to a year prior.

Many of YouTube’s conversations with clients are about capabilities on streaming devices, Weinstein said. YouTube fast-tracked skippable ads and Brand Lift measurement capabilities on CTV in May in concert with the surge in usage.

More customized strategies will be more sought after to bridge the gap between digital and traditional, said Kathleen Neumann, director of media strategy at Nexstar Digital.

“The rise of streaming services allows viewers to seamlessly switch between digital and traditional media, leaving advertisers no choice but to plan multichannel campaigns,” Neumann said.

In a separate blog post, YouTube made the case for its product at a time of uncertainty in the TV industry. “With most TV production shut down for parts of the spring and summer months, and the upfronts heavily disrupted, you may be approaching show premiere season with less visibility than in years past,” Glenn Thrope, senior product manager of DV360, wrote in a blog post.

“To date, YouTube has been a bit of a blind spot when looking at the digital video ecosystem because it represents such a large portion of the ecosystem within a walled garden,” Giordano told Adweek.

However, she called the new forecasting abilities in DV360 “great and surprising news as it loosens the reins on the walled garden aspect of YouTube and allows you to get a complete picture of the digital video ecosystem for planning purposes.”

@ScottNover Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.
@andrewblustein Andrew Blustein is a programmatic reporter at Adweek.