Unwanted Ads May Get Advertisers Unfriended

Imagine you’re a 12-year-old girl. You are super excited about watching the new Zoella Youtube beauty tips video. When you click the video, an ad pops up for the new horror movie Unfriended. Instead of mascara and eye liner you are seeing horrific images. This is not what you thought you were getting into.

It’s becoming more and more common that YouTube advertisement are not correlating with the demographics of the videos that are being viewed. YouTube advertising is becoming a big business. To post an advertisement on YouTube, you have to upload your video through AdSense, a website that “targets adverts to the appropriate audience.” 

However, this does not hold true for all YouTube videos. Parents are becoming angry with companies such as Coca-Cola, Haribo, and other sugary products as they are advertising to their young children. The target demographic for YouTubers that subscribe to Zoella and her boyfriend Alfie Deyes is “11 to 17-year-old girls.” 

The companies that produce these sugary products aren’t being allowed to market on children’s channels due to Advertising Standards Authority rules and according to Professor Jason Halford “Advertising does affect children in terms of what they purchase and reinforcing the brand.”

YouTube is a social media platform full of niche communities with specific demographics. If advertisers can learn to take advantage of this and market to the right demographic, YouTube could become an even more influential advertising market in the future. However, if mistakes like a horror movie or sugary food ad appearing on a children’s video keep occurring, advertisers could face more backlash than the ads are worth.

Have you ever been victimized by an unwanted YouTube advertisement?

-Nick Bolick, Olivia Sadler, and Patrick Wagner

34 thoughts on “Unwanted Ads May Get Advertisers Unfriended

  1. This post raises such a great question. The case of horror advertisements before YouTube videos is especially bothersome to me because I encounter it frequently. (I’m not 12, but I do love Zoella.)

    The issue of mismatched adverts reaches further than YouTube as well. It seems to be a growing problem for advertisers on the web. The most recent advert mismatch I encountered was on a health article debunking the effectiveness of certain health fads. A few of the ads on the page were actually for the products being scrutinized in the article. I probably fit the demographic the products were trying to reach, but I doubt they wanted their ad sitting alongside criticism of their product. The challenge of matching up content seems to be growing more and more complex in this digital world.

  2. Personally, I do not recall a time when an ad bothered me or stuck out as completely not targeted to me. I am sure it has, but most of the time I do not pay that close of attention to them I just wait for the skip ad button to pop up. I can see how this could be a major issue especially when targeted at younger children because advertising does work whether we want to admit it or not. With younger adolescent children who do not really know any better and eyes are glued to the tv or computer will definitely be effected majorly by ads that do not correlate with what they are watching.

  3. Yes, I have personally been bothered by unwanted ads. It is very annoying when advertisements pop up that do not have anything to do with the video you are about to watch. Personally, I do not think it makes sense to advertise products or services that is not related to the video because the audience is not likely to buy it. However, that is different when sugary ads come on on kids videos. Kids are notorious for wanting sugary items; therefore, it makes sense to bombard these channels with fattening foods. I think it is great that sugary ads cannot be played anymore and hopefully this is a trend that will keep going.

  4. I can’t remember a specific ad that targeted me or bothered me because like Jenna said in the other comment I usually just mute the ad or don’t pay attention until the “skip ad” pops up. I do think that you have a great point in that these advertisements should make sure they are appealing to the right audience. This would definitely benefit the 12 year old girl in that she wouldn’t be seeing the horror movie ad. Also it just doesn’t make any sense for a company to appeal to an audience that wouldn’t be interested in their product, movie, or whatever it is they’re trying to sell.

  5. I have, many times, been barraged by unwanted ads. Not only would I rather not deal with advertizements as a whole, I also have had many ads pop up that are irrelevant to me, uncomfortable, or completely inappropriate for the age group the video is reaching. It would be like a child in a movie theater watching Frozen or Cinderella and having to sit through Magic Mike or The Exorcist trailer beforehand. The incredibly frustrating part of this is knowing how little control you have over your own exposure as well as a young child’s (one day your own child) exposure. Having them see things completely inappropriate for their age is, quite honestly, a little terrifying considering it may only get worse from here. Hopefully there can be more conscious regulation of ads so that we won’t constantly be harassed by ads we would rather not see.

  6. After thinking back to my recent youtube usage, I cannot recall a time when I was offended by a youtube advertisement. If it is a horror movie advertisement, I always look away but it does not matter if it is on youtube or a commercial on television, I do not handle scary movies well. I can see where parents are coming from. I am a 20 year old girl who can not look at a screen when something scary comes on, so I would be concerned if my 8 year old child was viewing the same content. Content is attracting younger and younger audiences, making some of the advertisements inappropriate for some age groups, but when it comes down to its the parent should look more closely at their children’s regular internet practices. Yes these advertisements are annoying, unwanted, and sometimes questionable for their age demographic, but they are needed for youtube’s profit.

  7. There have been numerous times that I have been victimized by an unwanted YouTube advertisement. When I want to watch certain music videos, or funny videos, or even makeup tutorials, there was an advertisement for a horror movie; which, I do not like horror movies and can make me paranoid since I live by myself. Also, other advertisements were Coco-cola, GameStop, Geico, Vitamin Water, Pepsi, Chase business card, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. Pfizer advertised Viagra on YouTube and made me watch part of the advertisement before skipping to my desired video. For drugs to be advertised on YouTube are victimizing everyone, especially younger children that see the words Viagra. If a young child sees and hears the word, it seems that it is inappropriate for a child to be familiar with this specific drug. Overall, parents should be in charge of their child’s internet use and advertisements on YouTube should be stricter to the companies.

  8. Yes, I have been bothered by ads on YouTube. Every time you just want to watch a quick video you must watch an ad. Normally it has nothing to do with the video you are watching or an ad that fits you. Smart advertisers would place ads with videos that relate to some degree. I think the ads for kids videos should not exist at all but if they have to, they should be kid friendly and not support bad habits. Scary movies and bad junk food are not family friendly and should not be ads on kids videos. I think parents should continue to monitor the ads, even thought the sugary ads cannot be used anymore. Overall, I understand the points of advertising, it is just very annoying on YouTube.

  9. YES! I am so glad this issue was addressed, especially with this new movie ad. It’s terrible and I don’t want to see it. I barely ever watch TV, so the ads that I see come from YouTube. I know that as soon as an ad comes up I start looking for the skip button. It’s very frustrating to have to watch an ad that has absolutely nothing to do with the video you are about to watch. It doesn’t make me want to buy the product or keep watching the ad, if it does one thing it only makes me angry.

  10. Yes!! I can relate to not wanting to see certain ads when watching other videos. I could understand if you are you-tubing how to make something and a food commercial comes up, but when it is completely unrelated and makes you want to loose your appetite the purpose of the video is gone. YouTube should filter the ads and categorize them by subject and age. Just like the article is talking about you don’t need the newest scary movie out being popped on a video younger children are going to be watching. Ads will always be there so we should make them appropriate.

  11. I am glad I read this post. This is an issue I have as well and I never really thought about it till now. I feel for that 12 year old girl because, I too, hate seeing scary commercials, especially when I am looking up funny animal videos on YouTube. I know how if I use a certain website a lot I will have ads on the side of my screen for that website when I am on a different website. YouTube should do the same thing, even though it is a bit creepy that it can track what I am viewing online, it would be beneficial to have advertisements for things that actually interest me rather than scare me.

  12. I can’t tell you how many times I have been the victim of unwanted ads on YouTube. Both because ads on videos can be annoying, but also weird horror ads like for this new movie unfriended. I think that it is very unfortunate that younger children are having to see these ads when they are just trying to watch videos that are unrelated to the ad. I think that YouTube should start to learn to target ads to the correct audience and put these ads with videos that would either related to that target audience, or maybe the ad could relate to the video in some way.

  13. I have been bothered by unwanted ads many times. Although the most prominent example I can think of is when I am babysitting and trying to find a song for the kids to dance to, and horror films, romantic, or even comedic commercials come up. I think to myself, “wait… I did type in The Little Mermaid right…?” It is frustrating and difficult to deal with because then you have to move your phone, turn it down, and distract the kids until the ad is over. I do understand that YouTube needs ads, however I think they need to better match them with the content of each video being played, especially for kids. Because YouTube is such a growing company, I would hate for it to fall because of law suits over advertisements. Just need to put a little more energy into the demographics, as stated above. Great post.

  14. I feel I am always a victim of unwanted ads because, well I just never want to watch ads haha. It’s an inconvenience and annoying, however I think this post raises more attention to younger children being advertised to or seeing images/videos that they should not see. I do not have children but my sister does. My sister home schools and is very cautious as to what her children watch. She tries to view the videos her kids want to watch before they watch it for this exact reason. First she wants to make sure its appropriate and second, she wants to make sure there are no inappropriate pop up ads. I think it’s an issue that needs to have strict guidelines and rules. Advertising to children is different than advertising to a mature audience and there needs to be a separation between the two.

  15. I enjoy the argument made. YouTube ads are already annoying in the first place, and to have an ad that is unrelated to what is being searched is even more bothersome, especially if that ad is frightening. I understand that the ads are paid for and YouTube benefits from them, but the companies may benefit even more if the ads are related to the subject being searched for. Although I wish ads could be completely out of the picture, this was a good read and interesting view.

  16. I am an avid YouTube viewer, and I’ve been frustrated lately with the advertisements for Unfriended. I hate scary movies, and even the first five required seconds of the ad are disturbing. Although I haven’t heard anything about the sugary products cutting into the viewing time for children, I know that YouTube can be a dark place, so as a future parent, I’d be weary of letting my kids have free reign on YouTube. If companies were more strategic with their ad placement, this endeavor would be even more lucrative than it already is. I know from personal experience that I’ve started following a company on Instagram simply because I saw their advertisement before a video on YouTube, and thought their product was cool. Fast-forward a couple of months, and I’m thinking about purchasing from this company. YouTube is a great place to advertise, but the business practices here definitely require reevaluation. Great post!

  17. I definitely am bothered every time I watch a youtube video and an ad pops up. In all honesty though its never alarmed me or caused any trouble. I am more annoyed that I have to watch the ad before the actual video but the content of the video does not bother me. Most of the time I do not even pay attention to what the ad is even saying. However I understand why parents are getting upset. If I had a child and they were watching harmless videos, I would not want some scary ad or inappropriate content to pop up. You would think advertisers would want their audience to be interested. If I was behind the Unfriended brand, I would want the ad playing on scary videos or videos pertaining to the movie because thats the demographic that would see the movie.

  18. I can definitely see why parents would be upset about this. While you say that advertisements do not affect children’s buying habits, they do affect their never ending bothering of their parents for something they constantly see as the thing to have. I remember when I use to babysit the children had a thing where they would ask for things over and over and over until you cave out of frustration and give them what they want. This usually included ice cream and/or candy.

  19. While reading this, I instantly recalled a time in 2012 when I clicked on a YouTube music video and the creepiest creature popped up on the screen telling me not to skip the ad. In total surprise, I threw my phone! As it turns out, it was a new form of advertisement YouTube had allowed for the film Cabin in the Woods. In hindsight, it’s a funny story to tell, but at the time I was furious with YouTube for even allowing something like that to be allowed. I stayed off of YouTube for a while after that and made sure to keep my much younger siblings away as well. Of course, I never went to see the movie. I’d prefer YouTube kept the horror films off the automatic advertisements all together if they aren’t going to filter the content according to the the type of video being viewed.

  20. This has always been a problem with YouTube in my opinion. Today, when YouTube plays a large part in information sharing, I feel it is unfair for unwanted content to be streaming on the page when it does not correlate with the material being searched. I can only imagine having to console a child who had to see something like that unintentionally. I understand that movies and products want to advertise to as many people as possible because even bad press is press. It makes it seem as if they do not care about the well being of the consumers, only that the product gets “out there.” This just raises some ethical questions.

  21. This topic is really interesting, because I watch YouTube videos somewhat often and have noticed that the advertisements don’t seem to match with the video’s description. If there is any way that YouTube can match its videos with proper ads then the companies who are advertising might benefit more from this. If an ad for “Unfriended” was on a video aimed towards older high school students or a college aged audience, then the ad works and could increase their sales profits from the ticket sales for the movie.

  22. I’m extremely glad that this idea was addressed because it’s starting to become way too frequent of a thing on YouTube. I have not personally been bothered by the ads on here but I babysit children the age of six and sometimes we like to go on YouTube to listen to Kidz Bop songs or watch a quick episode of Peppa Pig and almost every time some type of inappropriate content comes on the screen as an ad and I have to quickly avert the children’s eyes. It’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to participate in using YouTube if they can not match the ads with their demographics. If a user is looking up child television shows like Peppa Pig or music for children under the age of 8, I do not want to see and ad about an upcoming Coachella concert and see women shaking their stuff on the screen. That is in no way appropriate for a first grader to witness. They should be showing ads for toys or new children movies coming out into theaters. All I have to say is YouTube really needs to get it together.

  23. Once when I was trying to show my brother a video on YouTube, the commercial that came on before the video was for a lingerie store. The video I wanted to show him was about a prom since his is in a couple weeks. To say the least, it was a little awkward watching an ad for lacy bras with my 17 year old brother.

  24. I have experienced this on YouTube with that specific horror ad but it really does not bother me. I see how parents of younger children would be concerned with this because it is inappropriate for a 10 year old to be watching that sort of ad. I do think that it would be a good idea for YouTube to really focus on the types of ads they post on their videos. It could make a huge difference on the amount of views they get because some people probably exit videos if it is an ad they really do not feel like viewing.

  25. As much as I don’t like many of the advertisements on Youtube (such as the Unfriended one), I don’t think that YouTube needs to change their marketing strategy. YouTube ads only last for 30 seconds at the latest, if you don’t like whats being advertised… press the skip button. If you can’t do that, then 30 seconds gives you just the right amount of time to make a hot pocket or to wash your hands in another room. If YouTube had to get rid of an ad every time someone complained about it, YouTube wouldn’t be free anymore.

  26. I think, almost everyone who has used YouTube feels in same way that this article explains. Nowadays, YouTube is the site that any age people can easily approach. However, the advertisements in videos are not exactly care about children. The ads are becoming provocative and sometimes lascivious for younger ages. Of course, not all the ads in YouTube video have problems but I agree that we need to control arbitrary ads.

  27. I come across this problem too many times. Often it is simply to listen to a song or check out a music video and the first thing that pops up is preview for a horror film that I can’t skip. My desire to continue watching the video I searched for goes out the window and I find myself annoyed and disturbed by what I just saw. If there is a supposed “filter” for ads and what audience they should be targeting when uploaded to YouTube, then one would think that the ads would be found within the appropriate video. I think the complaint about sugary drink ads being presented to children is a little extreme because at the end of the day who is buying the drink for the child? However, there are times when other ads are clearly inappropriate for children that are on a video that I would not expect it to be. I do think the site is a great place for companies to advertise, however the process by which they are placed in videos could use improvements.

  28. I enjoyed reading this blog because it hits so close to home. I still dream about the days when YouTube was ad free and you could just watch videos without any advertisements. I see it even more so now, that all YouTube clips have inappropriate advertisement for the videos I look up. There have been multiple times I have been babysitting and the children look up something on YouTube and a scary movie trailer comes on, which is seriously inappropriate. Why would a gaming tutorial for a 10 year old show a R-rated film trailer? It doesn’t make much sense. You would think that YouTube, which is paired up with Google, would filter their system and figure something out. It is just discouraging that videos of puppies with millions of views now have an advertisement of a horror film? It is strange and seriously unnecessary. Thank you for posting about the subject because many other babysitters and parents need to know about the issue and report it.

  29. I found this blog post really interesting! I have been pretty annoyed with the YouTube ads lately. I do NOT like scary movies or anything related, and the “Unfriended” ad is one of the many that have been taking over my computer screen. What is annoying about this is I didn’t choose to see it, and I don’t have the option to skip the ad like some ads allow you to do after 5 seconds. So many children I know use their parents cell phones or tablets to watch their favorite TV shows on YouTube while their parents are visiting with friends or busy around the house. Who knows how many children have seen these ads because of that. I would definitely feel uncomfortable if my child were to see this ad, or any of the ads showing women dressed inappropriately, like most ads have. YouTube should monitor what ads are being showed in what videos, and the demographics of the followers of different YouTube channels.

  30. I agree that perhaps with ads paired with the correct demographics things will get better, but for the more part I believe that youtube ads are starting to get tuned out as a natural response to their plentitude. Similar in how people today fast-forward through the ads on TV, people are starting to ignore the ads on youtube as more of them show up. Personally, while watching youtube, I’ll mute the ad and continue doing something else on a different webpage or get up and grab a snack while waiting for the ad to finish. If I’m feeling really impatient I might sit and wait for fifteen seconds to press the “skip” button but rarely do I ever watch a whole ad. Every once and awhile if I see an ad that I think looks interesting I might stop and watch it but with the amount of ads coming through on youtube this hardly ever happens. If youtube wants their ads to be more effective (and still make the same amount of money) they should feature less ads, so that the ads that are shown stand out more, for a higher price per ad. Getting to correct demographics through the internet is never going to work perfectly but it could help some people to be more interested in the ads they are watching as long as there is less ads to sort through.

  31. I personally have not been a victim in my initial thoughts because I barely pay attention the ads, I just wait for the “Skip Ad” icon comes about and then click it. I could not tell you what the last ad I saw on YouTube was and I am nearly on it everyday. I can see why a child seeing things could be an issue to parents though because children are attentive and would want to have everything they see sometimes. I do agree with the whole changing the way the ads are by putting them in the right field by demographics to really bring in more revenue as far as a business plan goes.

  32. First off, all ads are unwanted. Their annoying, especially if I’m only watch a 30 second video, but I have to sit and watch a 15 second commercial. Personally, I’m not really bothered by any of it, but I’m not a 12 year-old girl. The problem is now is that there are so many different types of videos out there. There is a video for everything, from how to fix your hair to piano lessons. How do you have relevant advertisements for all of this? you can’t, it’s impossible. It’s far easier to just slap down a random video then look at demographics and plan accordingly.

  33. I can understand completely how this can be seen as an issue to parents of younger kids. If a 12 year old cannot get into a rated-r movie, she should not be subjected to the adviretisment of said movie while she is simply trying to learn how to do makeup. There have been a few occasions were I have been confronted with unwanted ads, on YouTube and other webpages, but as some have previously stated I just wait to click through them.

    Hulu uses ads when you are viewing their TV shows or movies and I really enjoy the way they approach the unwanted interruption. Hulu offers you two choices of commercials and it states “which ad experience would you prefer”. Now perhaps this isn’t the immediate answer for YouTube, but it could be an idea and a step in the right direction.

  34. When it comes to youtube and their ads, it is normally up to the video maker on whether ads show up before their video. What I mean by this is I have a hometown friend that has a youtube channel and after one funny video of prank calls her subscribers blew up. The more subscribers, the more views and youtube took notice. When youtube notices that you’re videos are getting more popular they get into contact with you to ask to post ads before your video or while your video is playing. For every ad they play, there is an allotted amount then given to the video channel owner. This is a win/ win for both sides, not only because the ads are getting widely view from numerous demographics but the video channel owner is getting paid. The only person having to deal with negative repercussions is the video viewer. To which I reply to the question of if it is right to unfollow the video creator’s youtube channel with a yes. The video maker is only showing the ads to get money, therefore putting their subscriber demographic at risk. So in the end it is only understandable that they would lose subscriber’s due to this choice.

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