User Generated Content platforms; are they really so great?

by Araceli Almada

You may have heard it in the news, this past March, more than 250 advertisers left Google’s advertising platform. Among them, some of the best established brands in the world: P&G, L’Oréal, McDonald’s, Volkswagen, etc. Why? Because their ads on Youtube were displayed on content that is considered extremist. In other words in a non brand-safe environment and where obviously they do not want to be associated with. So, despite their success, social media platforms might not be such an incredible advertising solution sometimes. 


Social media has very poor editorial control


Advertisers tend to turn towards social media advertising because of their massive audience and low-cost ad placements. But are they truly the key elements to look for? Maybe not. According to a study conducted by the Direct Marketing Association, only 48% of marketers see a ROI from social media advertising*. Why is that? According to the study, the main purpose of social media advertising is brand awareness. But this can only be achieved on platforms that can guarantee brand safety. Therefore this is where social media platforms are not so good at, as they have little to no control over the content they distribute. 


The tools that they set up to report “dangerous” content are simply not powerful enough to review everything that is published (400 hours of videos uploaded on Youtube every minute!) on these platforms. It’s a manual process that takes care of this currently: users report what they assume is “illegal” content and professionals verify it afterwards and decide whether to delete or keep the content flagged. Artificial intelligence programs are now in development to replace these archaic methods. But even though AI can for sure be useful and be able to identify hate, racist or violent content, the road to brand safety on social media is still long. Youtube admits it in an internal memo: “with the volume of content involved, this can never be 100% guaranteed”. The situation is the same on all other social media platforms.


Little to no brand safety on UGC platforms


Such is the situation that advertisers today are questioning the ability of these giants to help them reach their branding and performance objectives. “If Google fails to fix the problem of extremist contents on its platform, then it will suffer economically” says Michael Roth, Chief Executive of Interpublic. This means brands are realizing the possible damages that advertising on UGC platforms can do to their brand. To consciously neglect the uncomparable audience they can reach with social media is a tough decision for advertisers. But the only chance they have to advertise in a successful way is to shift from a logic of volume to a logic of value, from UGC platforms to Premium Publisher Networks. 


One of the most efficient targeting methods is contextual targeting with which the right ad is shown to the right user and foremost at the right time. Timing is the major difference compared to classic behavioral targeting as it is not based on your whole browsing history but only on the page you are visiting on this very moment. Hence, this is more accurate and it’s a feature that social media can not offer. Using semantic matching technology, ads are proposed to the user depending on what he is reading at that precise moment. This is the best response an advertiser can have facing the lack of relevance in social media. 


Advertising in a premium closed publisher network is a way to have control over brand safety and be sure of the quality of the traffic. As long-tail networks, social media is also a victim of click farms; these “companies” whose business is to generate thousands of clicks to drive ad performances. These practices are unfortunately very common and the way to prevent this is to choose a network with premium publishers; the ones that you know will not use those nasty methods to boost their revenues (and the advertisers’ spendings at the same time). 


According to Sophie Poncin, head of the SRI (the French association of digital media companies) Facebook and Google get 68% of all advertising investments***. For a Publisher it is also crucial to get their former leadership position back as content distributor. Crucial because of the obvious financial reasons, but also for their audience as this is the sine qua non condition to get quality and informative content for free. 


To get this leadership position back, publishers need to realize that “Interruptive advertising is killing the brands and the publishers as well” as Emre Faks, managing director at Ligatus Turkey says. In this regard, publishers should focus their efforts on integrating the best native advertising formats on their website in order to provide the best possible user experience and thus, attract premium advertisers who are willing to pay more to get better results. 


Plus the competition between traditional publishers and UGC platforms is biased: as their promise is to offer content of professional quality for users and a brand-safe environment for advertisers, publishers have to maintain these standards of quality and they are forced to have community management teams to moderate the comments on their articles. Which is an extra cost that UGC platforms don’t have to support. For advertisers the question is simple: Why were they reluctant to advertise on open forums 10 years ago, whereas today they are quite comfortable advertising on facebook, which is nothing but a huge social forum with pictures and videos? 


In conclusion UGC platforms are not so great as we think when it comes to the advertising results brands are seeking, but we should recognize them as the creators of native advertising. After all, by being mobile first, they were forced to come up with integrated “editorial” formats for advertising purposes. And they did so with great success considering they (Google and Facebook) now capture almost 65% of the total digital ad spendings according to Fortune****. These platforms face many challenges though, such as lack of brand safety and/or no assurance of the quality of their traffic. Choosing quality native advertising solutions on Premium Publisher Networks is a much better option to reach both branding and performance goals, as this has the best combination of great audience and a brand safe advertising environment. 


Do you need help to develop your native advertising strategy? Interested in learning more about how Ligatus can help your business? Contact Us