Google has rolled out new controls for global users to limit ads relating to pregnancy, parenting, dating and weight loss across YouTube and display.
This builds on December 2020’s user control rollout, which allowed US users to see fewer gambling and alcohol ads on YouTube. These categories have also been included in the new global rollout.
The features sit in users’ ad settings under the Google Account dashboard.
Speaking to Campaign, Karin Hennessy, group product manager, ads privacy, said Google did global research across the US, Europe and Asia to determine categories of sensitivity.
Since the initial launch of the feature in 2020, Hennessy said “millions” of users worldwide had used the feature.
She added: “Overall, the reception has been great, more controls are exactly what users are asking us for. We’re glad that we can deliver especially in these places where it affects how people feel about their experience online.”
As an example, she cited fertility issues as reasons why people may not want to see pregnancy or parenting ads.
Hennessy added that the Google software was not always 100% effective. In one instance, an ad for holiday destinations might show someone holding a beer, but still be seen by someone who has blocked alcohol-related ads.
“Hopefully, these types of controls can help advertisers reach the people who are most interested in their products and services, and help users have a little more empowerment over their experience,” she continued.
Following the launch of the new controls, Campaign reached out to ad industry figures to find out whether, in the short and long term, the move could change the way agencies do media planning and buying.
Jonathan Harrison, digital strategy and transformation lead at the7stars, said: “I think it's positive in terms of people's ability to limit ads if they're in difficult or uncomfortable circumstances.”
He added although the new measures do not currently affect media planning and buying for the7stars, they have raised questions about the environment in which ads are appearing.
“How do you make sure your ad is more suitable for the environment, rather than just brand safe?”
Harrison used the example of a mother showing her child a video on YouTube. Without ad blocking, or without the mother knowing how to block certain types of ads, YouTube could show an ad which is appropriate for adults – like the mother – but not for children.
Hennessy said that Google planned on publicising new measures, like the ad blocking feature, later on this year.
Shreyas Sukumar, paid media director at We Are Social, said the number of people who use the feature would be “rather small overall”, and added: “I don't know how much Google is going to push this in their sign-up process. When you sign up for a Google account, do you choose what kind of advertising you would like to receive when you are trying to set up your account?
“I don't think Google is going to push it that hard to get everybody to subscribe to these two omissions at every possible turn.”
However, Sukumar did add: “From a paid media perspective, I think it's quite helpful in terms of things clients are concerned about, like cost-based efficiency and performance."
Andrew Horvath, head of programmatic at Publicis Media, said the situation was “similar” to situations the agency had been in before, and added: “There is an element of wait and see. We're used to changes in the ecosystem like this and we've learnt the best approach is to be quite flexible.
“That's kind of our modus operandi in programmatic – planning and buying in a way that allows us to be quite agile, and change things as we see fit.”