Did Google lie to advertisers? Recent word around the block could spell trouble for Google and advertisers that use its video ad campaigns. Ad intelligence firm Adalytics found that around 75% of video ads purchased through TrueView appeared on questionable surfaces. Those questionable surfaces are places that do not meet Google’s standards for ad placement. Google entrenched these standards, promising specific parameters for enhanced viewer experience and exposure.

As Adalytics explains:

“For years, significant quantities of TrueView skippable in-stream ads, purchased by many different brands and media agencies, appear to have been served on hundreds of thousands of websites and apps in which the consumer experience did not meet Google’s stated quality standards. For example, many TrueView in-stream ads were served muted and auto-playing as out-stream video or as obscured video players on independent sites. Often, there was little to no organic video media content between ads, the video units simply played ads only.”


Adalytics notes that Google’s standards for TrueView video campaigns include specific parameters around qualified ad views. Exposure across different social platforms also affects these ad placements.

Here’s Google’s explanation:

“TrueView gives advertisers more value because they only have to pay for actual views of their ads, rather than impressions. Viewers can choose to skip the video ad after 5 seconds. If they choose not to skip the video ad, the YouTube video view count will be incremented when the viewer watches 30 seconds of the video ad (or the duration if it’s shorter than 30 seconds) or engages with your video, whichever comes first. Video interactions include clicks to visit your website and clicks on call-to-action overlays (CTAs).”

TrueView campaigns have become popular among bigger brand names because of reported higher engagement thresholds. If this new analysis is correct, those businesses are not getting what they paid for. The Wall Street Journal infers that Google can lose billions worth in refunds. At the same time, this issue could significantly hurt the credibility of Google’s ad business.

Of course, Google refuted the report, criticizing what it has called an ‘extremely inaccurate’ portrayal of its systems. Google believes that the report overstates the placement of video ads via its Google Video Partner (GVP) network. Furthermore, Google claims that 90% of ads on GVP are visible to people across the web. Advertisers only pay for viewed ads, while Google supports various independent third-party verifications for assurance.

Regardless, Adalytics’ report highlights lingering questions in the digital marketing space about TrueView ad placement metrics. More specifically, in this context, it helps qualify a valid view. An example is Twitter recently coming under fire due to a related issue with the viewing element.

The Wrap

The variance in how platforms measure viewership has led to confusion over what the stat means. In that context, Google communicates needing a higher engagement level to trigger a view for these campaigns. These new findings are subject to more scrutiny as the report saturates, pressuring Google to reassure ad partners. To achieve this, Google must provide more insight, proving that the findings are not reflective of its systems. Based on Google’s response, it convinces itself that there is no need to respond. However, the report suggests otherwise – TrueView campaigns need more process transparency and more rigorous checking.