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Signifying a move that surely will inspire both controversy and applause, Google made a surprising announcement last Thursday, allowing users to toggle off ads for both gambling and alcohol. The most interesting aspect may be the timing and motivational reason(s) for the move.
It will remain in question because it will directly affect revenue for Google. Perhaps indirectly affect the advertisers connected including the rising force of major online sports gaming operators including DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, BetMGM, and their affiliates.
The brands responsible for serving these sorts of targeted ads do not really have any incentive to stop. Online gambling in the US, in particular, has seen a huge surge of popularity during the course of the pandemic, drawing in billions of dollars as a result.
Starting with YouTube in the US, users will be able to opt off ads for alcohol and gambling. Two subjects that are sensitive for a large contingent of people. The new option is scheduled to roll out to Google Ads and non-US YouTube early in 2021. Other countries that already have dictated legal limitations on ads in similar categories, for example, Norway or Sweden, will not see any change in their policies as a result, Google added.
Previously people who encountered one of these ads had the option to “mute” them, which would keep that specific ad from cropping up across Google’s properties, or any of the several web publishers that Google partners with. In addition, it also kept users from seeing any ads that Google deemed as “similar” to the ad in question, either because they looked the same, or were from the same advertiser.
By instituting this new feature, Google explained is an “extra step” that puts more choice and flexibility into the user’s hands. Although it is probably more like a half-step in maintaining complete control.
Google did not exactly qualify what it meant by “limiting” these ads in their blog post, but it is safe to assume to believe that some will still slip through. Translated, that means Google could still regretfully obtain revenue made from an addicted individual being served ads for a substance or behavior they are trying to avoid. However, the numbers will be “significantly reduced,” according to the company.
“While our intent is to be able to block all ads from a given category, there are certain ads that can be difficult to categorize,” a Google spokesperson said in an email. They cited the example of an ad for an airline featuring a flight attendant serving champagne.
A Google spokesperson added:
We want to be fully transparent so we’re using ‘see fewer ads’ rather than ‘see no ads’ or ‘block ads’ to appropriately set expectations that while significantly reduced, people may still see ads related to a selected category. But of course, we’ll continue to work to get as close as possible to blocking all ads within a selected category.
Google reported it was responding to numerous feedback and negative comment from users concerned by the number of ads for alcohol and gambling they were seeing online, both on YouTube and on third-party websites.
It is already possible to adjust the content of personalized ads, which are based on users’ browsing history, via Google’s Ad Settings function. But most ads are “contextual”, which means they are linked to the content being viewed on YouTube or on websites that use Google Ads to sell space to advertisers.
As an example, this type of action has led to either embarrassing or disturbing advertising for online casinos on news articles about gambling addiction. A similar annoying pattern to someone receiving several Mother’s Day sale ads into emails after they have been deceased.
The move from Google involving the US might also be following UK betting firms, who agreed to stop showing television advertisements during live sports matches last year. An act applauded to curb concern that children and vulnerable people were being bombarded by gambling commercials.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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