How to Exclude Kid’s Video Placements from YouTube Campaigns

Alex Blazer

There are two groups of people who truly understand how obnoxious YouTube Kids can be:

  1. Parents
  2. Media Buyers

As a parent and media buyer, I have to deal with it on both ends. Last month my wife and I finally had enough and removed the YouTube app from both of our phones & AppleTV. Problem #1 was solved.

Managing ad campaigns is a different story.

To put this in context, I once ran a Google Ads Video campaign on YouTube, targeting 18-34 year olds viewing Hip Hop & Rap video Topics. I excluded Topics related to toys, games, kids and anything else my kids would watch on my phone. It wasn’t enough. Our client's video still showed on video placements about slime, unboxing toys, Disney princesses — and even some bizarre "news" clips.

Even though 99% of our budget was spent on the target audience, it’s still bad for brand perception when a pre-roll ad runs on content with a 13 year old melting a Daniel Tiger toy during an at-home science experiment.

In the Google Ads platform, Video campaigns have very similar targeting options as Display campaigns — with one key difference, which I will address later. These options include targeting by keyword, audience behavior, demographics, topics, placements and more. I was exclusively targeting relevant areas for my client and excluded multiple irrelevant topics, so how did Daniel Tiger's Demise slip past my content-guards?

Well, take a step back and think about the creator side of YouTube. With over 23 million YouTube Channels, there are a lot of people out there making (or stealing) videos, and some of these "creators" have a strong understanding of how YouTube’s algorithms work. Using tactics like keyword stuff and cloaking, some of this obscure — and in my case irrelevant — content is being mis-categorized by YouTube, and will mess up your campaigns!

Currently, there is no single fix to insure your YouTube ads will only show to relevant users on relevant videos if you want to reach a large audience — but the following tactics will improve performance & increase your brand safety.

1. Create multiple negative keyword lists

We built a 200+ word kid-themed negative keyword list, including terms like:

Sure, my Hip Hop & Rap ad group won’t serve on Hate It Or Love It, but the small inventory restriction is worth it.

2. Regularly Check & Exclude YouTube Channel Placements

Remember when I said there was one key difference between the Display Network and YouTube? Well here it is. On YouTube, Google Ads shows video data by Channel your ad was served, where the Display Network groups this data by Placement (or website). This is a blessing, because rather than combing through potentially millions of YouTube video placements (typically displayed by a random URL string) — you can see the YouTube Channel name and exclude irrelevant Channels and all of the videos on that channel.

Over the years (and with help from other blog posts), we have compiled a list of over 2,000 channels to exclude.


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