YouTube is reintroducing third-party ad serving on reserved buys in Europe after scrapping it last year in anticipation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Third-party ad serving will now be enabled via a new API-based framework, which Google says ingests ads it receives from other ad servers, before serving those creatives via Google’s own systems. Vendors currently signed up to provide third-party ad serving are Innovid, Extreme Reach, Adform, and Flashtalking, according to Google’s developer blog. Sizmek is also listed as a vendor, although its status is currently unclear – while Sizmek’s data management platform (DMP) and demand-side platform (DSP) were sold to Zeta Global last week, its ad server is still up for sale.
The announcement is effectively a reversal of YouTube’s decision last year to end third-party ad serving in the European Economic Area (EEA), which it said was necessary in order to comply with the new GDPR privacy laws. The move was controversial, especially as it coincided with a wider reduction in the number of ad tech companies whose pixels could be used for third-party measurement on YouTube. Advertisers wanting to run campaigns on YouTube in Europe were forced to use Google’s DoubleClick Campaign Manager ad server, with measurement and evaluation only provided by a select group of vendors which Google had authorised – comScore, DoubleVerify, IAS, MOAT, Nielsen, Kantar and Research Now, as well as those integrated with Google’s Ads Data Hub.
While some sceptics believed Google was using GDPR as a convenient opportunity to shut out third-party ad tech companies and tighten its control over its own advertising ecosystem, Google maintains that the move was genuinely necessitated by GDPR. “In May 2018, ahead of GDPR coming into effect, we suspended support for third party ad serving (3PAS) on YouTube in the EEA. Since then, we have taken steps to re-enable 3PAS for advertising partners,” the company said in a statement.
Google says the new third-party ad serving integration is GDPR compliant since it “runs through an API-based framework that serves partners’ creatives via Google’s systems”.
Adform’s chief operating officer Oliver Whitten told VAN that the his company involved is currently running alpha phase tests of the new integration, with plans to scale up over the coming year, though he could not say when the integrations might go live.
A Return to Unified Creative Management
Google says the reintroduction of third-party ad serving would benefit both advertisers and customers, saying it “increases privacy protections and decreases ad load times”.
The move might also prove popular with big brands and agencies as it will simplify their creative management, since they can handle their YouTube campaigns alongside other video platforms and publishers through one system. Previously, with YouTube closed off from third-party ad serving, buys would have to handle the YouTube component of their video campaigns through DoubleClick, while they might handle the bulk of the rest through the likes of Adform or Flashtalking. Cutting back this fragmentation will make campaign management more efficient for the buy side.
Whitten also said that more broadly, he is pleased to see Google working with the rest of the industry. “We also look at it from an industry perspective, which is it’s good to see collaboration happen between big companies like Google and the rest of the ecosystem.”