Misaligned Content: Far-reaching Implications and Actionable Solutions


Consumer sentiment across the board has changed drastically over the last two years. Brands remaining silent on societal issues is no longer accepted. Consumers now more than ever are expecting brands to speak up and speak out. There are thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube every day. It is an ecosystem brimming with potential in terms of reach; however, brands and marketers can sometimes struggle to harness that potential because of so much content. As “cancel culture” has been on the rise, brands are overly conscious and aware of their messaging and where that messaging appears.

Brand safety has become top-of-mind for most marketers and the brands they work with. It is not a want, but a need, for brands to ensure that the marketing creative they are running is not only authentic and impactful but also does not appear alongside content that will diminish the messaging or put the brand in a negative light. Having their ads appear alongside content that doesn’t fit their image is a fear most brands and marketers have because it can have a huge impact on the audiences brands are trying to reach. 

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What Is Misaligned Content?

Misaligned content is made for general consumption but becomes misaligned when that content does not match the messaging of the ad appearing beside it — for example, an ad for a popular children’s brand appearing alongside a video of “how to make the best holiday cocktail” featuring alcohol. While the video might not be deemed unsafe on YouTube, the content of the video simply does not match the message or tone of the ad.

It isn’t a good look, and it happens probably more times than it should to brands. There are nearly 500 hoursOpens a new window of content uploaded to YouTube every minute worldwide, according to StatistaOpens a new window . It isn’t difficult to understand how ads can get a bit lost in the ecosystem and find a home against a video that doesn’t suit it. While consumers understand that sometimes things happen, it doesn’t mean they aren’t still turned off when an ad finds itself alongside content that doesn’t match a brand’s messaging or values. 

How Are Consumers Impacted by This?

GenZ is often the generation that brands have the most difficult time reaching with ads. They are all over the place in terms of what type of content they consume and what platform they consume that content on. However, when it comes to misaligned content, GenZ is the least of the worries for brands. 

A recent studyOpens a new window by MAGNA Media and Channel Factory took brands such as Nationwide and T-Mobile and placed their ads alongside neutral and skewed content to test differences in reactions across the content and generations. The study found a number of interesting trends among GenX, Millennials and GenZ.

Across all video environments, content that doesn’t match an ad has a stronger impact on GenZ in how they categorize the content itself, but for Millennials and GenX, a stronger impact on how they react after seeing the content. In fact, when asked if this content was “appropriate in general” vs. “appropriate for brands,” GenZ had the biggest change in perception, with more than half of those surveyed finding the content appropriate in general compared to a mere 29% finding it actually appropriate for brands. 

Meanwhile, the perception for Millennials decreased by 23% and GenX by 15%. But where it matters most, Millennials respond with lower purchase intent and respect when brands appear next to content that doesn’t make sense for them.

MAGNA and Channel Factory’s study found that, when appearing alongside misaligned content, consumers remembered the brand’s ad, but for the wrong reasons. In fact, those that found the content inappropriate felt very strongly about their opinions, quoting, “A brand would not want to associate itself with such a disgusting act. Leaves a bad memory attached to the brand” and “Because it’s too weird to associate with”. 

Consumers’ perception of a brand’s thoughtfulness and how much a brand cares about the customer diminishes as a result of ads and the content around it not being quite aligned.

How Can Brands Avoid Content That Isn’t Right for Them?

Seeing the above numbers can be downright frightening for some brands and marketers. It’s clear that the trend of ads appearing alongside inappropriate content for the brand has a profound impact on consumers. So how can brands avoid it?

It all comes down to being proactive. Take, for example, the brand LEGO. LEGO is running global campaigns with varying sensitivities per region. Some campaigns reach co-viewing families, while others are meant to target just adult collectors or parents. Brands like LEGO need to be that much more proactive in their strategies of avoiding ads appearing alongside video content that simply doesn’t make sense. They can’t wait until their brand appears alongside the wrong video to make a change. Brands should keep an eye on popular, trending content to ensure the appropriate steps can be taken to avoid unfortunate brand and content alignments since not all trending content is suitable for all brands. Additionally, brands should prioritize inclusion lists — using resources to create lists that outline what kind of content can be deemed safe by a brand without the use of overblocking. 

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There are also new technologies emerging that can help brands. These technologies lie in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. AI can allow brands to create filters that can save brands from unsafe content. AI paired with the dedicated marketers and brands diligently scanning for the right and wrong content can create a safer ecosystem. 

Misaligned content can sometimes be difficult to avoid because there is so much content on YouTube. However, it isn’t impossible. If brands can be proactive — if they can take the necessary steps before an ad runs to prevent the ad from appearing alongside the wrong type of content — they can protect their creatives and messaging from being diminished in the eyes of the consumer. 

How are you making sure you are combating misaligned content? Share with us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .