Social Video Comes Of Age With The Release Of The Social Video Code of Conduct (SVCoC)

We’re very excited about today’s launch of the Social Video Code of Conduct by ABC. It’s a crucial step in the evolution of a video format that can finally alleviate industry concerns over brand safety and give brands and media agencies the confidence they need to work with vendors at scale, ensuring that diversification of spend within online video will continue to be a trend, not an anomaly.  

The Social Video Code of Conduct is the culmination of a four-year journey for social video – it was 2011 when the IAB UK recognised a shift in the momentum of user-initiated branded content, including it as its own category in its twice-yearly Internet Advertising Revenue Report.

Whether it’s the explosion in branded video sharing – which has increased 6,000% since 2006 – or the continuing fragmentation of the social video ecosystem, due primarily to Facebook’s rise as a serious video rival to YouTube and the growth of short-form platforms such as Vine and Instagram, social video continues to adapt and grow every year.

With such momentum, it’s essential for social video vendors to ensure the trust and integrity built in these last few years is maintained, enabling this category to continue to enjoy fantastic coverage and growth opportunities.

At Unruly, we have developed a thriving publisher network over the course of several years and have used this as a platform for identifying practices that we need to deter or adhere to.

We’ve focused our efforts around several key areas – Authentic Engagement, Consumer Transparency, Misleading Practices, Safe Environments, and Social Platform Compliance – and meet our own requirements through a blend of internal policies, continual software development on our proprietary video distribution platform Unruly Activate and collaborative partnerships with technology partners to complement our internal brand safety processes.

Validating views is a necessary jump-off point – social video’s key difference as a format is the fact the user opts in to view branded content through a click or hover-to play initiation.

This keeps view counts completely organic and delivered on a 1:1 basis with the consumer.  The use of bot traffic, malware and cheap keywords to artificially drive impression traffic and views of a video is an inappropriate practice, and can ultimately be identified through poor performance metrics on a campaign.

With such emphasis on validating consumer views, vendors also need to take responsibility that content consumers know they are being advertised to.  Simple disclosure messages permanently hosted on video players will suffice, and can be extended to any editorial content that publishers write to support a video campaign.

By following guidance from the Office of Fair Trading’sConsumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations’ (2008), you can ensure that the end consumer commences playback safely, without being unfairly influenced into building brand/product affinity through a lack of non-disclosure.

Retaining a strong policy for publishers who are members of your network is crucial, from acceptance criteria to dealing with infractions.  There are the basic omissions such as pornography, excessive profanity and racial intolerance, however, sites promoting illegal file sharing or sales of prescription drugs, replica goods or student essays should also be classified as inappropriate in the context of targeting relevance and general safety for brands.

Vendors must endeavour to use multiple opportunities to verify the content quality of their network, through scanning unapproved domains to using 3rd party URL reputation services.

The evolution of integrations with social platforms must also play a central part in vendor’s strategy for protecting brands and their identity within the social web.  Discernible examples include posting video ads on Twitter, where a simple three character word. ‘ad:’, can be included at the start of a tweet to provide the relevant disclosure to a micro-blogger’s followers.

Or Google’s policies to ensure their search and page ranking algorithms are not gamed through paid means.  Disclosed articles promoting sponsored content can be spidered and identified by Google for exclusion from the SERPs, and hyperlinks to a brand’s page from a paid article can be re-coded to include a nofollow referral tag, allowing Google to dismiss the hyperlink as a paid entity, and a non-contributor to the receiving site’s referral traffic.

By grouping these key areas of focus into an auditable guide, The Social Video Code of Conduct stands on its feet as a set of principles for vendors to be measured against.

Backed by the support of the IAB UK and JICWEBS, and underpinned via a 3rd party audit programme, signatories can send a united message to agencies and brands that the goals of social video are being upheld with maximum honesty and respect for advertisers.

Today’s release does pose a more pressing, broader question for online video advertising in general, however.

With online video ad spend, particularly mobile, continuing to grow rapidly, could the foundations of The Social Video Code of Conduct kick off the compilation of best practice guidelines for online video advertising generally?

Watch this space …