Should I rephrase it as “How much money does Google earn from kids accidentally tapping on your ads?”
It’s a whole lot.
I am not talking about manipulative ads in kids’ apps here – that’s a story on its own. I am talking about spending your legit advertising budget on legit ad impressions that sometimes end up on placements that are usually frequent by children online.
TL;DR If you don’t manage your placements inventory and analyze campaign patterns on a strategic level, at least from time to time, while advertising to a generation that’s likely to have pre-school kids – you probably waste a lot.
And if you happen to run a “maximize clicks” bid strategy, then it’s R.I.P. to your ad budget.
The problem of kids accidentally tapping on your ads is real
You’ll say– “But… machine learning is optimizing for conversions. Why should I care about from where the clicks come?” – that’s correct, and it helps, especially in the long run, but the machine cannot recognize in real-time (yet) if a kid grabbed mom’s/dad’s phone to play.
You see, a mom can be an excellent prospective buyer for your family’s clothing brand, but her 3-year-old daughter indeed isn’t anything close to a purchasing decision maker when she taps on your ad while watching a YouTube cartoon on mom’s phone.
If your target audience is anywhere between 25 and 45 years old, you need to factor in that probably they have children who use their parents’ smartphones and tablets to play when bored.
We’re getting to the problem of multiple users on the same device and sometimes even the same user I.D. And we don’t know who looks at the screen at the moment our ad gets an impression. A.I. is famous for “not thinking outside the box,” – so how do we solve this?
It’s time to get contextual
YouTube is your greatest friend and worst enemy at the same time here. It can be a great asset in terms of reach, awareness, and targeting options. Heck, you can even get decent conversions there – but it doesn’t come without its share of problems.
I’ve already mentioned how some parents let kids watch cartoons on their smartphones and tablets. YouTube has its “kids” version called YouTube Kids – but that doesn’t come ad-free. And even if it did, most of the parents use regular YouTube in a way that they find a video, play it, and give the phone/tablet to a kid.
Kids like touching stuff, and that includes tapping on ads. They’re moving, colorful, attention-seeking pieces of content—the perfect “toy” for an average 2 to 3-year-old.
You pay per ad click. Does that accidental tap still sound fun?
Here is a short story.
I had a client once who wanted to maximize clicks on their ads, no matter what. They had to report a vast number of clicks back to the board of directors. It got me thinking— “If they don’t care about conversions, let’s at least test who will click the most!” So, I’ve set up a campaign with a horrendous maximize clicks bid strategy, clickbaity ad creatives, and a broad audience (whole country, actually). I let that campaign run for a fiscal quarter.
I noticed an interesting pattern. I was getting a significant number of clicks from YouTube cartoons and related channels. Google was “innocently” reporting hundreds of thousands of clicks from a 30-year-old demographic while it was apparent who clicked on those ads. The client didn’t care; they got the number needed for a quarterly report.
However, in 99 of 100 use-cases, you wouldn’t want something like this happening.
So, how do I fix this, Ivan?
It requires a bit of box-ticking, and a lot of manual work, unfortunately.
The Box-ticking part lies in your account settings, and it’s called Excluded types and labels. It will prevent your YouTube campaigns (as well as other campaign types targeting YouTube, such as Performance Max) from showing on content Google determines geared towards children, or at least falling into this checkbox option.
Account settings > Excluded types and labels > select “Content suitable for families” > Save options
However, Google does not disclose specific channels and content under this option, but it will help you exclude children’s range. Unfortunately, it blocks some non-kid content, too.
A lot of children’s content still goes through if you exclude this option. To fix this, you need to do some manual work on campaign monitoring. Enter the Display or Video campaign you want to optimize, go to “Content” > Where ads showed, and inspect the placements. If you find anything unusual, exclude it manually. It fixes the problem for good.
By the way, I didn’t forget Meta Ads. It’s the same story, more or less, just on a much lower scale. After all, no one uses Facebook and Instagram to play cartoons.
Happy campaign optimization, and let me know how much you’ve spent so far on kids accidentally tapping on ads!