YouTube’s Advertiser Guidelines: What You Need to Know

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June 26, 2019
YouTube Advertising Guidelines

Creator Insider released a new (actual) deep dive into advertiser guidelines today. This pairs with an updated YouTube Help Center article clarifying these topics. I highly recommend you read through this on your own (keep the Help Center bookmarked) and check out the other topics.

It was important with this video and the previous one that Barbara clarified that no policies have been recently changed, they’re just being more verbose and descriptive about the advertiser guidelines and policies and what kinds of content can and can not be monetized on the platform. This is something we as creators – or myself, at least – have been requesting for years now and is a good thing. 

Some of these topics were brushed over and re-iterated as normal, but some were given a lot more context and clarity, and I appreciate that.

Conor gave a rundown of the types of content that will net you the “Yellow Icon” with clarifications as to what you can post and still keep the “Green Icon” – or “Limited or No Ads” and “Monetized with Ads,” respectively. I will abbreviate the video being “Yellow” or “Green” for brevity.

Yellow videos cannot be monetized on YouTube (or at least with the open doors of normal advertisers) and will stay with the Yellow Icon (even if it doesn’t start out Yellow, it’ll eventually be caught), Green videos are safe to monetize fully.

The Topics Covered for Advertiser Guidelines Were:

  • Sensitive Events:
    • War, death, tragedy – Videos on these topics will be Yellow.
    • Mass shootings, bombings – Videos on these topics will be Yellow.
  • Controversial Issues:
    • Political conflicts, terrorism, extremism – Videos on these topics will be Yellow.
    • Sexual abuse- Videos on this topic will be Yellow.
  • Recreational Drug Use and Abuse:
    • “Recreational Drugs” were defined as “Drugs that can alter your mental state or give you a high.”
    • Videos that promote recreational drugs or substances, facilitate services for providing them, or instructional content for using, purchasing, or making recreational drugs will be Yellow.
  • Tobacco:
    • Videos promoting any sort of tobacco product, or any simulation tobacco product such as e-cigarettes (vaping), etc. will be Yellow.
  • Weapons-related content, specifically firearms:
    • Any videos selling firearms or facilitating the sale of firearms (telling you where or how to buy them) will be Yellow.
    • Instructional videos on how to assemble firearms will be Yellow.
    • It was clarified that this does NOT apply to gaming content! Gaming content mentioning in-game weapons will be Green.
  • Advertiser Guidelines About Harmful & Dangerous Acts:
    • This includes pranks, challenges, dares, stunts, etc. (This was covered a bit in the last video.)
    • Pranks involving or relating to suicide, death, or terrorism (such as bomb scares) will be Yellow.
    • Body modifications:
      • Videos with invasive medical procedures will be Yellow. If it’s something like a basic injection – or unfortunately pimple popping or ingrown toenail removal (yes this is a real content niche, hold my stomach) – the video will be Green, but full-on surgeries or mutilations are not allowed.
    • Content that shows or promotes harm to oneself or others will be Yellow. This includes:
      • Suicide
      • Domestic violence
      • Cannibalism
      • Things that focus on bodily or physical harm as the main point of the footage
    • Videos that showcase acts “not to be imitated” (“don’t try this at home, kids!”) will be Yellow. This includes:
      • Ingesting dangerous substances
      • Binge drinking
      • Underground surfing, stowaway in subways (don’t try to be Matt Damon – I don’t know what film they were referencing with that one)
      • Rooftop jumping, or “rooftopping”
    • Other risky or dangerous challenges cannot be monetized and will be Yellow:
      • Kiki challenge – I had to look this one up. This appears to be a dance challenge where participants are driving a vehicle, exit the vehicle (leaving the door open) while it’s still moving and dance alongside it while it continues moving down the street. Obviously, this is dangerous and not to be encouraged. And just… weird.
      • Fire challenge – This seems like the most obviously stupid one to do… This involves participants dousing part of themselves in a flammable liquid (such as lighter fluid, gasoline) and lighting it with a lighter or match. This is usually in the rain or the shower, though participants clearly don’t understand that a light spray of water doesn’t immediately put out flammable liquid.
        Man… when I was young we did stupid stuff like burning random things, but not ourselves… we knew better than that. I saw some clips of this challenge and can’t believe anyone thought it was a good idea. Reminds me of the time my neighbors and I (this was middle school, for context) were having a fireworks “war” and they ran out of matches and thus decided to pour gasoline on their garage floor, light it with a candle to light their fireworks. Except… you know… the fluid spread all over the floor and they had no easy way to put the fire out. 
      • “Bird Box Challenge” – this challenge involves doing dangerous things like cooking on a stove or using sharp utensils while blindfolded. Easy risk of bodily harm.
        • A note was made that while Bird Box was a “great piece of content from Netflix,” that doesn’t mean it’s something anyone should be trying for a challenge video.
    • Videos that convey dangerous medical information will be Yellow. These include:
      • “Anti-vax” content
      • Aids-denialist content
      • Non-medical treatments to cure incurable diseases (such as some sort of herb supplement or pill that will “cure cancer”)
      • Videos that imply serious medical conditions don’t exist or are a hoax
      • A note was made that content that focuses on denying or claiming medical conditions or diseases don’t exist despite being proven by a large body of scientific work will not be monetized. This is a great step for YouTube.
    • Content that threatens or advocates for real physical or bodily harm towards oneself or others (or a group of people) cannot be monetized and will be Yellow.
  • Hateful Content:
    • These types of videos are not able to be monetized and will be Yellow:
      • Videos that promote discrimination
      • Videos that seek to disparage an individual or group
      • Videos that promote terrorism
  • Incendiary or Demeaning Content:
    • Videos that shame or insult an individual or group will be Yellow.
      • This includes “diss tracks.” Some “diss” content can be monetized and will be Green, but “there is a line,” according to Conor. This seems to focus on if the track is purely incendiary and demeaning, taking personal attacks against someone.
        • Satirical content can be monetized, but again there is a line, and context matters a lot. (It seems more and more people don’t actually know what “satire” is anymore, so I imagine that’s a tough “line” for YouTube to navigate.)
    • Videos that harass, intimidate or bully an individual or group will be Yellow.
      • Videos that single someone out for harassment or insult, or encourage followers to harass them cannot be monetized.
    • Videos focused on personal attacks and slander will be Yellow.
  • Inappropriate language is a grey area when it comes to monetization, so Barbara and Conor provided some clarifications on the policy. For a video to be monetized and Green:
    • There should be no profanity within the first 30 seconds of the video.
    • There should be no profanity in the title or thumbnail.
    • The level and strength of the profanity matter.
      • Strong derogatory language cannot be monetized.
      • Racial or other discriminatory slurs cannot be monetized.
  • Adult Themes In Family Content:
    • Content involving known cartoon, child-friendly, or actually-a-child characters performing sexual, disgusting, violent, dangerous or distasteful acts cannot be monetized and will be Yellow.
    • This means no “Spiderman pees on Elsa” videos.
  • Advertiser Guidelines Around Adult Content:
    • Sexually-suggestive or sexually-explicit content will be Yellow. This includes:
      • Graphically sexual acts with the intent to arouse
      • Content where the focal point on nudity
      • Content involving sex toys or sexual devices
      • If your video is about your “story of your first time” and dives into details of the actual sexual act, it cannot be monetized.
      • Content promoting sexual acts in exchange for compensation
      • Content related to sex industry itself
    • Videos focusing on “sexually-gratifying content” (weird name) will be Yellow. This includes:
      • Videos that focus on or attempt to arouse based on fetishes
      • Sensationalist material about sex or sex scandals
      • Explicit audio with the intent of sexual arousal
      • Body art focused on nudity
    • Other Explicit Material:
      • Pornography and other directly-explicit material cannot be monetized and will be Yellow.
    • Educational content can be Green, but don’t go beyond what might appear in a high-school textbook or the content will be bumped to Yellow status.
  • Violence:
    • Gruesome, graphic, disgusting accounts or imagery will be Yellow.
      • No blood, guts, gore, sexual fluids, human or animal waste, crime scene or accident-related photos where the focus is on the gore or outcome of violence.
    • Acts of violence:
      • Accounts or images of shootings
      • Videos that promote animal violence
      • Physical fights
      • Raw footage of war casualties

This is a great step for YouTube advertiser guidelines. For too long have the policies been vague and unclear, so to see them making specifics means we might actually start to see easier and more clear enforcement of them. Obviously, it’s a tough line to walk if you make content on the “Educational, Documentary, Scientific, or Art” side of some of these topics – but you’d have to know that going into it, anyway.