Are YouTube Ads safe? Technically, yes, though it depends on your self-control and age. More on that in a bit.
From pre-roll ads to mid-roll ads and even those unskippable 6-second bumper ads, these annoying marketing pieces are an everyday experience for users of the YouTube platform.
They are also why YouTube is free to access with no paywall. However, the world is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way they think about the right to privacy, with things like the GDPR, CCPA, and new browser features (like Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention) that aim to give users more control over their data.
See, this data has a lot of value to these companies that serve you advertisements.
Table of Contents
Advertisements are Everywhere
As I’m sure all of you know by now, you are being advertised to almost everywhere you go. How much these ads permeate your life varies from person to person, but make no mistake – advertisements are everywhere. And they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
Why? Because they work. It isn’t a 763.2 billion dollar industry (According to statistia) for nothing.
How do these ads get to you?
The most common way these days is probably through targeted advertising, a method used by both social media networks and online retailers.
This is where companies like Facebook and Amazon collect data on you and use it to show you ads that they think you’ll be interested in. And it’s not just what you buy – these companies are also collecting data on everything from the websites you visit to the people you’re friends with.
Additionally, major brands tend to stamp their logo on everything they make, making even their waste an effective method of spreading brand awareness. I remember seeing a wrapper in the trash, and I recognized the golden arches of Mcdonald’s on it. Having had a past experience eating one of their burgers, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I’ll have Mcdonald’s today…” This is successful advertising in a nutshell.
The Unexpected Benefits of Ads on YouTube
Ads served on YouTube do have several unexpected benefits.
- Free Content for Viewers
- Easy Monetization for Creators
- Supports Diverse Content Formats
Free Content for Viewers
If you think about it, much of the content you see on YouTube wouldn’t exist without ads. For example, Let’s Play Videos, a very popular form of content that has given birth to entire careers, requires a lot of time investment. Without revenue from ads or YouTube Premium, these video series wouldn’t be lucrative enough for creators to make freely available unless they were doing it entirely for fun.
Let’s be real, though; we all need to pay our bills. It’s why I serve ads on this site too.
Easy Monetization for Creators & Diverse Content Formats
You can’t sell Let’s Play Video content as a movie or something – it just doesn’t hold the same value. The same goes for a lot of the one-off comedic or educational videos that people post to YouTube. They’re simply not worth the time investment to make if there’s no way to monetize them easily.
With ads, these creators can let their creative impulses bloom without having to worry about how they’ll make money off of it. This has resulted in a boom of content and creativity that wouldn’t have otherwise existed and get paid to do it.
All for free.
Think about that the next time you’re ready to skip an ad. (Or block them.)
I Get Why People Hate Ads
I really do. I’ve been on the internet for a long time (Since the late 90s! I feel old now…), and I remember what it was like back when ads started becoming more prevalent. Back then, all sites looked terrible, internet speed was abysmally slow, and worst of all, pop-ups and viruses were a constant threat.
After all, we’re talking about a time when Dial-up and 56k were the most common internet connection methods. Websites could take minutes to load fully. If you accidentally clicked on one of the millions of popups (an exaggeration, but it was a lot) that littered your screen, you could get a nasty virus that would take over your computer, and there was almost nothing you could do to stop it.
It was a scary time to be online.
But we’ve come a long way compared to back then. Today, advertisements online are way less intrusive and far safer than ever before. After all, the goal today is to convince you to purchase so they can make money.
If you really can’t stand ads, then you can utilize ad-blocking software like AdBlock Plus or Ublock origin. Just know that by using these tools, any videos you watch on YouTube will not contribute to the income of the creators you watch. It will make it harder for them to continue making the content you just watched and maybe liked.
What are the Dangers of Ads on YouTube?
Regarding the dangers of ads, there are three. Really, two, because the third one is so rare these days.
Exposure to Mature Content
The main danger of YouTube ads is just the potential for kids to see things they’re not supposed to see, like an ad for Trojan Condoms. This danger can be mitigated with good parenting and proper supervision, as well as the ad-blocking software I mentioned above.
However, the best solution to keep your kids protected from mature content and inappropriate ads is YouTube Kids. This is a platform operated by the YouTube team that has advertising toned down to only allow age-appropriate advertisements, which can be eliminated entirely with a YouTube Premium membership. Additionally, YouTube Kids has parental moderation tools to give you control over what content you deem appropriate for your kids.
The second danger lies in your ability to resist marketing tactics. Ads are designed to get your attention and to encourage you to make a purchase with marketing copy.
For example, perhaps you are a streamer, like me, with a less than $50 Tonor BM-700 microphone. Suppose you see an ad about the new and improved Elgato Wave 3 Microphone. In that case, you might be convinced to make a purchase based on the awesome streamer-focused features it has, even though the microphone you already have is sufficient.
Learning to recognize marketing copy, or better yet, to ignore it altogether, is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. There is certainly a better product out there than the one you might be using, but the best tool isn’t necessarily the most effective, especially when a low budget is a vital consideration. It just needs to be good enough to get the job done without completely falling apart in the process.
The last potential danger of ads is the possibility of malware or viruses. However, this is extremely rare for ads served on the YouTube platform as they are very selective about who is allowed to serve ads.
Are YouTube Ads Safe, then?
If you have solid self-control, they are completely safe. You can simply ignore them and treat them like a TV commercial. However, if you know that you are easily influenced into buying things, I recommend using an ad blocker, as it can save you quite a lot of money.
You don’t need anything most ads are trying to sell you, so don’t worry about losing out on it. Just focus on the content you came to see, and don’t let the ads dissuade you from that.
All in all, YouTube ads are safe.