“Es gibt keine Tatsachen, nur Interpretationen.”… Nietzsche

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I have a client that spends quite a bit of money advertising on YouTube Pre-Roll ads in 8 languages. We did have an issue where a small number of people were letting our client know that they were seeing videos in the “wrong” language (e.g. Europeans visiting Singapore seeing the Japanese videos), so I was tasked to investigate.

For our Non-English Videos, the “default” settings are “Worldwide” geography for people who have designated their browser language settings for that particular language.  Generally, such a setting works well…however, for somebody who is signed into Google (which we believe is a decent percentage of people in my client’s cookie pool), the structured video targeting isn’t followed and the video such a signed-in user might see is decided by Google’s more “native” targeting instincts, which likely give additional weight to recent search history, user location, and other unknown weighting factors.

Google has told us that if we possess email lists for people that are signed in, we can exclude them from seeing videos in the incorrect language…a solution that we’re implementing for this client.  However, it was still a mystery why people were seeing videos in seemingly irrelevant languages until I happened to see a German language video run in my browser during my work day.  Had I been a normal searcher, I too would likely have had a WTF moment…however, being the SEM Consigliere that I am, I was able to immediately figure out why I was targeted with the German ad (and my reasoning was later confirmed by our Google Rep).

I’m a huge fan of 60s psychedelic rock.  The most well-known variant of 60s psychedelia began with “Tomorrow Never Knows” from “Revolver”, continued on with “Pet Sounds”, “Sgt. Pepper”, “Head” and “Their Satanic Majesty’s Request”, and evolved with the Grateful Dead and many other bands from the Haight Asbury scene, before vanishing from popularity sometime between Woodstock and Altamont.

However, a tremendous underground psychedelic music movement began concurrently and evolved apart from commercial pressures featuring bands that nobody reading my post will likely have ever heard of. I’ve found that YouTube has an immense collection of 60s/70s psychedelia that I’ve listened to for several days at a time, using their algorithmically cultivated selection to take my listening pleasure down the aural rabbit hole in order to groove to the Mad Hatter’s cadence.

As I’ve learned, there was a reasonably large German Psychedelic music scene influenced by the US/UK origins in the genre…which ultimately evolved into “Krautrock”, becoming more electronically based and giving rise to bands like Tangerine Dream.  The earliest manifestation of Krautrock tended to stay true to its psychedelic roots, and I have noticed that when drinking deep from the psychedelic well, I’ve had consumed music from many German bands.

Many (though not all) of the German albums were uploaded by German users and contained album descriptions and many comments in German. It’s unclear whether Google is just considering the circumstances surrounding the upload as “German” or whether the fact that the album itself is also a German signal…but regardless, Google associated (incorrectly in my case) listening to Krautrock as a signal for German language ads in spite of plenty of evidence to the contrary that German wasn’t my native tongue. Note that I was signed into my account, which dulled the strength of many of my English language signals…but even so, I would have thought that enough English language signals existed to overcome the German Psychedelic influence.

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Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz, who has been with 3Q Digital since March 2011, has worked in search engine marketing since 2000 and has used Google AdWords since it began. He also is very visible in the SEM social media space and is a curator/contributor at MarketingLand. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.