Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Patrick Collister: Is Ozymandias running YouTube? 

Patrick Collister, NDA’s monthly creative columnist, is the Curator of The Caples Awards, Editor of Directory and a friend to

Around 250 million hours of music videos are watched/listened to on YouTube every day. 

Two billion people a month play music on the channel. 

Make that one billion, nine-hundred-and-nonety-nine-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine because I’m out. 

I won’t be getting my music there any longer because of the bloody ads.

Look, I don’t mind a pre-roll and, while it’s annoying, I can put up with two pre-rolls one after the other. What I can’t be dealing with are the ads rammed clumsily and carelessly slap bang in the middle of the music I’m listening to. 

HERE is Rachmaninov’s Symphony No.2, the second movement.  

At least the banner ads at 3 mins and at 11 mins don’t screw up the listening experience but at exactly 5 mins and again at 8 the soaring violines are rudely interrupted by instream ads. 

“Choosing a swimming pool can be a minefield.” (Boy, have they got the targeting wrong on this one). And someone called Tony Robinson shouting at me about “business mastery”.  

It’s almost interesting.

But NOT when the London Symphony Orchestra is giving it everything. 

Six ads in one video. 

It’s not just naked greed.

It’s contempt. 

Neither the content creator nor the channel gives a damn about the user experience.

What’s going on at YouTube that advertising revenues of a few cents short of $8 billion in Q4 of 2022 aren’t enough? 

As for whiteocean78, (s)he’s made as much as $15,000 from the video so far doing sod all except nick the recording from the LSO and share some of the revenue. 

Now, I happen to have a YouTube channel. 15 Funny UK ads of the 90s has 24,000 views, 14 Funny American ads of the 70s has 10,000. 

YouTube has declared it has the ‘right to monetize’ my channels and even though I am not enrolled in the YouTube Partner Programme, they are splashing ads on my videos.

Without telling me, they’ve made around $1,000 from me. 

More contempt.

If they’re trying to bully me into YouTube Premium at £11.99 a month, it won’t work. 

It’s like Johnnie Walker making their Red Label taste like filth so whisky drinkers will buy Black or Blue Label.

It doesn’t work like that.

Doesn’t anyone at YouTube know what a brand is? 

Given the rise and rise of TikTok and the shrinkage of ad revenues at YT (down 7.8% in Q4 2022), you’d think they’d want to improve the experience, wouldn’t you?

The fact is, they simply don’t care.  

Now, when a company ceases to care about its customers, it’s often because it has already ceased to care about its own employees.

And they pass that carelessness on. 

To hell with answering the customer helpline. 

And the little old lady trying to board the aeroplane with two bags, not one, let’s ding her the £50 surcharge, ha ha ha.  

Is this what’s happening at Google, owners of YouTube? 

Confession. I was a Googler once. 

Larry and Sergey were inspiring and we all believed fervently in the ‘Don’t be evil’ thing. 

Psychological safety was an important part of the culture. The bosses were accountable to their teams. 

Then it began to unravel. When jeans-and-tee-shirt-wearing CFO Patrick Pichette resigned in 2015 and a year later I was being heckled at conferences, “Pay your effin’ taxes.”

In 2018, “Don’t be evil” disappeared from the company’s code of conduct without explanation. 

Confession. I left Google the same year. 

But this isn’t sour grapes, honest, because a year later Googlers were demonstrating outside their own offices when the company did do evil. 

A senior executive was alleged to have sexually harassed women. Rather than deal with the issue, Google allowed the man to resign.

Oh, and gave him $90 million to go quietly. 

Leaping to April this year, Googlers (I can’t call them Alphabetters) have been demonstrating again outside Google HQ in King’s Cross in protest at its “appalling treatment and union busting” plans to lay off swathes of workers.  

Among the cost-cutting measures, Alphabet is “refusing to pay the remainder of laid-off employees’ maternity and medical leaves’. 

Meanwhile, once the most valuable brand on the planet, Alphabet seems to be on the slide. Number Five this year, Number Six next year?

It’s what happens when businesses cease to care about people and start to gloat over their numbers. (Google turnover in 2022 was a tad under $300 billion. More than the GDP of Chile, Finland, Portugal etc). 

A word of warning here.

Of the original FTSE 100 in 1984, fewer than 27 remain.

Since 2000, more than 50% of Fortune 500 companies have exited the list. 

It’s a story as old as time, when arrogance supplants duty and integrity.  

So, Neal Mohan, newly installed CEO at YouTube, let me remind you of the poem Shelley wrote 200 years ago.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

We live in hope.