A Look Back at YouTube’s Adpocalypse and How to Fix It

Before it was purchased by Google, YouTube was a video sharing site with little oversight on uploaded content, minimalist interface, and no ads. Following its purchase, many changes began to take place. One of the most significant one being the insertion of advertisements on popular videos and sharing a portion of the revenue with the uploaders. This gave creative people the liberty to focus solely on creating their content. However, this started to change with the advent of the popularly coined Adpocalypse, where companies stopped advertising on YouTube due to their ads being shown on some controversial videos. This resulted in YouTubers getting punched right in their income for posting anything that’s not PG-13 and restricting their creative freedom.


A number of events served as catalyst for the Adpocalypse. It all began with advertisements from British companies and government being shown on videos contain violent and extremist rhetoric. The straw that broke the platforms back was a skit created by famous YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, a.k.a. PewDiePie, in which he paid a pair of Fiverr dancers to perform a funny dance and show a poster reading “Death to all Jews”. The Wall Street Journal wrote a piece regarding the skit and labeled PewDiePie as an antisemite. This would become the beginning of the infamous Adpocalypse.

The video that triggered the Wall Street Journal

The Fallout

Following WSJ’s publication, many companies like AT&T, Coca-Cola, General Electric, and more began pulling their Ads from YouTube. As a result of the mass departure these companies, YouTube decided to overhaul its monetizing algorithm to make the site more family friendly. This meant that any creator posting a video containing sensitive topics ran the risk of having it demonetized. This includes videos containing mature and controversial topic including adult humor, cursing, horror and more. The result was content creator’s income dropping dramatically. Some have even been forced to resort fan donations through Patron or branching out into other business ventures just to keep their channel afloat.

Video game YouTuber PixelCat's revenue post Adpocalypse. Many other YouTubers woke up to the same downward metrics.

Video game YouTuber PixelCat’s revenue post Adpocalypse. Many other YouTubers woke up to the same downward metrics.

The Solution

The solution to this problem is to diversify the advertisers that YouTube provides to the creators. On regular television, specific channels with mature content or late time slots would be used for adult advertisement. You have probably seen those commercials featuring a bikini-clad woman seducing you into chatting with her and her friends through their adult hotline service. The same thing can be done in YouTube and then some. Given the troves of data Google has on its users, they could target adult ads to an audience that would be most receptive.

On another note, companies need to realize that just because there are a couple of controversial channels doesn’t mean they have to jump ship on YouTube. That’s like stopping advertisement on TV because a channel is playing a marathon of Scarface. Furthermore YouTube needs to refine its algorithm so that companies can better target which channels and videos they want to display their ads.

Regular ads for family friendly videos and adult ads for more mature videos.


The thing that made YouTube great was allowing anyone to be their own director. Any person with creativity could pick up a camera or computer animation software and make videos and be rewarded for it. The relevance and relatedness the audience feels with YouTubers is part of platform’s charm and potential. While I have to admit having to watch an ad about car insurance at the beginning, middle, or end of a video(sometimes all three) is kinda annoying, it gave popular content creators enough revenue to the point where they could make a job out of it and focus on delivering quality content.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *