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AT&T to Advertise on YouTube Again After a Nearly 2-Year Holdout

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AT&T, one of the nation’s biggest marketers, yanked its advertising dollars from YouTube in 2017 because the brand was appearing alongside offensive videos. But on Friday, after a nearly two-year holdout, the company said it had been persuaded to resume advertising on the video platform.

The decision reflects the progress that Google-owned YouTube has made with advertisers in the 22 months since a number of them discovered that some of their ads were appearing during, or before, videos promoting hate speech, terrorism and other disturbing content. AT&T was among the first companies to stop paying to advertise on YouTube, telling it that they wouldn’t return until it made changes.

YouTube has since introduced a series of changes aimed at making the platform “brand safe” — that is, an appropriate place for companies to run advertisements. It has raised the number of subscribers and the viewership that video makers must have in order to carry ads, and is subjecting videos to more human and automated oversight.

“The testing took time, and we needed to be 100 percent confident throughout our organization that it met the standards that we were aiming for,” Fiona Carter, AT&T’s chief brand officer, said in an interview. “We want a near-zero chance of our advertising appearing next to objectionable content, and that’s a high standard.”

The advertiser exodus brought a focus to the potential risks of digital ads, which often follow individuals on whatever content they are viewing. Questions were raised about what that meant for advertisers, which could inadvertently end up funding disturbing material and be associated with such content by viewers.

“We care deeply about where we appear and whether it reflects our values and whether it breaks that trust with our consumers,” Ms. Carter said. “It was a moment to remind us that marketers must have their hands on the wheel at all times of their brands’ destiny.”

Testing that AT&T conducted after the problem arose showed that it was widespread. Ms. Carter gave credit to Google’s and YouTube’s leaders, who “leaned into the issue when they realized from the evidence we produced that perhaps it was a broader issue than they were aware of.”

Marketers and their agencies have also learned more about the types of content that they may want to avoid. For example, Ms. Carter said, AT&T looks to avoid gaming videos, where the chances of unsavory chatter and behavior may increase.

“Having to have more subscribers and more viewing hours has really helped with eliminating fringe content that we might not want to advertise against,” Ms. Carter said.

In AT&T’s latest test of YouTube’s Brand Suitability System, which avoids categories like violence, extremist and hate speech, and adult content, almost zero ads ran alongside offensive content.

In April, Procter & Gamble, the world’s biggest advertiser, confirmed that it was returning to YouTube after they worked together “extensively” to ensure that its ads would be placed in appropriate environments.

Procter & Gamble spent $2.8 billion on ads in 2017, according to data from Kantar Media. AT&T, the second-biggest advertiser in the United States, spent $2.4 billion in the same period.

“Over the past year, we’ve worked hard to address concerns raised by our customers,” Debbie Weinstein, vice president of YouTube Video Global Solutions, said in a statement. “We’re committed to retaining their trust in YouTube, and ensuring they can realize the unique value of our platform.”

YouTube has an enormous audience of viewers in their teens and 20s, and Ms. Carter said she was keen to reach that group again. She added, however, that AT&T and its agency would continue testing to make sure its guidelines were being met.

“Technological advancements mean you have to be on your game and you have to be constantly vigilant in this area,” Ms. Carter said.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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