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Image from Linkedin Article on the Ad Boycott

The YouTube Adpocalypse is a site-wide term emerging from the March-May 2017 advertiser boycott on YouTube. By February 2019, that boycott would become known as the first of two, with the second (currently ongoing) occuring that month.

The First Adpocalypse

The initial boycott arose from advertisements being played on the video, "Chief Keef dancing to Alabama N*gger", and other extremist content, leading to the UK Government, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Johnson & Johnson, and many major brands pulling their advertisements from YouTube.

In May 2017, famous American model Kendall Jenner was featured in a YouTube Pepsi advertisement which drew criticism from the press due to the video consisting of her giving a Pepsi can to a Police Officer during a protest between Civil Rights Activists and the Police, resolving the tension between both groups. Many accused the ad of devaluing the issue of Police brutality, specifically against Black people, by many interpreting the commercial as Police brutality and the Police interactions with the citizens around them being solved by drinking Pepsi. Due to the public outcry, Pepsi removed all future advertisements from YouTube, furthering the cycle of advertisers drifting from the site.

For most of the summer of 2017, ads were only featured on channels that were considered "Family Friendly". Many content creators joked and complained that their net worth had decreased due to advertisers not seeing them as "Family Friendly". This caused smaller creators and aspiring creators to leave the site, having become discouraged from being a creator on the platform.

Some content creators changed and/or deleted their older video titles, thumbnails, and content so as to not be affected by YouTube's cutting out of advertisements on videos. Some even changed or added content to their YouTube brand that was deemed more advertiser friendly by YouTube.

Many within the YouTube community insisted that the Adpocalypse also happened because YouTube wanted to give attention to and reward creators who were promoting a favored agenda.

h3h3productions has proven that YouTube advertisements are more likely to go on television based channels rather than user generated ones, even if both parties support or show the same agenda. Some of these companies were the ones who pulled their advertisements during the Adpocalypse.

In September 2017, the most subscribed user, PewDiePie said the "N-word" during one of his gaming streams, which many took offense to. Many news stories and articles were published shortly after about the incident as well as many YouTubers and users expressing their opinions of the situation on the platform and on social media platforms.

The #PewDiePieIsOverParty tag was among the most tweeted hashtags at the time, with many complaining about the manner. Campo Santo, the company behind the game Firewatch, cut ties with him shortly afterwards due to the comment, which meant that he wouldn't receive any more ad revenue from the gaming company. The company also filed a DMCA to remove Felix's playthrough of Firewatch from the site.

One of the main concerns from YouTubers and users was that PewDiePie's actions were going to start up the Adpocalypse again, but far worse than before due to the constant uproar over the slur in the stream. Some even blamed Felix for the Adpocalypse due to his past of offensive language and imagery shown in his videos, especially after the controversy surrounding his supposed anti-semitism in early 2017.

The Second Adpocalypse

In November 2017, an concerns regarding improper kids content occurred, causing Mars, Adidas, HP and Deutsche Bank to pull ads from YouTube. YouTube responded by publishing a blog post and terminating one of the channels publishing this questionable content, Toy Freaks, which had 8.5M subscribers.

In January 2018, YouTube further updated it's policies, restricting the partner program to channels with more than 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours per year. During this time, another incident regarding YouTuber Logan Paul showing and reacting to a corpse in one of his video blogs surfaced, causing widespread belief that YouTube was punishing small creators for something Paul had done. Pauls actions however did prompt a new policy altogether.

The Third Adpocalypse

On February 18, 2019, a YouTuber known as MattsWhatItIs posted a video showing what he referred to as a "soft-core pedophilia ring" on the site, placing the blame on YouTube's algorithm. He then told his fanbase to report this to the companies putting their ads on the site with the hashtag #Youtubewakeup.

YouTube's response to the controversy was to delete more than 400 channels and suspend comments on tens of millions of videos as the site tried to fix the problem, reporting offending users to law enforcement. The site then assured that more would be done to catch inappropriate comments more quickly.

Despite these measures, within days, major brands such as Disney, Dr. Oetker, Hasbro, Epic Games, Nestle and AT&T (who had just put their ads back on the site a month earlier after 2 years) all pulled their ads from the site as the controversy started gaining mass media attention.

This did not sit well with the post-Adpocalypse community. Creators and users actively feared that the situation would start up a third Adpocalypse, which would undoubtedly bring more rule changes, more content being barred or censored, and more innocent users getting wrongfully demonetized and banned from the site.

Much criticism also went into Matt's decision to cause a public outcry. While many believed he had good intentions, many criticized him for inadvertently starting another Adpocalypse so soon after the site had finally started to recover from the first one. In particular, the community found Matt's public call to action to be the wrong approach for dealing with the problem, stating that it would hurt creators in the long run.