YouTube to Produce Ads based on Image Recognition

John Lister's picture

YouTube is to automatically detect items in videos and then advertise them for sale. It will also automatically link to other videos covering the same item.

The system, titled "Products in this Video", has been in testing as a "small experiment" since April last year. YouTube confirmed this week that it is expanding the test so that more people see it. For now it remains a US-only feature. (Source:

It works by recognizing specific items in the video. YouTube hasn't explained exactly how this works, but it may involve a combination of on-screen graphics in the video, voiceovers and presenter speech referring to items, and image recognition. (Source:

Items Also Affect Suggested Videos

Details of the detected item will appear in a new clickable icon overlaid on the video itself, as well as in a list below the video. YouTube gives the example of links to buy handsets mentioned in a video about smartphones.

The recognized items could also affect the list of suggested videos to watch next, even if the item isn't mentioned in the video's title or description which is what normally affects the suggestions.

YouTube hasn't said how it will decide which videos to apply the technology to. For example, it would work well on its example of a video where somebody runs down their top ten smartphone releases of the year.

Advertisers May Be Hesitant

It might not work so well with videos discussing controversial topics. It could even be infuriating, for example if watching a video about the health risks of a well-known fast food brand led to adverts for that brand's food items.

Another question is how much control advertisers would have over placement. While it wouldn't necessarily cost them more (if the ads were pay-per-click), businesses might not want their ads to appear on a video that criticizes their product.

There's also no word yet on whether the technology will change the cut of ad revenue given to video creators.

What's Your Opinion?

Would you find this useful? Would you find it a distraction from videos? Do you trust Google to correctly identify items in a video?

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Average: 4.4 (8 votes)


buzzallnight's picture

YouTube's list of suggested videos
never did make any sense and is very annoying!
It would be better if it had a freeze on it
because sometimes you see more than one video you want to watch in the list
and when you watch the first video
the list changes.....................