Google advertising row spreads to major US brands


Following many British company pausing their ads on Youtube and Google several large US companies have followed suit.  AT&T, Verizon, Johnson and Johnson, Enterprise Holdings and pharmaceutical giant GSK as well as other major U.S. advertisers are pulling hundreds of millions of dollars in business from Google and YouTube. This comes despite Google pledging to ‘raise the bar’ wth regards to its advertising.

AT&T’s statement on this reads:

“We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate. Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”

Verizon, who are the fifth-largest US advertiser, also released a statement saying:

“Verizon is one of the largest advertisers in the world, and one of the most respected brands. We take careful measure to ensure our brand is not impacted negatively. Once we were notified that our ads were appearing on non-sanctioned websites, we took immediate action to suspend this type of ad placement and launched an investigation. We are working with all of our digital advertising partners to understand the weak links so we can prevent this from happening in the future.”

Enterprise Holdings released the following:

“As you probably know, programmatic buying is a relatively new advertising ‘science,’ and has only become mainstream within the last four or five years. Although it is effective in dealing with the highly fragmented nature of the digital ad world, programmatic buying is still evolving as a business practice – and it appears that technology has gotten ahead of the advertising industry’s checks-and-balances. There is no doubt there are serious flaws that need to be addressed. As a result, we have temporarily halted all YouTube advertising, while executives at Google, YouTube and our own media agencies focus on alleviating these risks and concerns going forward.”

The Times are reporting as well that GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), the world’s sixth-largest pharmaceutical company,

Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, wrote on a blog that they are: “taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.”

More than 250 organisations have already stopped UK advertising on YouTube but until now this had not spread to the US.

James Dean from The Times tweeted showing a screenshot of an extremist video with an ad from Oracle on it:

“We don’t comment on individual videos but as announced, we’ve begun an extensive review of our advertising policies and have made a public commitment to put in place changes that give brands more control over where their ads appear. We’re also raising the bar for our ads policies to further safeguard our advertisers’ brands,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Whilst the pause on advertising was a big deal, accounting for some $7.8 billion in advertising revenue in the UK in 2016 – 8.6 per cent of the company’s total sales, it is a much bigger deal in the US where Google currently account for 40.7% of US digital ad revenues. According to eMarketer’s latest forecast, US digital ad spending will reach $83 billion in 2017, representing an increase of 15.9%. Brand safety is so important in digital marketing that advertisers just cannot have their names and adverts appearing alongside objectionable and extremist material.

It is important to note that Google are working with their customers to fix this problem. These are pauses in advertising rather than pulling advertising forever. That being said it needs to be a worldwide fix, and a quick one if Google are to maintain their dominance.

It has also been argued that there is an ethical problem for a company which prides itself on being inclusive selling ad space on pages whch publish offensive speech that targets racial minorities, women or other groups.


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