Marks and Spencer has suspended its advertising on Google while the latter reviews ways to stop adverts appearing alongside extremist content. Other companies include McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), L’Oreal, Audi (ETR:NSU), the BBC, the Guardian and Channel 4.
On Friday, Havas a global advertising company announced it was pulling every one of its ads off YouTube in the United Kingdom. Google is responsible for ensuring the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content. Along with these brands, Vodafone, Sky, and Barclays might also follow in stride.
Other racist groups, rape apologists, and holocaust deniers are allegedly receiving payouts from Google for YouTube commercials too.
The brand safety issue hit the headlines after an investigation by The Times revealed several blue chip brands had their ads unwittingly placed against inappropriate content, including videos by terrorist sympathisers, far right nationalist groups and pornographers.
Havas, a major European marketing firm, recently said it would pull its clients’ ads from YouTube and the Google Display Network in the United Kingdom after ads began running next to “questionable” content, including videos supporting terrorism.
“The company’s European president also said that he would review Google’s policies and strengthen enforcement on content that violates the company’s terms of service”.
The world of online advertising can be a dizzying world of acronyms – you start talking about Google advertising, and you end up with GDN, SEO, DSP and DBM all littering the conversation.
“We have always said Google, Facebook and others are media companies and have the same responsibilities as any other media company”, he said. He told me Facebook and Google were “media companies masquerading as technology companies”.
Google says it believes absolutely in free speech but they don’t yet have the tools in to ensure that their environment is brand safe.
He explained IPG has its own monitoring tools to identify where online ads are placed and said the debate in the United Kingdom over the past few weeks highlighted the increasing need for the industry to take more responsibility over areas such as transparency and ad viewability. “It is very clear that this is not the case at the moment”. Automating a system like the one it now uses to automatically match ads against content adopts an “ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies” approach – by hiding behind algorithms, Google only has to intervene once someone (human) flags the match as inappropriate. It points out that it must police a huge avalanche of material – 400 hours of YouTube video is uploaded per minute – and its AI facilities are not yet up to determining what’s an extremist recruitment video and what’s not.