Problem at Hand
The number of brands pulling spend from YouTube and Google-partnered websites continues to grow substantially. The reasoning stems from the potential for big name brands’ ads appearing alongside extremist content on YouTube and Google’s display ad network.
Similar to how Facebook has moved to reduce the presence of fake news, Google is now being pressured through a full-scale boycott to distance itself from hate speech and repair the image of its most productive ad platforms.
What are Brands Saying?
“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,” an AT&T spokesperson told Recode. Shortly after that statement, Verizon also came out with a statement saying, “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.” More companies have now followed suit.
These decisions stem from a number of UK companies that began pulling spend from YouTube, following an investigation by The Times of London that discovered many of the companies’ ads were showing up next to controversial content. The investigation led to many brands – including McDonald’s, Audi, and Toyota – pulling advertising from Google.
Google recently announced it is taking added measures to ensure brand safety in regard to inappropriate content on its ad networks through a combination of more strict rule enforcements as well as improving its automated and manual moderation techniques. Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, wrote that the company is “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.”
So, Now What?
You’re probably thinking to yourself this should be an easy fix, right? Well, unfortunately you’re wrong. Even for a company the size of Google, issues like this take more time to fix than you would think. Google relies mostly on automated programs to place ads in YouTube videos because the job is too much for humans to handle on their own. Roughly 400 hours of video is now posted on YouTube each minute. The company pledges to hire more people to review videos and develop even more sophisticated programs to teach computers to figure out which clips would be considered to be inappropriate for advertising.
How Should Brands and Retailers React?
If you’re a smaller brand with less of your budget invested in YouTube, you may not have anything to worry about. It is likely that the big advertisers that have pulled out had very wide reach and larger budgets allocated to YouTube, which increases their risk of getting more ads served in more places, including new videos that Google isn’t able to monitor for offensive content right away. I wouldn’t be concerned with your ad being served on offensive content if you generally have a smaller reach and your campaigns are more targeted.
It, however, never hurts to ensure safeguards and ad exclusions are in place. At Santy, we ensure we have content exclusions included with every video that is uploaded to YouTube. We exclude our content from running next to anything that could cause a negative perception of our brands. For example, we filter out adult content, content not yet rated, as well as sensitive social issues. If you’re not sure where to start, those simple filters would be a good place to begin.
In today’s day and age, brand safety is very important. Companies don’t want to be associated with anything that could put a negative perception on their brand. Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Yes, Google has accepted responsibility for its mistakes, laid out ways in which it plans to make changes, and announced first steps to fix the issue. However, several big brands pulled their advertising even after these steps were announced, which leads me to believe Google hasn’t yet done enough. I believe advertisers will come around once Google puts its proposed fixes into place and can ensure brand safety for its partners.
In the next few weeks, we will keep a close eye on what changes Google has made to ensure brand safety, as well as gain back the trust of brands they rely on every day.
Major Brands Pulling Ads from YouTube & Google