J&J, Verizon and AT&T join brands to suspend YouTube advertising

Mar 25, 2017, 00:46

The UK is Google's second-largest market after the US. The advertisers' concerns stem around what content ads are being served against, with many anxious that hateful or offensive content is being associated with their brands.

But brands cutting spend might also be cutting off their nose to spite their face on one end of the spectrum or just being plain reactionary on the other.

Search represents the lion's share of Google's advertising revenue, which was US$79.4 billion (S$111 billion) a year ago.

Five of GroupM's clients announced they had suspended ads on YouTube in the United Kingdom last week. So Google's announced fixes may not completely solve the challenge. Google has tools that prevent brand's messaging from appearing next to controversial or offensive material, stopping ads from serving on over 300 million YouTube videos past year, according to a blog post from Ronan Harris, the managing director of Google U.K. last week.

"More needs to be done now to protect the reputation of responsible advertisers on digital platforms", Phil Smith, the director general of the Independent School Bursar's Association, the association of British advertisers, told Marketing Week recently.

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Google declined to comment on individual customers but said it has begun a review of its advertising policies.

Following the United Kingdom government's inquiry and subsequent report came a mostly quiet period. The paper found, for example, an advertisement for Mercedes E-class next to an ISIS video praising jihad.

That said, it's in Alphabet's best interest to address the issue in "short order", as the bulk of its overall revenue is derived from advertising, Hargreaves said.

Brand ads appearing on inappropriate places online is not a new phenomenon.

On March 17, the United Kingdom government sent Google a strongly worded letter demanding answers as to why extremist outfits - and Google - were "still profiting from hatred".

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Pharmaceutical companies, however, may be less affected globally than other advertisers.

An investigation by The Times in the United Kingdom found that companies, university and nonprofits had their ads appear on hate websites and YouTube videos created by supporters of terror groups such as the Islamic State.

Regardless, the dominoes fell - and seemingly continue to fall - quickly.

Until Wednesday, the majority of the anti-Google furor was isolated within the UK.

First, Google itself is going to tighten its policies around what can live on its platforms, and what subset of that content can support advertising on it. "Starting today, we're taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content", Schindler says.

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"We take careful measure to ensure our brand is not impacted negatively", Verizon said in a released statement. A grassroots campaign, Sleeping Giants, has also begun directly pressurizing advertisers in the USA and Europe to pull their spend from "racist websites", with a particular focus on the far-right outlet Breitbart.

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