- Google apologized for a number of cases where brands' ads appeared next to content not aligned with their values in a blog post today from Philipp Schindler, chief business officer.
- The company also said it is taking a tougher stance on offensive content starting today by removing ads where necessary and better ensuring YouTube ads show up against legitimate creators. Additionally, Google will introduce new tools so advertisers can better manage where their ads appear, expand availability of video-level reporting and hire "significant numbers" of people to increase the capacity for reviewing content.
- The blog post comes as a growing number of brands in the U.K. and elsewhere have removed ads from Google in recent days. Marks & Spencer pulled its YouTube ads over the offensive videos according to Bloomberg, following a similar move by Havas. John Lewis Partnership and J Sainsbury also suspended YouTube activity. Per M&S the move pauses activity across Google platforms while the brand safety and offensive content issue is worked out.
Google is facing a growing controversy over offensive content and brand safety for advertisers. Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser wrote an investor note pointing out there are brand safety concerns on YouTube where ads ran alongside terrorist-inspired video per Ad Age. The issue’s immediate impact is in the U.K. but Wieser wrote it will have global repercussions.
If the company is to avoid a mass defection of advertisers, it needs to reassure them that it is taking the problem of brand safety seriously, something it has not done a good job with so far. The Guardian published an apology by Matt Brittin, Google’s head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, from the Advertising Week conference on Monday in London, but the response was seen as inadequate.
Brittin was given three chances to state Google would actively seek out extremist content rather than solely investigating users' flagging inappropriate material like the YouTube videos, but declined to go that far with the apology and statement.
Google joins Facebook and other platforms in facing a mushrooming issue around fake news following the U.S. election, when a number of brands pulled ads from certain websites in the face of consumer boycotts. Last fall, Facebook similarly committed to a series of steps to better ensure ads are appearing next to acceptable content.