Advertising is Google’s primary source of income, and the YouTube advertisements which contribute substantially to that income, have recently come under fire from the UK government because their ads were appearing next to “extremist” YouTube videos. The UK government has pulled all of their ads from Google until some guarantees can be made as to the placement of their ads – ones for the BBC, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Navy. The UK government is not the only complaint that Google has received and other companies, such as The Guardian, Channel 4, the FCA, Transport for London, and L’Oréal, have also reportedly suspended their advertising as well.
One of the problems is the way advertising is sold – the advertiser cannot specify where they want each ad to be placed, but they buy into a programmatic system that is entirely automated and places ads where they will target the most people. Sometimes these ads end up next to a video that has questionable tastes or is an outright hate video. Ronan Harris, Managing Director, Google UK said, “We’ve begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear across YouTube and the Google Display Network.” Google has worked hard in the past to shut down fake news stories and even banned publishers from its AdSense networks. Their policies are written to prohibit ads from appearing on the same pages as hate videos, or ones that are gory or offensive, but as Google notes - with over 400 hours of video uploaded every minute of every day, things are bound to slip through Google’s scrutiny.
Last year alone, Google removed nearly 2 billion bad ads and prevented ads on over 300 million YouTube videos. But Harris said they have heard “from our advertisers and agencies loud and clear” that they expect Google to do more to prevent their ads from rubbing shoulders with questionable video content. Google says they are committed to reviewing all policies and controls, putting new controls in place, and working with their advertisers to gain back their trust. After all, Google is advertising, and in this politically correct world, advertisers are scrutinizing their advertising dollars more than ever.