We've been writing about the many issues Google ads have had for years, they way they appear on everything from ISIS recruitment to pirated content sites. The way they support human trafficking. The way they can actually throw hardcore porn banner on a legitimate local news site. The worlds most 'democratic' ad network is being undone by the very thing that made it appear everywhere. By placing ads on everything from Youtube channels to Blogger blogs, as well as sites with editorial oversight, Google was the least controlled ad market in the world. As well as the worlds largest, and possibly the laziest as Google suggested that the brands themselves should police the piracy sites, which would be the ad networks job, not the ad buyers.
Brands soon took the brunt of appearing on pirated sites, or having their ads support their competitors Youtube channel, receiving complaints and boycotts from consumers. The final straw was the 'extreme' content. For years violent, pirated, and controversial videos have been uploaded and monetized on Youtube and finally hundreds of companies suspended advertising in "row over extremist content" according to The Times in the UK.
Global brands including Volkswagen, Toyota and Tesco last night joined the more than 250 companies that have suspended advertising deals with Google as the internet giant apologised for failing to crack down on extremism.
ITV, Aviva and Heinz also pulled advertising from YouTube, Google’s video platform, after an investigation by The Times found the companies promoted on videos posted by hate preachers, rape apologists and homophobic extremists banned from entering Britain.
So, it's not the ISIS recruitment videos or pirated content that caused the mass exodus of brands, but suddenly popular Youtube channels with "homophobic extremists," and hate preachers. I do hope they mean the videos showing ISIS soldiers dropping blindfolded men off rooftops, but I doubt that's what they mean.
Publicis, the world's third largest advertising agency network said it's now reviewing its relationship with Google. Huge brands have confirmed that they have withdrawn all ads from Google, they include Marks & Spencer, Lloyds Bank, O2, L’Oréal, RBS, the BBC, Channel 4 and McDonald’s, as well as the British government. The Times say the accounts media buy may be worth £50 million a year. That kind of money finally made the ad giant sit up and take notice, so Google has just announced 'tougher' policies and hiring spree to prevent brand ads appearing next to extremist content on their blog.
"Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values. For this, we deeply apologize. We know that this is unacceptable to the advertisers and agencies who put their trust in us." explains Chief Business Officer Eric Schindler. I'm glad you finally realized. He adds:
We know advertisers don't want their ads next to content that doesn’t align with their values. So starting today, we’re 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.
And this is where it starts predictably going downhill. As soon as Google's new hires attempted to put a more granular filter on the content of Youtube that would serve to better target advertising, the LGBT community were upset that their sexual content got filtered out and they re-trended the hashtag #YoutubeisOverParty. That hashtag trended last year when some of the largest youtubers, including potty-mouthed gamers, sarcastic political commentators and satirical channels, discovered that some of their content had been de-monetized without notice. Hundreds of blog posts were written decrying "censorship" as the creators slammed Google for the 'new' policy. The policy wasn't new, just the enforcing of it. But when there is only one basket, and they can decide what gets monetized and what doesn't, that is an issue - and it feels like I've said that before.
For content creators there is good news however, as Google is taking content scraping seriously for once. At least within their own Youtube community.
We’ll also tighten safeguards to ensure that ads show up only against legitimate creators in our YouTube Partner Program—as opposed to those who impersonate other channels or violate our community guidelines. Finally, we won’t stop at taking down ads. The YouTube team is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform—not just what content can be monetized.
I would ask what will they do with all the revenue they've already generated from monetizing these videos, but it should be fairly obvious: the exact same thing they've been doing all along. Keep it.
And while increased granular controls for advertisers seems like an obvious solution, it should have been implemented years ago.