Google is ready to give brands more control over the placement of advertisements across its Display Network and YouTube after it emerged on Friday that some ads were being placed against extremist content. The UK Government, The Guardian and Marks & Spencer are among those that have pulled ads since the revelation.
A Sunday Times investigation found that ads were running alongside videos with anti-Semitic, terroristic and other forms of offensive content. The British Government has paused its online activity on Google’s ad platforms and has now summoned the tech giant’s executives to find out exactly why its ads were funding publishers of extremist articles and videos.
Google said in a blog post that its automated algorithms are not always able to prevent ads from being matched with offensive content but added that this only occurs on rare occasions. However, Google admitted that it needs to do more to ensure brand safety and is now aiming to offer more control to publishers so that they can optimise content placement.
“We’ve heard from our advertisers and agencies loud and clear that we can provide simpler, more robust ways to stop their ads from showing against controversial content,” Google’s UK Managing Director, Ronan Harris, 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.”
The main issue appears to be with automatic advertising, as Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange initiative relies on programmatic buying to match mainstream brands with content. Google now accounts for 85 per cent of all digital ad spend in the UK, and while it removed nearly two billion offensive ads and blacklisted 100,000 publishers last year, it is still falling short in providing a completely brand-safe environment.
A number of big brands have suspended their advertising over the weekend, including McDonald’s, Audi and L’Oréal, while both Vodafone and Sky could follow suit if they don’t receive assurances from Google that it is doing everything in its power to stop ads from appearing alongside inappropriate content.