YouTube's ad mess gives advertisers leverage for what they really want

AT&T, Verizon and several other major advertisers are suspending their marketing campaigns on Google's YouTube site.

While the United Kingdom government noted its advertising freeze was temporary "pending reassurances from Google that government messages can be delivered in a safe and appropriate way", other advertisers were highly critical of the company for not better policing its products. Pharmaceutical giant GSK, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland and L'Oreal, have also pulled out as well, which could mean loss in the amount of hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue, RollingStone said.

The U.S. company said in a blog post it would give advertisers more control over where their ads appear on both YouTube, the video-sharing service it owns, and the Google Display Network, which posts advertising to third-party websites and against search engine results.

According to the paper, the ads were appearing on hate sites and next to YouTube videos created by supporters of terror groups such as Islamic State.

The latest examples show the global scope of the Google's problem, reaching beyond the United Kingdom and big European markets like Germany, France and Sweden, as well as Hong Kong, India and South Africa.

Google has made promises to try to clean up the mess that advertisers perceive with ads on its network, but it seems that action is not being taken quickly enough. Google officially responded after The Times report came out and provided more details after many other United Kingdom companies pulled their ads. Since ads allow content creators to profit off of their videos, these ads were directly funding hate. Similarly a 2% decrease would affect only 0.3% of the company's overall revenues. An advert appearing alongside a YouTube video, for example, typically earns the poster around £6 every 1,000 clicks it generates. "We know advertisers don't want their ads next to content that doesn't align with their values".

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Multiple advertisers, such as AT&T and Verizon, have recently pulled the plug due to their ads being show on YouTube adjacent to disturbing videos promoting terrorism and attacking homosexuality.

Their decision to cut ties with the tech giant comes after a similar one last week by British advertising giant Havas UK - which, in turn, was preceded by a Times of London investigation that found ads for familiar brands appearing next to terrorist and neo-Nazi propaganda videos on YouTube.

In addition, Google will hire "significant numbers of people" and use new artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to increase its capacity to better screen questionable content, he said.

Search occupies a significant share in Google's advertising revenue that stood at $79.4bn past year.

In a blogpost published on Monday night, Philipp Schindler, the company's chief business officer, wrote: "We have strict policies that define where Google ads should appear, and in the vast majority of cases, our policies and tools work as intended".

  • Kyle Warner