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Google pressured on brand safety

News, 20 March 2017
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LONDON: After several public bodies, media owners and brands announced they were pulling ads from YouTube over concerns these were appearing alongside "inappropriate" content, Google has said it will review existing controls and make changes.

On Friday, the UK government was the most high-profile advertiser to air criticism of the internet giant's brand safety efforts. Transport for London and the Financial Conduct Authority were among other public agencies suspending their advertising, along with media owners Channel 4 and the Guardian, and L'Oréal, the haircare brand, Campaign reported.

"Google is responsible for ensuring the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content," the UK government said in an emailed statement.

"We have placed a temporary restriction on our YouTube advertising pending reassurances from Google that government messages can be delivered in a safe and appropriate way."

A similar message was delivered by the Guardian: "It is completely unacceptable that Google allows advertising for brands like the Guardian to appear next to extremist and hate-filled videos," Guardian News & Media said. Media agency Havas also said on Friday it was stopping spending with Google and YouTube having failed to received satisfactory assurances that video and display content would be classified quickly enough and with the correct filters.

Over the weekend broadcaster Sky, mobile operator Vodafone and three banks, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS, followed suit.

Ronan Harris, managing director, Google UK, responded in blog post: "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.

"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 ISBA suggested that Google could start by reviewing the practice of placing advertising immediately against newly-uploaded YouTube content, before it has been classified, while the IPA reported that it has been fast-tracking discussions in the area of brand safety, "particularly with Google".

Both bodies are members of JICWEBS (Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards), and only last week the IPA coordinated a mass multi-buying point email to online inventory suppliers about JICWEBS' brand safety compliance which it said had led to many more signing up.

Data sourced from Campaign, Bloomberg, Google; additional content by Warc staff

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