Google Increases YouTube Brand Safety Controls Following Boycott

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Google Increases YouTube Brand Safety Controls Following Boycott

Google is addressing brands’ concerns about ads appearing adjacent to content not aligned with their values on YouTube. According to The London Times, more than 250 marketers have suspended advertising on YouTube due to concerns their ads might appear next to videos promoting terrorism and hate—a loss amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Parent company Google is reassuring YouTube advertisers, a cornerstone of its business, that they’re listening and addressing their concerns.

As the largest seller of advertising on the internet, its ad business generated $22.4 billion in Q4 2016, or about 85 percent of the total revenue in the period by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Search advertising is still its primary source of revenue, reports Kantar Media via The New York Times.

Matthew Brittin, Google’s president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, quickly announced that new safety measures were being implemented. Google Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler has promised that the company would change the default settings for ads so they appear on content that meets higher brand safety standards which will make it easier to exclude certain sites.

Google Europe acknowledged in a blog post titled “Improving Our Brand Safety Controls,” that “With millions of sites in our network and 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, we recognize that we don’t always get it right. In a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetization policies. We promptly remove the ads in those instances, but we know we can and must do more.”

Google’s increased brand safety levels and controls for advertisers across YouTube and the web include:

Safer default for brands. Changing the default settings for ads so they show on content that meets a higher level of brand safety and excludes potentially objectionable content that advertisers may prefer not to advertise against. Brands can opt in to advertise on broader types of content if they choose.

Simplified management of exclusions. New account-level controls to make it easier for advertisers to exclude specific sites and channels from all of their AdWords for Video and Google Display Network campaigns, and manage brand safety settings across all their campaigns with a push of a button.

More fine-tuned controls to make it easier for brands to exclude higher risk content and fine-tune where they want their ads to appear.

Google will be hiring new staff to monitor the situation and will use AI to review questionable content, in addition to introducing a “new escalation path” so advertisers can flag issues more easily.

The issue is complicated by Google continuing to position itself as a technology platform and not a media business. British politicians summoned Google for talks and imposed a temporary restriction on the government’s own adverts, including for military recruitment and blood donation campaigns.

Speaking at the Advertising Week Europe conference, Brittin said: “I would like to apologise to our partners and advertisers who might have been affected by their ads appearing on controversial content.” Now, its new tools offer safer default for brands, simplified management of exclusions and more fine-tuned controls.


A separate reassurance this week from YouTube addressed concerns over limits on LGBTQ content. Some creators felt the restricted mode is YouTube’s way of equating LGBTQ content as “not family-friendly” and contradicting its democratic motto, “Broadcast Yourself.”

“The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should,” Johanna Wright, YouTube’s VP Product Management wrote. “We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.”

Among the largest advertisers who have stopped with Google and YouTube in the UK:

• Argos
• Audi
• Aviva
• Havas Group UK froze all of its spend. The agency manages major brands including Dominos Pizza, O2, Royal Mail, BBC, and Hyundai Kia.
• Heinz
• Honda
• L’Oreal
• Lloyd’s Bank
• Marks & Spencer
• McDonald’s
• Sainsbury’s
• Tesco
• The Guardian
• Toyota
• Transport for London
• UK Government
• Volkswagen

In the United States:
• AT&T
• Beam Suntory Inc.
• Enterprise
• Johnson & Johnson
• Verizon