Google responds to ad boycott
Google has vowed to address its advertising policies, in response to the building furore around its inability to properly manage ad placements across YouTube and other platforms.
“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. But at times we don’t get it right,” wrote Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, in a blog post.
“Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values. For this, we deeply apologise. We know that this is unacceptable to the advertisers and agencies who put their trust in us.”
A number of brands and advertisers, including Marks & Spencer and the UK government, have boycotted Google’s platforms after it was revealed that their adverts were appearing alongside homophobic and xenophobic content, such as YouTube videos from Britain First.
Schindler has pledged to expand Google’s safeguards and to hire a “significant number of people” as a means to seize greater control over advertisements placed on YouTube and other platforms. The blog post breaks these measures into three points: tightening standards over offensive content; introducing new tools for advertisers to manage ad placements; and greater resources for reviewing content – including hiring more staff and developing new AI-based tools.
That last point is an interesting one, seeing as the sheer size of Google has meant that much of its ad regulation is automated: 65 years of video get added to YouTube every day. The company isn’t saying that it will reduce that automation, but that it will make it more sophisticated, as well as support it with human reviewers. Finding this balance will be key if Google wants to reassure brands that have pulled advertising from the tech company’s platforms, including Audi, HSBC and the BBC, that it’s able to keep its own house in order.
All of this also ties into larger questions about whether companies such as Google and Facebook are, indeed, only technology companies, or whether they’re a new form of media company – one that has so far been relatively free from stringent regulation.
There will undoubtedly be a lot of schadenfreude in the offices of traditional media companies, but this storm is ultimately only a part of a tempest sweeping across newspapers, broadcasters and technology giants – one that will define the media landscape to come.