Did Google just fund a London Terror Attack?!

31/03/2017

If you read the Times, you may think that’s the case following their reports after their recent investigations. And, whilst we’re a fan of a sensationalist headline (as you can see), we’d like to bring a little clarity to the situation that we as an industry find ourselves in.

The Times have run a couple of investigations into the misplacement of ads online, with a particular focus on YouTube. They have found numerous examples of household, blue-chip brands with ads delivered alongside content that is deemed extremely inappropriate and unsafe – which the investigators at the Times have screenshotted and used as the base for their articles.

This is shocking for Advertisers to see and very worrying that such situations could have ever occurred without their knowledge. A genuinely serious issue that demands action.

However, despite the investigators suggesting otherwise, there is little evidence of how the publishers of the videos have generated any money from these ads, nor can there be without Google’s own admission. Depicting a terrorist with a swag bag is at best ridiculous, at worst it’s deplorable. It’s hardly worth remembering that terrorists aren’t in the habit of setting up commercial accounts that can disclose their personal details and location, but nonetheless the media’s portrayal of the situation is not helping to build understanding of a complex situation.

The articles have driven many to react quickly and pull advertising spend from Google (M&S, HSBC, McDonald’s, Audi and Domino’s have been reported to have done so), alongside one Media Agency pulling their UK spend with Google in the immediate aftermath of the revelation.

Last week Google finally responded in an attempt to reassure Advertisers and Agencies, with admissions of their failures and recognition of the steps they need to take (and are taking) to protect their Advertisers more.
The most worrying failure from Google has been a lack of truly safe, default settings on campaigns. Of course, it’s extremely difficult to classify every piece of content exactly, however it’s easy to see the distrust and frustration with an Advertising platform that clearly didn’t put its advertisers first. Although the nature of the Times article was biased and sensational, Google should have done much more to educate and support on this issue before it happened.

In a timely response, Google announced the improvement of brand safety controls, in an attempt to make it easier to select where you’re placing your ads. On top of this, the default settings are being changed to meet much higher standards of brand safety, excluding potentially objectionable content.

This may have come too late for a number of their clients – however, this is exactly what was required and the renewed focus on improving control for brand safety is a really positive output from all the negative PR. It will hopefully also push Agencies to be more transparent with their clients, especially in the Digital space where all parties must be educated in the complexities and issues in order to build successful campaigns and partnerships.

At the7stars, we’ll always continue our efforts to keep clients informed and more importantly keep their activity as safe as we possibly can, with a strict set of controls forever in place – and a continual assessment of how to keep our practices as strong as possible. With the support of all media partners, alongside our working relationships with verification vendors who’ve helped us improve our campaign controls for over 3 years now, we will constantly battle to stay ahead of the game with our controls to keep quality, brand safe delivery at the heart of what we do.

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