You may have seen reports in the media (both industry and mainstream) about concerns over ‘brand safety’. Some high profile advertisers have expressed worries about their adverts showing against sensitive content, some of which has been highly controversial. We want to take a moment to review what we as a company have been doing to prevent this happening for our customers, and what Google is going to be doing as a whole to curb this in the future.
Google have given a bit of background to the problem:
“We recognize the need to have strict policies that define where Google ads should appear. The intention of these policies is to prohibit ads from appearing on pages or videos with hate speech, gory or offensive content. In the vast majority of cases, our policies work as intended.
We invest millions of dollars every year and employ thousands of people to stop bad advertising practices. Just last year, we removed nearly 2 billion bad ads from our systems, removed over 100,000 publishers from our AdSense program, and prevented ads from serving on over 300 million YouTube videos.
However, 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.
Yesterday, Google EMEA President Matt Brittin said:
“I would like to apologise to our partners and advertisers who might have been affected by their ads appearing on controversial content.”
Further, Philipp Schindler, Chief Business Officer said in a lengthy and apologetic blog post,
“I wanted to share that we’ve already begun ramping up changes around three areas: our ad policies, our enforcement of these policies and new controls for advertisers.”
Raising The Bar For Ad Policies
Google are going to take a tougher stance- removing ads more effectively from inappropriate content – attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories.
“This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.”
To ensure ads only show up against legitimate creators on YouTube.
“The YouTube team is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform—not just what content can be monetized.”
Increased Brand Safety Levels
While Google already has a wide variety of tools to give advertisers and agencies control over where their ads appear, such as topic exclusions and site category exclusions, they are introducing :
Google have also promised to increase transparency on where ads are running and in the coming months, they will expand availability of video-level reporting to all advertisers.
Human, AI and Machine Learning Resources On Advertisers’ Side
“We’ll be hiring significant numbers of people and developing new tools powered by our latest advancements in AI and machine learning to increase our capacity to review questionable content for advertising. In cases where advertisers find their ads were served where they shouldn’t have been, we plan to offer a new escalation path to make it easier for them to raise issues. In addition, we’ll soon be able to resolve these cases in less than a few hours.”
Broadplace Managing Director, Ajay Syal has said:
“ As an independent agency our clients’ interests are our primary concern and as a result we will always ensure the safety and integrity of their brand at all times. We have strict policies around protecting and safeguarding against such instances and we will always implement these measures to minimize any potential risk. We are reassured by Google’s announcement about the strict new policies and procedures they are putting in place to secure brand safety for advertisers. We will discuss each scenario with our customers to determine the best route forward, but we will never compromise on the brand safety of any of our clients.”
We are aware that some high profile advertisers and brands have been reported as ‘pulling advertising’ with Google. In reality, most are pausing some activity while Google put in place the safeguards they mentioned in the quote above. We would recommend that any customers with immediate concerns should contact their Account Manager to discuss the options.