Google has has vowed to overhaul its advertising policies in response to a growing boycott of the company’s platforms – most noticably YouTube – from various brands and advertisers.
Last week Advanced-Television reported that the UK government, Channel 4 and The Guardian had pulled their ads from YouTube after concerns that they were appearing alongside unsuitable material, such as videos from supporters of terrorist groups. Marks & Spencer and McDonald’s have since joined the boycott.
In a blogpost published on March 20th, Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, wrote: “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. 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.”
Schindler has outlined a three-tier overhaul of Google’s advertising policies, both on YouTube and on the company’s wider ad products.
First, Google itself is going to tighten its policies around what can live on its platforms. “Starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content,” Schindler says. The company is also ensuring that fake creators – those who impersonate other channels – can’t host advertising. Schindler also says YouTube is “taking a hard look” at existing community guidelines to see if any content is allowed on the platform that shouldn’t be.
Second, the company is promising better controls for advertisers to choose where their money goes, and to prevent accidentally spending it on hateful content. The default options for advertisers will be tightened, to exclude “potentially objectionable” content from the off. Advertisers themselves will be given account-level tools to exclude specific sites and channels from all of their campaigns at once, as well as more fine-tuned controls for when advertisers need specific say over where their ads appear.
Third, Schindler writes that advertisers and agencies will be offered “more transparency and visibility on where their ads are running”. That should help advertisers avoid awkward situations like those that initiated the boycott in the first place, where advertisers only discovered their ads were showing up on extremist content after a report in The Times. Schindler also vows to hire “significant numbers of people”, as well as bring in new AI-powered tools, to increase the company’s capacity to review questionable content for advertising.