YouTube Finally Reaps What it Sows as UK Govt, The Guardian, the BBC and mega ad agency Havas cuta off ad spend

It began around the time of SOPA.  Sources tell me that after meeting with a global ad agency and explaining to them how their advertising buys supported piracy, the source got a call from a well-known Google lawyer threatening him if he continued making that case to Google’s big advertising accounts.  Presumably, that threat was because the agency jumped on Google.

But nothing changed.

Harvard Business School Professor Ben Edelman took the lead on making the case for an advertiser’s bill of rights so that brands could feel like they knew where their ad spending was going and were getting what they paid for.  Seems logical, right?

But Google essentially told brands that you give us money and we serve your ad wherever we want to.  And nothing changed.

Ellen Seidler called out Google for selling ads on Megavideo.  Absolutely clear evidence that Google was doing the very thing they told advertisers they were not doing.  The Megavideo indictment alleges that Google had a direct agreement with Megavideo, confirming Ellen’s research.

And nothing changed.

MTP readers will recall how I posted example after example of Google distributing jihadi recruiting videos, “how to” videos on shooting drugs (who can forget “Banging Up for Dummies” and “Femoral Fiesta”, and blatant advertising for illegal drug sites–the same kind that Google paid a $500,000,000 forfeiture for supporting after signing a non prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice.

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And nothing changed.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood tried to serve a subpoena–just a subpoena–on Google for violating that non prosecution agreement.


At almost the exact moment, North Korea hacks Sony Pictures and Wikileaks releases thousands of internal emails from Sony that strangely enough contained only two from a email address.  In another strange coincidence, a bill miraculously appeared in the Mississippi legislature that would have stopped funding for Hood’s investigation of Google.

That’s m-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i…

Google fought Hood every step of the way and ended up settling the case.  Why would they do that?  In my view, they did it because they were guilty and they knew it.

And nothing changed.

We always said that the only thing–the only thing–that would get YouTube to clean up its act would be if advertisers pulled the plug.  Why?  Very simple–for all of Google’s Silicon Valley goo goo about being good people, there’s only one thing that motivates that company–money.  And over 90% of the Google money comes from advertising.  So until advertisers start making noise and stop paying money, Google doesn’t care.

One reason they care about advertisers is the obvious one–advertisers can cut off the money and that’s a whole lot less ooh la la for Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt.


But the other reason, the less obvious one, is that there’s no safe harbor for advertising fraud.  No DMCA, no CDA.  State attorneys general have the absolute right to protect their citizens–corporate or human–from fraud.  And then you’re talking real money.

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So now we find that the UK government, the Guardian, the BBC and the Havas mega ad agency are cutting off YouTube according to the Christian Science Monitor:

As an al-Shabab militant called for jihad inside Kenya, an ad at the base of his YouTube video urged viewers to “Book Now” for a Sandals tropical vacation. An armed neo-Nazi promoting Combat 18 was paired with a call to volunteer for the hospice charity Marie Curie.

Last month, an investigation by The Times of London detailed these as two examples of how major brand names frequently appear alongside hateful YouTube content. A separate article by The Guardian wrote that the UK revenue from these ads amounts to about £250,000, or $318,000, for “extremists and hate preachers.”

On Friday, ad agency Havas Media, whose high-profile clients include Hyundai and the Royal Mail, announced that it would stop placing ads on YouTube and its parent company, Google. The tech giant – which commands more than 30 percent of global online ad revenue and draws 90 percent of its own revenue by placing ads – was quick to respond.

We’ve begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear,” wrote Google UK managing director Ronan Harris.
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Ronan Harris–who looks suspiciously like one of those CAA mail room kids who got sent for coffee in their own 7-Series–had a typically Googlely response:
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.
Note the switch from hard numbers (“400 hours of video”) to “a very small percentage of cases [when] ads appear against content that violates our monetization policies.”  Google always switches from hard numbers to percentages when they are trying to deflect bad behavior.  So let’s say that 1% of the videos on YouTube were jihadi recruiting videos, how to build a bomb, white power, sell illegal drugs, or whatever.  That’s  4 hours of video per minute being uploaded to YouTube.  Oh that’s OK, right?  Because it’s a very small percentage….
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They really don’t get it, do they?  And isn’t the important thing that YouTube shouldn’t be distributing the videos in the first place?  It’s not just about the money, kids.  Money may have been what got their attention, but it’s not just about the money.
YouTube frequently tries to pass itself off as the new television (and they have a point there).  But if that’s true, can you imagine a network saying that they were broadcasting hate videos into your home just a small percentage of the time?
Google’s problems all come down to the same reason–YouTube is user generated with no controls other than after the fact if and when they get caught.
What would really get their attention would be if the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice opened a serious investigation into YouTube’s advertising practices.  That may well be coming since advertiser fraud is still advertiser fraud whether it happens in the U.S. or in Europe.