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Advertisers Urge Google to Stop Selling Ads on YouTube

March 24, 2017

NATHAN

When did Noah build the Ark, Gladys?  Before the rain…

From Spy Game, written by Michael Frost Beckner

Google’s got real problems with its failure to impose its YouTube terms of service before YouTube pipes dreck into your house by every means they can.  (We have yet to hear from cable operators about that, by the way.)  The whole point of having terms of service is to keep people from using the service in ways that violate those terms.  If YouTube lets videos onto its network and declares them in violation after their caught, isn’t that at least a bit like Noah building the Ark after the rain?  This is the fundamental reason Google are suffering the costs of scandal this week and looks like it will do for weeks and weeks to come.

Not only are Google loosing a pile of cash as advertisers withdraw from YouTube, Google’s stock price is down over 4% in a week.  Despite the colossally tone deaf efforts of the most senior Google executives to try to play down the scandal, brand after brand is cutting off YouTube and as near as I can tell, the entire Google network.  This doesn’t include search advertising as yet, but can search be far behind?  If Google can’t live up to the promises it has made to advertisers on YouTube, why would anyone believe them at all?

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman and former CEO, told Maria Bartiromo just today that Google could not guarantee advertisers the brand safety that the monopolist Google promised them:  “What we do is, we match ads and the content, but because we source the ads from everywhere, every once in a while somebody gets underneath the algorithm and they put in something that doesn’t match.”  It’s not Google’s fault, you see, it’s actually the advertiser’s fault.

Schmidt then rather nonsensically doubled down and blamed advertisers for attempts to “sneak [ads] in underneath our rules and violate our terms of service.”  Right…because advertisers want to have their money go to hate groups so much that they hack the Google advertising algorithms?

The ISBA, the trade association for British advertisers, has announced what seems like a very reasonable approach to the problem that Google has created for itself:

ISBA would further encourage Google to withdraw immediately from sale any advertising inventory which it cannot guarantee as a safe environment for advertising, to restore advertiser confidence and to allow a thorough review of systems, processes and controls to take place. As a specific example, ISBA urges Google to review the practice of placing advertising immediately against newly-uploaded YouTube content, before it has been classified. Google should ensure that content is quarantined until properly categorised.

Don’t sell advertising on YouTube unless Google can live up to its promises.  Sounds reasonable, don’t it?  There’s a certain logic to it.

But the Daily Mail reports that “Google Still Don’t Get It“:

Matt Brittin, [Google’s] European boss, told a London advertising conference yesterday: ‘I want to start by saying sorry. We apologise when anything like that happens. We don’t want it to happen and you don’t want it to happen, and we take responsibility for it.’

But he added: ‘I’ve spoken to … some brands that are affected. In general I’ve found that it has been a handful of impressions and pennies not pounds.’

Household names and Government departments have been horrified after an investigation found their adverts running alongside YouTube videos by Islamic State preachers and white supremacists.

Google, whose motto is ‘Don’t be evil’, hands a slice of the revenue generated by adverts to the user who posted the content.

According to independent marketing experts, extremists have made around £250,000 from advertising on YouTube.

If Google’s blathering about “pennies and not pounds” sounds vaguely familiar, it should be.  These are essentially the same arguments Google made about brand sponsored piracy at the SOPA hearings (or as I call the hearings, the apotheosis of bullshit).

It really does come down to this:  When brands consider the risks of advertising on YouTube and Google’s own finding that 56% of digital ads served are never seen by humans, is it really worth it or can a brand find better ways to spend their money?  YouTube is going to have a hard time explaining whey they can’t keep the bad stuff out–aside from not wanting to bother with it until they get caught.

Blaming the advertisers or downplaying payments to the bad guys is just not the way to go here.

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