Google's Web Ad Misplacement Troubles Spread to U.S.

Verizon, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Enterprise are the latest major brands to pull YouTube ads due to their placement next to inappropriate content.

Google Add Placement Anger

Google's problems with advertisers over ad misplacements on YouTube and other Google non-search properties appear to be mushrooming rapidly.

This week Verizon, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Enterprise Rent-A-Car joined a growing list of major companies to pull advertisements from Google after revelations that their ads were being placed next to jihadist and neo-Nazi videos and other inappropriate content on YouTube.

In a statement, Verizon described the company's move as designed to protect its brand image. "Verizon is one of the largest advertisers in the world, and one of the most respected brands," the company said. "We take careful measures to ensure our brand is not impacted negatively."

Verizon said it acted after being notified about its ads being placed by Google on non-sanctioned websites. "We took immediate action to suspend this type of ad placement and launched an investigation." The company is currently working with all of its digital advertising partners to figure out how to prevent the same thing from happening again, the statement added.

AT&T and Johnson & Johnson ascribed similar reasons for their decisions to pull advertisements from Google. "We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate," an AT&T statement said. "Until Google can ensure this won't happen again, we are removing our ads from Google's non-search platforms."

Johnson & Johnson noted in a statement that the company has paused all YouTube digital advertising globally to ensure that its ads do not end up against offensive content online.

The string of ad withdrawals deepens what has quickly become a crisis of significant proportions for Google. Already, several major brands in the United Kingdom, including the British government, Guardian, BBC and Mercedes Benz, have pulled their advertisements from Google.

The decisions to pull out stemmed from an investigative report in the London Times, which showed Google's automated ad placement system placing their ads alongside YouTube videos from terror groups and those proselytizing hate against people based on race, gender and other issues.

Advertisers are doubly upset because in addition to their ads running on offensive videos, the publishers of the videos actually make money from the ads being placed on their content. Under the way Google's ad monetization system works, video publishers can make up to $7.50 for every 1,000 views. Google already faces two lawsuits in the United States over the issue from the families of two victims of the terror attacks in Paris and the nightclub in Florida. The plaintiffs have accused Google of materially supporting terrorism by paying ad dollars to publishers of jihadist videos on YouTube.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.