ISBA calls for Google to cease selling inventory on YouTube where it cannot guarantee advertisers' safety

YouTube

On a day which Google's European chief Matt Brittin issued an apology to advertisers following the controversy over brand ads running alongside inappropriate content on YouTube, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) has called for the company to take further measures to improve its ad placement.

On the same day that Marks & Spencer announced that it was to pause it advertising on YouTube, and following a session in which Brittin spoke to Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed on a panel at Advertising Week Europe, ISBA, the body representing brands in Britain, reacted strongly to the measures he claimed were being put in place.

"Google’s response to these brand safety issues is welcome but let us be clear it has not gone far enough," said Phil Smith, director general of ISBA.

"More needs to be done to protect responsible brands advertising on Google’s platforms. Advertisers should be able to use these channels without any fear that their advertisements will appear against inappropriate content."

Brittin has said that Google plans to redefine safe content on the platform in order to attempt to exclude hate speech and messages promoting terrorism, some of which ads had been running against and providing revenue for those content creators. Under review would come three areas, the simplication of the tools offering advertisers more control, policy and enforcement.

"If Google is concerned that advertisers need to be educated about the intricacies of its tools, it begs the question of why they are so complex; we would ask for controls to be as simple and accessible as possible," continued Smith.

"Whatever Google's editorial policy, advertising should only be sold against content that is safe for brands and if it is serious about tackling this it needs to increase its enforcement and support capabilities urgently. Further we would encourage Google to increase the number of third party brand safety and content verification vendors it works with.

"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.

"ISBA’s Media Services Framework has been prepared for its members to serve as the contractual foundation to ensure that best practice industry standards are applied in buying online media. There are also ISBA tools available to advertisers to help mitigate the impact of ad misplacement and to try to ensure online brand safety. ISBA is a founder member of the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) and the Digital Standards Trading Group (DSTD), which certifies companies for their online brand safety processes.

"We will be monitoring the situation and working closely with Google and other platforms to increasing advertisers’ confidence in the online ecosystem. This is an issue that the whole industry must work together on."

During the session, Weed said of the issue that the industry was guilty of becoming too fixated on one problem at a time and that it must take a wider view over the brand safety issue. Meanwhile Brittin also claimed that the brands affected had paid "pennies rather than pounds" however it did not deter his apologies and acceptance of the blame on behalf of Google.

Stephen Lepitak

Stephen Lepitak is editor of The Drum, with responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day running of the content produced for the various platforms run by the publication. Over the years he has interviewed agency network bosses such as Sir Martin Sorrell, Maurice Lévy and Arthur Sadoun, as well as Cindy Gallop, Kim Kardashian, film directors James Cameron, Spike Jonze, Richard Curtis and Lord David Puttnam. With a keen interest in media and breaking news, Lepitak has been with The Drum since 2005 and is based across its UK, US and Asia operations.

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