Barnet Southgate College pulls all ads from YouTube in wake of latest misplacement error

Barnet and Southgate College has pulled all banner ads from YouTube after ads for a “dream job” competition appeared alongside a video on Russian Life News’ channel showing graphic footage from the Mayalsian Airlines MH17 disaster.

The college, which has run display ad campaigns across the Google Display Network numerous times over the last two years, said this marked the first ad misplacement issue it had encountered on the platform.

“We work hard to prevent advertising content from appearing alongside offensive or distressing content,” a college spokesperson told The Drum.

“Current measures in place include a comprehensive list of negative topics and site categories that are blocked from association with the college’s advertising campaigns. Our current #dreamjobselfie banner advertising campaign is running on the Google Display Network and despite our efforts to avoid appearing alongside such content, we have now decided to block our banner adverts from running on the YouTube channel altogether.”

The footage showed remains of the crash, partially censored images of the deceased, and shots of the passports and plane tickets of victims.

It was uploaded on Thursday 17 July and by the following afternoon the college’s adverts were still appearing next to the video which had at the time received over 600,000 views.

YouTube declined to offer a specific time but at some point over the subsequent 72 hours the inventory was removed. The video to date has pulled in over one million views.

The college refused to comment on spend or be drawn into a wider discussion on its digital advertising strategy in light of the error.

However, the news marks the second major ad misplacement error to occur on YouTube within a week - the first of which led Oxfam to pull its advertising following a silmilar oversight, and caused the BBC to review its online advertising strategy.

The charity’s ads appeared before an ISIS recruitment video encouraging young men to fight in Iraq.

An Oxfam spokesperson told The Drum: “On sites like YouTube, these decisions are made automatically and in this instance the system has led to a placement that is not acceptable. The ad has now been removed and we will work to make sure this doesn't happen again.”

ISBA’s director of media and advertising, Bob Wootton, said that YouTube will have to work hard to reassure advertisers following this latest case of “horrifyingly inappropriate ad misplacement”.

“Another week and another example of why advertisers concerned about their brands’ reputations should have well-founded concerns about their brands’ safety online,” he said.

“This incident yet again highlights a flaw in YouTube's model where a lack of control is all too evident.”

The Drum was awaiting comment from Google at the time of this article's publication.

UPDATE: Google responded to The Drum with the following statement.

"Videos flagged on YouTube are reviewed 24 hours a day and we act quickly to remove material violating our policies. Community Guidelines prohibit videos from showing gratuitous violence, dangerous and illegal activities, inciting others to commit violent acts, and brandishing weapons.

"We make exceptions for material with sufficient documentary, or news value however, we will prevent ads from showing against such content if we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners.

"Advertisers have control over where their ads show on YouTube. They can use YouTube tools to block their ads from showing against specific categories of content, they can prevent their ads from showing against content related to specific keywords, and they can prevent their ads from showing against specific videos."

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