Some of the world’s biggest brands, companies and charities have seen their advertising budgets apparently fund terror organisations after it emerged that the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Waitrose & Marie Curie were unwittingly being spent on the websites of extremist groups.
An investigation undertaken by The Times found that hundreds of firms are popping up on websites and YouTube videos promoting extremist ideology created by supporters of groups ranging from Islamic State to Nazi sympathisers such as Combat 18.
It is estimated that advertising can generate up to tens of thousands of pounds a month for the most popular extremists who typically earn $7.60 for every 1,000 views, with the most viewed material racking up a 1m hits.
Advertisers have been quick to blame programmatic advertising for their plight which has automated the process of placing adverts online.
Hicham Felter, a spokesman for advertisers trade body ISBA, said: “Programmatic advertising is a big concern for us and the whole advertising industry. There is a greater risk of ads appearing in violent, pornographic, extremist and other ‘unsafe’ brand environments because of the volume and speed at which programmatic trading is carried out.” He added: “The suspicion is that the surge in programmatic trading is being fuelled by the profit media agencies can make rather than because it delivers better results for their clients.”
Other advertisers caught up with the issue include Honda, Thomson Reuters, Halifax, Argos, John Lewis, Disney and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Times reports.
Commenting on the reports a Google spokesperson said: "When it comes to content on YouTube, we remove flagged videos that break our rules and have a zero tolerance policy for content that incites violence or hatred
"Some content on YouTube may be controversial and offensive, which is why we only allow advertising against videos which fall within our advertising guidelines.
"Our partners can also choose not to appear against content they consider inappropriate, and we have a responsibility to work with the industry to help them make informed choices."
Last year it was found that adverts for the US presidential election candidates were being misplaced on YouTube where they were found on ISIS propaganda videos.