YouTube has become embroiled in a fresh ad safety scandal following revelations that big-name brands including Samsung, Grammarly and Kraft Heinz have seen their advertisements displayed alongside fake cancer cure videos.
The uncomfortable ad placement runs the risk of tarnishing brand image, while imparting a sheen of credibility to the misleading and unproven 'cures.'
Presented with evidence from BBC Monitoring Samsung stressed that it had ‘no connection or correlation’ with the dubious content, adding that it ‘… follows and insists on the highest brand safety guidelines on all advertising platforms…’.
Kraft Heinz meanwhile stated that it was ‘concerned’ at such associations and had already taken steps to block identified channels. A spokesperson for Grammarly responded: “Upon learning of this, we immediately contacted YouTube to pull our ads from any such channels and to ensure the ads will not appear alongside content promulgating misinformation.”
Among those caught up in the brand safety scandal are several universities; namely the the University of East Anglia and the University of Gloucestershire, both of which are working with Google to prevent such placements from recurring.
A Google spokesperson stated: "Misinformation is a difficult challenge, and we have taken a number of steps to address this including showing more authoritative content on medical issues, showing information panels with credible sources, and removing ads from videos that promote harmful health claims. Our systems are not perfect but currently, the majority of the searches about cancer cures are pointing users to authoritative sources. We're constantly making improvements, and we remain committed to progress in this space".
This is far from the first time Google’s advertising algorithms have gone haywire despite a series of fixes designed to minimise such ad placements, enacted after previous scandals precipitated an advertiser exodus with Google conceding that YouTube may never be 100% brand safe.