Tuesday 12 November 2019

Major Irish agency calls off YouTube ad boycott

One of Ireland’s biggest advertising agencies was boycotting YouTube advertising. Photo: GETTY
One of Ireland’s biggest advertising agencies was boycotting YouTube advertising. Photo: GETTY
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

One of Ireland's largest advertising agencies has provisionally called off its advertising boycott of YouTube.

Core Media, which has clients that include Heineken, AIB and the National Lottery, says that it has decided to "recommence some very controlled campaign activity" on Google's video channel.

The company, which has 300 employees and purchased €225m of media advertising in Ireland last year, had suspended its ad campaigns on YouTube over fears that ads might appear alongside extremist YouTube video content.

However, the company is now placing campaigns again with YouTube on a limited basis.

"This applies to all of our clients as opposed to individual brands," said Justin Cullen, chief digital and data officer for Core Media. "We have had a number of campaigns activated over the last few days in these controlled areas of YouTube."

Mr Cullen said that the YouTube campaigns would be restricted to music-related Vevo channels and homepage placements without re-targeting possibilities.

He said that his firm has been seeking assurances from Google over the "brand safety" of companies that risk their ads appearing next to homophobic or hate-speech content.

"We have seen a commitment from Google to deliver a better experience for advertisers that reduces potential compromise," he said.

The move comes as market analysts estimate up to €750m in lost revenue to Google because of 250 global brands pulling their ads over the extremist content controversy.

The boycott started in the UK in March when companies such as Marks & Spencer, McDonald's and Tesco withdrew ad campaigns from the video channel over revenue going to extremist video creators. Major US brands such as AT&T, Verizon and Johnson & Johnson followed suit in the boycott. However, the companies have continued to advertise with Google's broader search and adwords services.

The controversy resulted in multiple apologies from senior Google executives, including the company's chief business officer, Philip Schindler.

“We know that this is unacceptable to the advertisers and agencies who put their trust in us," he said.

“We'll be hiring significant numbers of people and developing new tools powered by our latest advancements in AI and machine learning to increase our capacity to review questionable content for advertising. We won’t stop at taking down ads. The YouTube team is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform—not just what content can be monetised.”

Mr Cullen said that Google would roll out "deeper brand safety policies and controls as well as the creation of opportunities to utilise third party platforms for inventory and campaign verification".

"I have to stress we are only activating very limited activity with the majority of campaigns still paused until we get further clarifications from Google/YouTube," he said.

Last week, Google announced that it would make changes to its ad policy in order to discourage abuse of its system. From now on, channels won’t be able to make money until their videos have generated 10,000 views. Ads won’t appear on creators’ videos until they manage to hit this target, with YouTube believing that the 10,000 figure is high enough to give it enough time to work out whether a channel is playing by its rules or not. At the same time, the company doesn’t think the target is so daunting that it puts users off signing up to the YouTube Partner Program.

Meanwhile, Core Media is to roll out a system it calls "Core Media Verified" to its digital media partners.

"This will deliver higher standards across all online media activity to ensure more effective and brand safe delivery for campaigns," said Mr Cullen. "With social media platform environments and those that carry user generated content, there will always be a risk that advertising will appear alongside undesirable content. While likely in very small volumes, there is still a risk. This risk is something each brand must consider as they weigh trade-offs for leveraging the mass reach and tremendous targeting capabilities of social platforms  such as YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and the like."

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