Google Ad controversy spreads beyond the UK

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How can you ensure that your company digital ad does not appear next to a controversial site, fake news articles or even next to malicious news content?

And what if your video ad appears on or next to racist or malicious video on YouTube?

When you are dealing with mega programmatic ad platforms like Google and Facebook, which eMarketer said cornered 47% of the global digital ad market in 2016, is often difficult to address these issues.

For many CMOs, they are often in the dark on when and where their digital ads will correctly appear, and often rely on the platforms itself to make the right decisions.

Now, the tide is turning with global CMOs and large agencies pressurizing Google to offer more control on how and where the ads will appear.

It started in the UK.

Early this month, high-profile companies, including the Guardian, HSBC Holdings, and L’Oreal, along with the UK government stopped using Google’s ad network when they found out that their ads appeared next to anti-Semitic, white supremacy and terrorist-related websites and video content.

Havas, a top French advertiser, followed with the same action, while others started asking Google how this could have happened.

Google responded in a blog that they are committed to making "information universally accessible and useful" while pointing out that it has taken down almost 2 billion improper ads and over 100,000 publishers. 

More importantly, it admitted that it needs to give advertisers greater control and stated that it would review policies and make changes.

Not enough, say advertisers around the region.

AT&T and Verizon, key US advertisers, pulled its ad spending from YouTube and Google Display Network.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline suspended ad spending on Google except for search.

Johnson & Johnson and Enterprise Holdings, a rental car firm, announced that they were also canceling advertising on YouTube. 

Meanwhile, Distiller Beam Suntory Inc. indicated that it has scaled back some ads with Google.

While this controversy has not impacted Google's main revenue base—ads on top of search results—they are certainly affecting bottom lines.

The onus is now on Google to create policies and improve advertiser's transparency and control over placement of ads.

It is unsure how Google is going to address this growing global concern, whether through new technologies, policies or both.

No matter the outcome, the unfolding saga underscores the importance of transparency and sound management—especially when using programmatic ad platforms.

Further reading:

Getting to what matters with design thinking

Broadcast TV fights back digital media dominance with OpenAP

More programmatic ads found violating IAB guidelines