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Google Plans Stricter Ad Safeguards

Plans announced after ads from world’s biggest brands appear next to extremist content

March 22, 2017

Brands don’t want their ads to appear near extremist content. Yet recently, that’s exactly what happened.

Last week, global companies—including Mercedes-Benz and McDonald’s—found their ads next to controversial content on Google properties like YouTube.

And this has caused quite a stir in the UK, with many brands, agencies, newspapers and the UK government contemplating an advertising spending pause until stricter brand safety guidelines are enforced.

Google, which is at the center of the backlash, is looking to fix the issue.

In the UK and beyond, the search giant is expanding safeguards for advertisers, giving them more control over where and when their ads appear.

“We had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values,” said Philipp Schindler, chief business officer at Google, in a blog post. “For this, we deeply apologize.”

Google is also changing its ad policies, taking a “tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content,” Schindler wrote.

And the company is making sure that ads show up only against legitimate creators within its YouTube Partner Program, vs. those who impersonate other channels.

“Brand safety has always been a concern for advertisers, even before programmatic and other forms of audience-based buying took hold,” said eMarketer principal analyst Lauren Fisher. “The additional safeguards offered by Google can certainly help to minimize negative ad placements.”

But online, nothing is guaranteed.

And at a time when brand safety is becoming a global problem, brands may need to take matters into their own hands and be more diligent about their ad placements.

“This is particularly true in cases where ads appear next to user-generated content, where it can be difficult to discern the context of the content with 100% accuracy in all cases,” Fisher said.

Brands need to make sure they are aware of and educated on what capabilities are possible, and work with their agencies to make sure they are using all the necessary guardrails.

“They also need to monitor placements frequently, to ensure those guardrails are working and are the correct ones for their objectives,” Fisher added.

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