For Marketers, a Brand Safety Wake-Up Call - eMarketer
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For Marketers, a Brand Safety Wake-Up Call

Google ad controversy forces new focus

The Google ad boycott is more than a black eye for the internet giant, it’s a wake-up call to the advertising industry.

And that may not be a bad thing, according to Marc Goldberg, CEO of Trust Metrics, a publisher verification firm.

“Google’s position at the moment has put a lot of advertisers in a concerning situation,” said Goldberg. “But what’s happening is good news for the industry.”

A growing list of companies around the world, worried that their messages may be appearing next to hate speech and worse, have pulled their ads from YouTube and Google’s ad network.

Google has made some changes to address advertiser concerns, ensuring that ads appear only on content within its YouTube Partner Program, and tightening ad policies to block “offensive and derogatory content.”

The controversy creates new pressures on marketers, who will now have to take a more hands-on approach about where their ads appear and don’t appear. That means deciding, when placing the ad, what is and what isn’t an extremist website or a terrorist group or hate-speech content, according to eMarketer analyst Mark Dolliver.

“Advertisers will probably get in less hot water by using whitelists of what’s OK rather than blacklists of what’s not, but they’ll be open to boycotts and criticism either way,” Dolliver said.

“Brands control the conversation, and as more brands start to bring programmatic in-house, they will ultimately be responsible,” Goldberg said. “They need to understand that risk.”

Programmatic ad buying has introduced a lot of new concerns, according to Goldberg. “Google’s not perfect, but this recent issue is a punch in the belly for the programmatic industry, especially because Google didn’t get it right.”

At bottom, the problem was advertisers were not keeping an eye on where messages ran. “There was a lack of human involvement,” Goldberg said. “We need to do a better job maintaining quality supply across the ecosystem. We need to stop thinking it’s all about scale.”

Brands and publishers are moving toward more controlled environments like private marketplaces and programmatic direct deals, where only single publishers and select buyers are involved.

Rimma Kats

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